Last season, swim meets took on a bit of an eerie feel. During most competitions, teams swam by themselves and recorded times, matching them against their opponents who swam at a different venue — and sometimes on a different day — to see who came out on top.
Meets are more “normal” this year, and Hopkinton High School swimming and diving coach Kristen Wells is grateful for it.
“This is such a big difference from last year when we just had to swim by ourselves,” Wells said. “It’s so much better to have a live event.”
But the effects of the pandemic still linger over the program. Midway through the season, Wells said the girls team had not had a full roster due to COVID-19 protocols and other illnesses, but stressed that the girls have been making the most of whatever numbers they have.
“This year in particular, we are versatile,” she said. “Of course some swimmers have their specialty events, but everybody across the board is versatile about what they can do and they have been good when asked to take on a new event.”
The Hillers have a number of standout athletes in the program this winter, including diver Tess Weatherhead. The senior captain is heading to the University of Richmond next season to compete for the Division 1 college program.
“She has always been a standout and she is continuing that this year,” Wells said. “She always takes practice seriously and she has been working hard on a lot of her dives.”
Weatherhead has placed in postseason meets during the past few seasons and was unbeaten through mid-January this season in dual meet competition. Fellow senior captains Sofia Luce and Deirdre Belger also have been consistent scorers for the Hillers in a variety of events.
“Deirdre does a great job in practice being a great team leader and a vocal leader,” Wells said. “She makes sure everyone knows what they are supposed to be doing and she is a great leader in practice.”
Luce has been seeing her times drop throughout the season, Wells added.
“Sophia is doing a good job looking for areas to improve and self-identifying areas where she needs to improve,” the coach said. “She has goals she wants to reach now that she is a senior.”
With the Hillers battling low numbers and protocols and things not entirely back to “normal” in high school swimming, Wells stressed that seeing times drop is more important to her and the program this year than how many meets Hopkinton is able to win.
“Our overall record is not a concern this year, especially because we have not had a full roster for a single meet,” she said. “It’s about showing improvement individually and as a team. We want to show improvement and see our times drop week-to-week, so we are focusing on that.”