Mass. May End Fall Girls Swim For Gender Equality

February 29, 2012 / Swimming
The Boston Globe, Emily Sweeney

An MIAA subcommittee has proposed phasing out the girls’ fall swim season by 2015 – all in the unlikely name of gender equality.

If approved by the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association, the move could be a death knell for some of the girls’ teams that compete in the fall, an ironic step taken to ensure that boys and girls have equal access to athletic activities.

How did it come to this?

High school swimming currently takes place in fall and winter. In the winter, there are teams for boys and girls, and the MIAA holds separate championships. But in the fall, swimming is considered a girls’ sport, and only one tournament is held – for girls.

This didn’t become a problem until last fall, when several boys swam on girls teams because their schools don’t offer boys’ swimming, and qualified to compete in the girls’ state championships. In November, Will Higgins of Norwood High broke a sectional record in the girls’ 50-yard freestyle.

Not wanting to see a boy crowned as a girls’ swim champion next year, the MIAA Swim Committee recently formed a subcommittee to figure out how to handle the issue. On Monday, they voted 4-2 to hold boys’ swimming championships in the fall for the next three years, and then, in 2015-16, drop the fall season altogether and make swimming solely a winter sport, for both boys and girls.

“It’s not an easy fix,’ said Ray Grant, the MIAA Swim Committee chairman and athletic director at Seekonk High School. “It’s certainly something that’s going to cause hardships to some of the schools that swim in the fall.’

Schools that field girls’ swim teams must choose to compete in either fall or winter, but can’t do both.

As it stands, 47 schools have teams in the fall; 136 girls teams compete in the winter. Last fall, eight girls’ teams carried boys on their roster.

The upside of the proposal is that it would “bring swimming in line with all the other MIAA sports’ by having a single season for swimming, instead of two, said Grant.

The subcommittee is scheduled to present their recommendation to the MIAA Swim Committee April 12.

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