Niagara Gazette


February 18, 2007

HS SWIMMING: No contest ... League decision keeps N-O girls from making state waves

The best female swimmers in the Niagara-Orleans League this winter will never have an opportunity to compete on the state or sectional level, like their male counterparts at school or female league counterparts can.

It isn’t that they’re not good or fast enough. They simply swim at a time of the year that makes them ineligible to compete on those levels.

Former long-time Barker athletics director Bill Stedman said when N-O swimming was created more than four decades ago, girls swam in the fall. For many reasons — many out of the league’s control — it was decided by the N-O to swim both the boys and girls in the winter months, like Buffalo city schools.

That works out well for the N-O boys, who can qualify for the state’s winter-run boys meet, but the problem is, the N-O girls can’t qualify for the state meet, because that’s run annually in the fall.

Local large schools, including Lockport, North Tonawanda and Niagara Falls from the Niagara Frontier League and Starpoint and Tonawanda from the Erie County Interscholastic Conference, swim their girls in the fall and boys in the winter and thus, both genders can compete at sectionals and states.

However, like they are in Buffalo City League schools, in N-O-chartered waters, only the boys can qualify for sectionals and states. The girls are ineligible — at least for now.

The numbers crunch

Stedman said they knew within the N-O that if they swam the girls in the winter that they would not be eligible for sectionals.

“The problem was — and still is — that we don’t have enough girls in our school. Something would suffer,” Stedman said.

“We already run field hockey, girls soccer, girls volleyball and girls cross country in the fall. We have so many sports in the fall for the girls, it would just stretch the small schools like Barker and the other N-O schools too thin. So we weighed all the facts and there was so much interest in girls swimming that we decided to go ahead and swim the girls in the winter with the boys and run separate boys and girls heats at the meets, which we still do,” Stedman said.

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