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    Boys and Girls Together

    In high school swimming at a boy's school, I only remember one girl on an opponent's team—probably Sidwell Friends. She swam one race, then got out of the pool and ran to the locker room with her hand over her mouth. In college, men and women swam separate events, except for diving. In masters, men and women swim in the same heats all the time, and meet managers publish the results in separate lists by gender and age category. I've finished behind enough tiny but fast women that I don't even think about it anymore. But boys scoring points and setting records on girls teams has led to two NY Times articles on subsequent days:

    Boys Swimming on Girls Teams Find Success, Then Draw Jeers

    [Will] Higgins, a senior, and [Anthony] Rodriguez, a sophomore, are among roughly two dozen boys competing on girls teams in Massachusetts because their schools do not have boys swimming programs. They are able to do so because of the open access amendment to the state constitution, which was voted into law in the 1970s and mandates that boys and girls must be afforded equal access to athletics.

    Boys have been members of girls swim teams since the 1980s, but until recently they were mostly a sideshow. It has only been in the last year or two that boys have swum well enough to draw attention — and people’s ire. The epicenter of the debate is the 50-yard freestyle, an event in which strength can trump talent or technique.

    At the Division I state championships on Saturday at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, there are eight boys in the 28-swimmer field in the 50 freestyle. Although Norwood’s Higgins was ruled academically ineligible Friday and will not compete at the state meet, two of the top four seeds in the 50 freestyle are boys, giving rise to the possibility that a boy could be the girls state champion.

    Sarah Hooper, a senior at Needham High who is the fourth-fastest female entrant, finds the situation difficult to swallow.

    “It’s really frustrating to see how athletic directors and school administrators aren’t doing anything,” she said. “They really aren’t advocating for us. I understand there isn’t an opportunity for these boys, but it infuriates me that they can’t combine two schools’ boys to create one team or have them compete in separate heats. The way it is now, the boys are taking recognition away from girls who have worked hard and deserve it.”

    How did it get this way?

    Boys swimming is held in the winter, when pool space is limited and expensive to rent, which is a deterrent for many schools. Athletic directors say the sport is not as popular among boys as it is girls, making it hard to field full squads. Some schools in the winter offer coed swimming, where boys and girls compete side-by-side in the dual meets and then separately in the postseason.

    I presume that many elite (elite meaning fast-as-all-get-out) boy swimmers have gravitated to schools with lots of other elite boys in elite swimming programs—many of which may be private schools. Otherwise girls would be losing to boys all the time. So what we're seeing are non-elite, but physically strong, boy swimmers competing against both elite and non-elite girl swimmers at open enrollment schools, scoring team points in dual meets, and setting records in athletic and state leagues. Asterisking these boys into a separate category would consign them to either race separate events with no points—thus not really being part of the team—or to earning gimme points in separate events against teams with few or no boy opponents.

    Girl Defeats Boys to Win Girls Swim Title

    The Haverhill High School girls swimming team has a war cry, three initials that rang in the ears of its star sprinter, Sarah Broderick, in the days leading to the girls fall state swimming and diving championships.

    B.S.B. — Beat Some Boys.

    Broderick, a slender junior, entered the meet Saturday at Massachusetts Institute of Technology as the fastest seed in the 50-yard freestyle. Standing between her and a girls state title were eight boys, including three in her heat.


    Del Rossi was first at the turn, but Broderick exploded off the wall and edged him out at the finish. She was clocked in 23.85 seconds to Del Rossi’s 23.93.

    Both swimmers recorded personal bests, and Broderick’s effort qualified her for all-American consideration. Del Rossi missed all-American consideration by .07 of a second, sparing the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association the awkwardness of sending in a boy’s time for a national girls honor.

    First, why haven't we seen this plot on Glee? Second, I can imagine a new Hoosiers-type film in the offing, starring Justin Bieber and Miley Cyrus—if either of them can swim. Third, I can see why the boys score for the team in meets between teams, but I don't see why their times aren't competing against other boys' times at the league and state level.




    Why not use some sort of handicap like in golf?   It could be based on where on the continuum between XX and XY the competitors are.  It could also be a great way to learn more about the genetics of our species.

    Actually Michael Phelps raced Shaquille O'Neal doing just that. Also, Shaq and three elite women swimmers swam a medley relay against Phelps.

    • Handicap: Each race had its own different handicap (race 1 - Shaq swam 25m while Phelps swam 50m with a 5s. head start; race 2 - Shaq, Dana Vollmer, Rebecca Soni, and Ariana Kukors each swam a 50m segment of a 200m medley relay, while Phelps swam an individual 200m medley; race 3 - Shaq swam 50m while Phelps swam 75m).
    • Winner: Michael Phelps (2 out of 3 races)

    Problem is, these guys aren't consistently better than the girls. They just have muscles for the sprints that girls don't have. Muscles can help a lot in sprints. I once raced in the same heat as a weightlifter who had only started swimming a few months earlier. His GF swam with us. He beat me by 0.2 sec in the 25 yard free, but lost by ten or twenty seconds in the 200 yard free. 200 and over is more about good technique and stamina than raw power.

    Boys and girls together

    Me and Mamie O'Rourke

    Get pepper sprayed whenever

    We're on the sidewalks of New York



    Sorry. I just could not pass it up. smiley

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