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Weather keeps Amherst Regional girls from competing in sectional swim championship

While the rest of the western Massachusetts swimming community participated in an unofficial championship meet Monday, the Amherst Regional girls swim team was left out in the cold.

After consulting with athletic director Rich Ferro and principal Mark Jackson, superintendent Maria Geryk made the decision Monday that due to weather conditions, the swim team could not travel to Westfield High School.

However, the indoor track and field team was allowed to participate in the PVIAC championships at Smith College in Northampton.

All other after-school events were postponed due to the school’s “no school, no play” practice. The superintendent can overrule the policy.

“It was a really hard decision and quite honestly, my initial reaction for most situations is we don’t travel if we don’t have school,” Geryk said. “That probably would have made more kids unhappy if I had stuck with my initial decision.”

The decision means that the Hurricanes were unable to compete for sectional team and individual championships. However, it did not affect which Amherst Regional swimmers will compete in the state meet Saturday.

The Western Massachusetts boys swim meet is at 5 p.m. Tuesday at Chicopee High School.

Shortly after 2 p.m., Geryk made the decision the swim team could not travel to Westfield for the 5 p.m. meet. She said the distance the team had to travel, the questionable road conditions and the fact that swimmers had already qualified for this weekend’s state meet contributed to the decision. The team was scheduled to leave at 2:30 p.m.

Geryk then decided shortly after 3 p.m., when weather and road conditions improved, that the track team could travel the shorter distance to Smith College for the 6 p.m. championship. Also contributing to the decision was the misconception that track times at Monday’s championship counted toward state qualification. That was not true.

“I thought that was the case,” Ferro said. “With track and field happening everywhere (in the state), I thought it was a level playing field. ... I feel terrible, awful about the girls not being able to go down” to Westfield.

The decision did not sit well with the swim team.

“We’re all family. We’re really close. It hurts one of us, it hurts all of us,” senior captain Ashleigh Jugan said.

“The girls are really bummed out about it,” she continued. “They were there expecting to go to the meet. After waiting outside the AD’s office to hear they were not going to be competing, then when they heard the indoor track team was able to go to their Western Mass (championship), it was a bit confusing. We’re certainly happy for the (track) team. It’s a real bummer that it happened like this.”

The sectional swimming championships were originally scheduled for Saturday at Springfield College. On Thursday, the MIAA canceled all sectional swim meets because of the snowstorm.

The Western Massachusetts meet could have been postponed to Sunday, but because the central and eastern Massachusetts meets could not be rescheduled, all were canceled.

On Friday, due to backlash from the western Massachusetts swimming community, the MIAA relented and allowed an unsanctioned sectional meet to be held. Monday’s meet and results are not being recognized by the state association.

“There is something special about the Western Mass tournament,” Amherst coach Keith McFarland said. “It’s a familiarity with everyone in the area. It’s the goal going forward. It’s a larger segment of the team. It’s much stronger of a team atmosphere. It’s a lot of fun.”

Shortly after 5 p.m. the MIAA released a statement saying all sectional qualifiers will be allowed to compete at the state meet. According to MIAA spokesman Paul Wetzel, this could add hundreds more swimmers to the state meet.

The Division 1 and 2 girls meets are at Springfield College at Saturday. The boys divisional meets are at Harvard University on Sunday.

Wetzel said officials will meet this week to discuss logistics. Potential change in starting times as well as limiting the number of spectators will be discussed.

Jugan, who did not qualify for either the sectional or state meet, said the state championships will be different.

“It won’t be the same environment,” she said. “It will be harder races. The girls who would do well at Western Mass probably won’t place (at states). It will be a completely different race than what they were expecting.”

Geryk said she hopes to avoid having to make a decision like this in the future.

“I would prefer to have a much more solid — whether it is a policy or practice — set of guidelines that are consistent,” she said. “It will make decisions much easier in the future.”

Mike Moran can be reached at mmoran@gazettenet.com. Follow on Twitter @mikemoranDHG.

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