HUDSON — Hudson will take on Taconic Hills in the Berkshire Swim League opener for both schools on Friday with a few modifications because of the coronavirus pandemic.
All meets will be virtual, with no spectators allowed, and will be officiated by just one official at one pool and another at the “visitors” pool. Teams will share results as the meets progress.
Because of concerns about COVID and difficulty with travel this year, Hudson will compete with a small roster that includes six boys and four girls.
The boys are freshmen Arafh Ghani (freshman) and Dejuan Bailey and juniors Ibrahim Malik, Karlis Medins, Kyle Farley and Riley Taylor. The girls are senior Abida Begum, junior Emma Hanley and eighth-graders Autumn Hopkins and Tessa Goldstein.
“This season we have a few veterans from last year, Kyle, Riley, Karlis, and Ibrahim for the boys and Emma on the girls’ side,” said James Mort, who coaches the Bluehawks with Nancy Graziano. “We have high hopes for all of these veterans to improve upon their times from last year and set new personal records. Abida has practiced with the team in years past but this season we are really looking forward to seeing her compete against other teams.
“We also have a few rookie swimmers that we are very excited about, in particular, our two eighth grade girls. These two athletes had to pass a strenuous test in order to compete with the varsity team and we feel like they will be competing at a very high level immediately. Autumn brings the endurance of a high-level cross country runner and we expect to see her in the long-distance swimming events. Tessa is an all-round athlete who will be successful in any event that she decides to enter. Perhaps the 200-yard Individual Medley will be in her future!”
Mort said despite the challenges brought on by the pandemic, the team is ready to compete.
“As we all know, COVID has affected everything in our lives this year, and swimming is no exception. Right now we are setting up a system so that families and friends can watch the meets from home. It’s going to feel a bit empty but in swimming the most important thing is competing against yourself and improving your own times.”
The Taconic Hills boys team, coached by Tom Russo, has seven swimmers on the team this year, all are returners: seniors Josh Sena and Chris Russell; junior Jasper Jarzombek; sophomore Aaron Bonci; freshman Neil Howard III and eighth-graders Tyler Mulrein and Logan Fink.
“With only seven swimmers, versatility will be key,” Russo said. “It will require a little shuffling of my line up to be able to make three relays each meet. Josh is a distance specialist, although we have been exploring the possibility of the I.M. with him.
“Chris is a breaststroke specialist, but I am also looking at the possibility of I.M. for him as well. Jasper’s main stroke is breaststroke as well, but he will also swim free. Tyler will probably be swimming a lot of breaststroke and free. Neil, Aaron and Logan are my wild cards. I can utilize them wherever we need a swimmer for an event."
Russo feels that despite the lack of numbers, the Titans will be competitive.
“Chris, Josh, Aaron, and Neil give our team a lot of experience which is definitely a plus for a small team. I am looking forward to seeing how the team performs in this unique environment of virtual meets. The challenge will be to get the team in a racing mindset even though they will not be able to see their competition. We had a scrimmage already and it went surprisingly well. We even had several personal best times.”
The team is in good spirits heading into Friday’s opener, Russo said.
“Sometimes it seems like it is much easier for them to adapt to the new “normal” than us adults. My goal is to get the best performances out of our team under the circumstances that we have been dealt. We won’t have Sectionals this year, but my swimmers still have goals that I want to help them achieve.
“I want to make it the most enjoyable senior year that I can for my seniors and continue to build our future for our underclassmen. Even though the environment is not ideal, we are making it work, and the team would rather be swimming under these circumstances than not swim at all. Hopefully next year we can get more swimmers to join our returning veterans.”
The Titans girls team has eight swimmers, which is less than in past years, according to coach Ryan Kendrick.
Competing will be seniors Lillian Russo (freestyle, butterfly), Lauren Madsen (butterfly, I.M.), Sydney Kiernan (breastroke) and Clare Howard (freestyle); junior Omogen Drake (breastroke); sophomores Jacqueline Arre (butterfly, backstroke) and Emma Avenia (freestyle) and freshman Daisy Plaza (freestyle, backstroke).
Russo, Madsen, Kiernan and Howard have been named team captains.
Avenia is the current school record holder in the 200 and 500 freestyles, while Madsen and Howard made the All-Berkshire team along with Emma last season.
“Competing in the Berskhire League is unique this season as we have teams from three states, NY, MA, and VT,” Kendrick said. “Each state/region has made their own decisions on sports this winter. We are lucky to have the opportunity to train and compete (virtual meets) this season.
Kendrick is pleased with what he’s seen from his team so far.
“We had our first virtual scrimmage Friday night and it went very well. The girls really seemed to enjoy competing! There were no spectators but the meet was live streamed which allowed for potentially more friends and family to watch their loved one competing.”
“In the beginning of the season I was concerned about virtual meets and how the girls would respond to this change in format. Strong leadership from our experienced captains is certainly helping this team thrive during this challenging time.”