It appears that a campaign started on Twitter has #BroughtBackWesternMass -- in an unofficial capacity, anyhow.
Just a day after the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association announced the cancellation of the entire sectional swimming round due to the snowstorm hitting the Northeast, Western Mass. administrators and schools have gotten permission from the MIAA to hold unofficial sectional meets early next week.
Minnechaug Regional High School Athletic Director Mike Roy confirmed to The Eagle on Friday evening that the MIAA has allowed unofficial Western Mass. meets to take place. The girls meet will be held Monday at 4:30 p.m. at Westfield High School, with the boys meet Tuesday at 4:30 p.m. at Chicopee High School.
Right now, spectators are not allowed at the meet, due to space concerns. Organizers are looking into the possibility of opening an area at the schools for streaming closed-circuit video of the meets, but they're not sure if that's feasible.
"I've been at this since yesterday, since the decision to not allow any sectionals," Roy said. "I have my superintendent and principal on this with us, contacting the MIAA. We understand fully that any time will not qualify a kid for the state tournament. ... So that's the unfortunate part. But those seniors who have been working so hard for four years just to qualify for Western Mass. will at least have the opportunity there.
Swimmers across the region -- including many Berkshire County high schoolers -- pleaded their case on Twitter from Thursday evening into Friday, using the hashtag #BringBackWesternMass. They were able to get retweets and use of the hashtag from, among others, U.S. Olympic swimmers Ryan Lochte, Natalie Coughlin and Missy Franklin.
Pittsfield High School swimmer Aaron Coty was one of the most persistent tweeters Thursday and Friday, getting mentions from 2012 Olympian Chloe Sutton and 2008 Olympian Garrett Weber-Gale. Coty had qualified for the Western Mass. meet in the 100 freestyle and 200 individual medley events.
"I think it shows that anything is really possible," Coty said Friday. "We reached to everybody around the country, pretty much. ... It shows how powerful we really can be if we put our minds to something."
For more, read Saturday's Eagle.