MIAA opens state swim meet to W. Mass. qualifiers
WESTFIELD -- The Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association heard the uproar about its decision to cancel the sectional swimming tournaments.
After seeing Olympians express their support for the athletes on Twitter and receiving many emails and phone calls from coaches, parents and athletic directors, the MIAA decided to do something about the controversial ruling Monday. In a statement, the association ruled that all sectional qualifiers will be eligible to compete in this weekend's state meet.
"By letting the sectional qualifiers qualify virtually for states, it's a way to include everyone," Wahconah coach Dave Lussier said. "The eastern part of the state still isn't having sectionals, so this was the fairest way possible to include everyone in one meet."
Word of the decision began to spread minutes before the unofficial girls' Western Mass. meet began at Westfield High School.
"That's awesome. I mean, it's easy for me to say that because I was so close to begin with," Hoosac's Michaella Vecchiarelli said. "I definitely think it's the better decision. A lot of people were upset about it, so it's a compromise."
Vecchiarelli originally missed qualifying for states by .58 seconds in the 50 freestyle. When she heard that she wasn't going to be able to get a chance to erase that slim margin, she was upset. Then when she heard the meet would go on, she was determined to hit that time.
Vecchiarelli just missed the state time again Monday, but says she's determined to hit that time at the state meet Saturday at Springfield College.
Taconic's Gillian Campbell also narrowly missed the original state cut.
"She was really excited when I told her she could swim at states," Taconic coach Marisa Plant said. "It was really exciting to see them all banding together and trying to make a difference. Everyone is excited."
The voices of swimmers from across the state were heard when the MIAA made its decision Thursday to cancel the tournament. Swimmers took to Twitter to express their anger and created the hashtag #BringBackWesternMass. While the tournament wasn't officially brought back, the coaches still feel good about the swimmers banding together.
"It's amazing. I think it says a lot about the [swimming] community and how they are as a whole," Hoosac coach Eryn Brewer said. "It's important for the kids to have their last meet and be rewarded for all the hard work they put in this year."
With the addition of every sectional qualifier, the state meet will become longer, but that doesn't matter to coaches or swimmers.
"I think it's the only fair thing to do," Brewer said. "If you're not going to give kids the opportunity to qualify for states, you have to try and meet them halfway."