Late-night laps

Published 10:05 pm Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Swim meets need scoreboards. The Midtown Community Center in Newport News hosts the Tidewater Conference Championships each February, and it has a big scoreboard with every swimmer’s time, but even that one doesn’t display the overall team score.

I always feel bad going to a coach at the end of a meet, when my first question has to be “who won?”

The post-meet team chants often help clear things up. Even after a meet approaching four hours long, almost everyone’s energetic, but the winning side is usually possible to pick out. But that method still leaves lots of room for a poor assumption.

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Admittedly, with my penchant for all things numbers and stats, I might be the only spectator at a swim meet looking for “Warriors 79, Bulldogs 63, 6 events to go”, so all-in-all, it’s not really a problem for most folks.

Here is one problem with a much larger constituency, namely every student-athlete in the meet. Southeastern District swim meets on weeknights run very late into the night, effectively into the following morning.

Fortunately, the Warriors, Bulldogs and the Chesapeake schools have most meets and all the postseason tournaments on Saturdays, making this an issue only three or four times a year.

Nansemond River, King’s Fork, Oscar Smith and Hickory met last Thursday at the Great Bridge Swim and Racquet Club, host to every SED meet through the winter, and the 7:15 p.m. start time concluded with everyone headed out at 11 p.m.

If it’s like most high school sporting events, some kids can go straight home with parents or friends’ parents. But some kids have to go back on the bus, then from school to home. From central Chesapeake to King’s Fork or Nansemond River, then home, meant that anyone riding a bus did not get home until midnight or later.

That’s significantly later than a basketball night. Plus, for the Warriors and Bulldogs, every swim meet is a road game.

I don’t pretend to have a good solution. Even if NR or KF got to host meets in Suffolk on occasion, presumably at the Suffolk Family YMCA, it wouldn’t change how long the meets last. Plus, with the number of swimmers and assuming the same number of spectators as were there for the four schools Thursday, the fire marshal would have to turn lots of people away from every meet at the Suffolk YMCA.

The one clear idea to take away from a late-night Southeastern District swim meet is it’s often more of a challenge and sacrifice, in time and effort, to play a less popular sport than one of the major high school sports.