High School swimming in Massachusetts has gotten itself into quite a mess. Thanks to state laws and policies, when a sport is only offered for one gender, then the opposite gender must be allowed to participate. This rule was likely to be initially an offshoot of Title IX gender-equity policies, and resulted in girls joining boys’ teams like baseball and football.
But now, in the great Title IX revenge, boys are participating more than ever in girls’ sports. In team events, like field hockey, this has raised a lot of concern in the state. In individual events, like swimming, it’s become downright ludicrous.
The Boston Globe writer Emily Sweeney put out a piece yesterday relaying the anxiety that is being felt in swimming as more-and-more boys swim with the girls. The problems lies in that Massachusetts offers two swimming seasons – a “winter season” for both boys and girls, as well as a “fall season” strictly for boys.
Results from this year’s fall state meet can be seen here, and you will notice that there are several boys’ names in the results. That’s not part of any sort of gender-neutral naming sentiments, those are actually boys. Take the girls 50 free, where Scott DelRossi of Methuen High and Nikita Kirik of Billerica High took 2nd and 3rd. As strange as it may be, if DelRossi had touched just a tenth faster, than he would have been the 2011 girls’ state champion in the 50 free.
Yes, a boy would have been a girls’ state champion. I’ll repeat it one more time, to confirm that it is not a slip of the fingers: the GIRLS’ state champion would have been a BOY.
Now, let’s surround all of this by saying that the boys who participated cannot be held one bit at fault. They are simply participating under the rules as presented and swimming the best times that they possibly can.
At the same time, the state federation needs to figure out a way to solve this problem, lest they undo decades of progress. According to the Globe, this trend of boys swimming in the fall with the girls is growing, and if it continues, they will eventually squeeze all of the girls, for whom the meet was intended, out of the state competition and ruin the season altogether.
The silver lining for the girls here is that not a single boy won an individual state championship, thanks to a strong performance by the girls. In that 50 free, where boys finished 2nd and 3rd, Sarah Broderick achieved legendary status by out-touching her competitors in a 23.85. Nationally elite preps like Maggie D’Innocenzo (champion in the 200 IM – 2:02.53 – and 100 breast – 1:03.72) represent strongly for the girls. There’s also the likes of Rachel Moore (54.27 in the 100 fly and 54.58 in the 100 back) that fight off their male competitors.
There was one instance, at least, where a male will go into the females’ record book. Earlier in the season, Will Higgins of Norwood High swam a huge personal best of 23.96 in the 50 free – and broke a South Sectional Meet Record that was 27-years old. Reports are that the previous record holder, Cynthia Kangos, was pretty angry about the outcome.
But the threat is still there. If it was to happen, and a boy was crowned girls’ state champion, then there would be a huge asterisk next to the win anyways, with “top female finisher” listed alongside it. The co-ed nature isn’t really fair to the girls either. There can be decided advantages and disadvantages to racing in a lane next to a boy that could give girls an edge over records and in a nation-wide perspective. It can also be very intimidating for girls to have to race against a guy, and this could result in slower times even aside from the placings.
The Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Associations are “expected to review the issue in January,” but the matter is fairly straightforward, so long as they approach each sport with its own solution (rather than trying to line up solutions that work for both swimming and field hockey, for example). Either add a boys’ season to the fall, or eliminate the double season for the girls.
In an individual sport, the added costs of running a secondary boys season in the fall is minimal compared to running a girls. The swimmers practice together anyways, and adding a heat or two of boys to each event wouldn’t tag a whole lot onto the length of the meet.
The reason for a split season, in theory, is to give schools some options for when they are able to get pool time, or perhaps to not interfere with the best swimmers’ spring USA Swimming schedules, but to only offer this split season for one gender is quite peculiar.
The silver lining of this is that, especially because of the broken record, the MIAA will at least be forced to make a sound decision on the issue. Their lawyers have told them that simply cutting the boys out of girls’ is not an option