Berkshire swimmers hope to avoid another Twitter campaign before W. Mass. meet


Remember #BringBackWesternMass?

Berkshire County swimmers sure do. It hasn't been cast into oblivion, either.

Since Feb. 2, there have been six tweets using the hashtag, including one from U.S. Olympic swimmer Missy Franklin in response to a tweet trying to conjure up memories from a year ago. Those memories started off as ones the swimming community would like to forget, but ended with a sense of accomplishment.

Much of Massachusetts was about to get slammed with blizzard-like conditions during last year's sectional swim meets, including Western Mass. That prompted the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association to cancel those meets.

"It was just such a shock to have the whole meet canceled in the first place," said Pittsfield's Aaron Coty, who spearheaded the Twitter movement in the Berkshires to bring sectionals back.

He began using #BringBackWesternMass to consolidate and unify -- not only in Western Mass., but across the state -- the swimming community's upheaval at what the MIAA had done.

The movement reached such proportions that Franklin and fellow Olympian Ryan Lochte sent out encouraging tweets. The pleas, along with countless phone calls and emails from parents, athletes, coaches, etc. finally worked. The MIAA allowed swimmers to qualify for states at unsanctioned meets, which originally wasn't going to be the case. It was a compromise of sorts, considering there would be no sectional champion, individual or team.

"So I think what we proved [is] that the swimming community can all come together and bring back Western Mass., essentially," Coty said. "It felt amazing just because I got to swim one more time for the year."

Some forecasts are calling for scattered snow showers in Springfield on Sunday, when the 2014 Western Massachusetts swim meet is to take place. Provided the weather does what's expected, there shouldn't be a serious need for #BringBackWesternMass this year. In case the weather doesn't cooperate, the swimming community seems poised to launch another offensive.

"Most definitely," we're ready, said Coty, who's seeded in the 200 IM and 100 butterfly. "I think the swimming community as a whole has a plan to bring it back if they hear of a storm. We're definitely ready for round two."

Someone under the Twitter handle @reachpat sent out a tweet Tuesday noting the Northern Mass. diving sectionals were postponed because of snow with #BringBackWesternMass. It was more of a heads up to the swimming community to be on guard than it was an attempt at round two.

Not having to worry about when or if they'll get to swim at sectionals has some swimmers happy as they work on final preparations.

"It really is," said Taconic's Gillian Campbell, who ended up swimming her fastest time of the season at the unofficial Western Mass. meet last year. "It was kind of upsetting, but I wasn't going to cry about it. I would have liked to have gotten it back, but it wasn't the end of the world."

She'll have another chance this year. She's qualified in both the 100 freestyle and backstroke.

Campbell's one of 19 girls from Berkshire County that will be competing in individual events Sunday. The county has 35 in all.

Monument Mountain has the most competing individually with 14 (nine on the boys side). Hoosac Valley's eight girls are the most from any county school.

The past week has been about getting ready -- and hopefully resting -- for the beginning of the postseason.

Many coaches and athletes find it hard to predict where they might finish. They instead opt to shoot for records.

"[The boys are swimming well, and they're swimming exactly how I want them to," Monument coach Jill Svirida said at the Berkshire County Individual meet last weekend. "We're fine-tuning all the little things, not breathing off the turns, how many kicks are we doing under water? Just little things, but they're not tapered by any means. So I look for best times or at least season bests or lifetime bests at [Western Mass.]"

To reach Josh Colligan:,
or (413) 496-6297.
On Twitter: @EAG_DigitalJosh.


If you'd like to leave a comment (or a tip or a question) about this story with the editors, please email us. We also welcome letters to the editor for publication; you can do that by filling out our letters form and submitting it to the newsroom.

Powered by Creative Circle Media Solutions