BUCKHANNON – It will be a season unlike any other for Buckhannon-Upshur head swim coach Will Squires and his two Buckhannon-Upshur swim teams.
With the COVID-19 pandemic still going strong at the start of the swim season, the guidelines may affect the sport of swimming moreso than any other high school sport thus far.
The regular-season large weekend invitational meets will be scarce, if any at all, with modifications in place for small dual meets.
The sport might also see virtual meets this season where teams swim at their home pool and compare other times that day with other team(s) who posted times in their respective pool.
Squires said for now that he doesn’t anticipate his team going that route.
“We have the option for virtual meets, but we aren’t doing any this year hopefully,” remarked Squires.
For the dual meets, his Bucs and Lady Bucs will have three lanes that will always be Buckhannon-Upshur lanes.
“We will have the same three lanes the entire meet, or that is at least how it was explained to me,” noted Squires.
It’s not ideal, but at least for now, the swim season is still a go for Squires and his squads as they maneuver through the many guidelines put in place for the sport.
The Bucs and Lady Bucs began their preseason on Oct. 27 at the West Virginia Wesleyan pool only to see it stopped after a few practices due to the state and the WVSSAC shutting down sports across the state.
The teams picked it back up last month with a week of conditioning, followed by three weeks of practice for the swimmers under COVID-19 guidelines.
“Given that we are a non-contact sport, we have fared very well so far with the COVID-19 guidelines,” remarked Squires. “We are able to limit our swimmers to just two per lane, and we aren’t that limited in what we can accomplish at a regular practice. Wesleyan has some specific expectations that exceed the WVSSAC’s guidelines, but following these extra protocols has not been too difficult and we are just happy that WVWC has allowed these athletes to train and compete.”
Squires stated that his team has adapted to the guidelines fairly well.
“Again, we have great students that are very coachable and understanding,” said Squires. “They understand that these guidelines are in place to ensure their safety as well as their families, so they have adapted to the situation with ease.”
The two teams had banner seasons last year sending 12 swimmers to states and Squires sees an equally successful season this year despite being low on numbers.
The Lady Buc roster shows just six swimmers – seniors Beth O’Neill and McKenzie Reynolds, junior Cameron Zuliani, sophomores Cadence Vincent and Alayna Whitehair and lone freshman Lillian Fetty. The boys’ roster has just five swimmers – senior Sam Squires, junior Rhett Ammons, sophomores Preston Bennett, Owen Caynor and Reis Leonard. No freshmen came out for the boys’ team this season.
“We have a similar team as we have had in recent years,” noted Squires. “We are slightly smaller than normal, but our goals remain the same. Despite the small roster, we have a massively experienced team again this year, with just one freshman. Largely our success is measured more individually than team with a couple of relay squads that can absolutely compete with some of the best in the state.”
Squires may be modest when he speaks of his girls’ relay team competing with the best in the state. He should perhaps have said dominate.
He has four returning swimmers that made the state meet last year and those four, Reynolds, Zuliani, Vincent and Whitehair, just happened to make up the state championship 200-yard freestyle relay team that posted a winning time of 1:42.39, which was .11 seconds ahead of second-place Morgantown.
Vincent, as a freshman, also won the state title in the 50-yard freestyle with a time of 23.69, making a new state record in the process with her swim and took second in the 100-yard freestyle.
Zuliani had a strong showing at the state meet as well, swimming to a third place and fifth-place finish in the 100-yard butterfly and the 50-yard freestyle while Whitehair earned fifth in the 100-yard breaststroke.
“Of course, the four swimmers in the 200 free relay team are going to be a big key to this season for us,” stated Squires. “Whitehair, Zuliani, Vincent, and Reynolds bring a lot of experience and we are hopeful that they will repeat as a team and repeat their individual successes of last year as well. We hope to see the girls continue the trend of competing strongly against teams that are usually double in size of us.”
The Bucs also have four swimmers coming back that earned trips to the state championship in Squires, Bennett, Caynor and Leonard.
Bennett finished third in the 500-yard freestyle with a time of 5:05.10 and fourth in the 200-yard freestyle with a clocking of 1:52.08 while Squires took fourth in the 100-yard breaststroke with a time of 1:03.67 and fifth in the 100-yard freestyle with a time of 50.99.
“Bennett and Squires were our boys’ state finalists from last year,” noted Squires. “Both are hoping to improve upon their various top-five individual finishes from last year. We also have Ammons, Caynor, and Leonard who are gunning for two relay spots that also competed at last year’s state meet.”
Squires also said he is proud of the leadership being shown by his three seniors – Beth O’Neill, Reynolds and Squires.
“Although sometimes quiet, they lead by example working hard and encouraging their teammates,” stated Squires.
The Bucs and Lady Bucs are slated to begin their season Wednesday in Morgantown at the Mylan Aquatic Center.
“We are taking the perspective of opportunity and our season and taking it week by week,” concluded Squires. “The fact that we are even able to begin our season has been sustaining us. We are glad to be back in the water and hope that it can continue. Obviously, as things change throughout the state, our season will have to adapt. Again, just being able to compete is what remains the most important for us.”
2021 BUCCANEER SWIM ROSTER
2021 LADY BUC SWIM ROSTER
2021 B-U BUCCANEER AND LADY BUC SWIM SCHEDULE
March 10 – at Morgantown (Mylan Aquatic Center)
Mach 18 – Home meet with Elkins (WVWC Pool)
March 23 or 25 – at Bridgeport (Harrison County YMCA)
March 27 – Home meet with George Washington (WVWC Pool)
April 3 – Big 10 Conference Championships (TBA)
April 10 – Region I Championships (TBA)
April 20-21 – West Virginia High School State Championships (Mylan Aquatic Center)
*Schedule Subject to Change