By Matthew Quintiere
Virtual meets. Socially-distanced practices. Temperature checks. A new team name. The pandemic has been a major adjustment for Byram swimmers in 2021.
These changes are so unique that math teacher and Varsity Swim coach Mr. Bruskewicz has become more focused on his players’ development rather than the team’s success. “I don’t know as a team we are going far,” he said, “but I know that we have already seen some leadership growth from our three captains, and I think the guys are getting better and stronger in the pool.”
Byram swimmers used to combine with swimmers from Briarcliff, Valhalla, Pleasantville, and West Lake to form the BBVPW Thundercats. However, COVID rules have prevented these schools from creating a conglomerate, so the Byram swimmers practice and compete on their own as the Byram Hills Bobcats.
Sophomore Norman Bucciero believes that having a smaller roster this season will help his development. “I am looking forward to trying new races,” Norman said, “because I have not really tried anything else other than freestyle.”
The team alternates between dryland workouts and swimming practices. On Mondays and Thursdays, the Bobcat swimmers use the school’s weight room. On the other weekdays, they swim at the Saw Mill Club from 8:00-9:30 PM. Before every practice, swimmers get temperature checks to make sure they are cleared to participate. In these practices, the swimmers cannot start and finish in the same place as others. Instead, they start and finish at different spots in the lane to stay socially-distant. Once any player logs six practices, they are eligible to compete in a meet.
The meets are arguably the largest change to this season because they are essentially practices. When participating in meets, Byram competes against themselves at the Saw Mill Club. The difference from the practices is that there are two referees present to confirm that Byram swam and timed themselves fairly. The times that swimmers log for each race are recorded into a computer system. These finishes then get compared to whichever school that Byram is competing against on Zoom. The team with the fastest times are declared winners.
Despite the abnormal season, Junior and Captain Nicolas Paslar Bunemer believes that the newcomers will enjoy being part of the team. “I hope that this season we will be able to do well in this unusual setting,” he said, “and that all the new guys enjoy the season and the sport.”
One of the newcomers is Senior Daniel Ahern. Daniel has played basketball and football throughout high school; however, he joined the swim team because he wanted a different workout.
Playing any sport, especially winter sports, during the pandemic has been a challenge. Some states had to cancel their sporting programs outright. Even if the Byram Hills Bobcats do not win all their meets, they are still happy to have the opportunity to compete and improve their skills.