BRISTOL - The city championship swim meet had been over for nearly 20 minutes, but the Dennis Malone Aquatics Center was still as loud as it had been nearly three hours earlier, the pool still packed with supporters cheering on their team.
Then again, there aren’t many swim meets like the one on Saturday between Bristol Central, Bristol Eastern and St. Paul.
That’s part of what makes this meet so special for those involved. It brings about a different dynamic, akin to a state meet rather than one in the regular season, filled with a greater sense of intensity, urgency and competitiveness.
“It’s something you don’t understand if you’ve never been a part of it,” Rams senior Mackenzie Pina said.
It was certainly a new experience for a number of underclassmen, who had yet to experience such an atmosphere. Even for those who have been through this before, the scene never gets old.
Fans already packed tight in the bleachers overflowed from the stands onto the pool deck and even into the lobby.
Every event brought on so much noise the coaches who were shouting out instructions were drowned out by the crowd and their own swimmers cheering on their teammates. Often times, the swimmers out-shouted the crowd.
The only time the pool went silent was before each diver lined up on the diving board to go through their routine. There wasn’t much reprieve otherwise.
There were even a few tears shed, like when Bristol Central was announced as the winner after beating the Lancers 53-39 and the Falcons 70-22 to take the city crown from Bristol Eastern by taking first in seven of the 12 events. There were even a few tears along the way for performances that some in the pool believed should have been better.
“It’s different,” said Rams freshman Nyomi Cordero, who was a double winner by taking the top spots in the 200 IM and the 100 breaststroke. “When everyone is cheering, the energy in your head just increases 10 times more and you feel the need to go faster and harder.”
And yet, it’s something the swimmers, divers and coaches embrace. Many of the girls grew up swimming with one another as members of the Bristol Splash, the city’s club program, and the meet brings about another level of sportsmanship that can often go missing against just another opponent.
Not only are Rams cheering for Rams, Lancers for Lancers and Falcons for Falcons, there’s members of the Bristol Eastern team rooting for Bristol Central, Rams encouraging St. Paul swimmers to finish an event strong, and so on.
It really becomes a city-wide event.
“It’s exciting,” Lancers head coach Alyson Phelan said. “All the girls on the side are running up and down and cheering for everybody. They’ve been swimming with the other girls for so long, being in Bristol, being in the same town. Now they get to go against each other and it’s a mixture of cheering for your team and cheering for the other girls because you know them. It’s a fun meet.”
“Most people [in other sports] it’s a rivalry, you’re mad at them, you want to win,” Pina said. “Here there’s friendship and when you’re done swimming, it’s like, ‘oh my god, you did such a good job.’”
But they also view the meet as something good for swimming as a whole too, brining more attention to the sport that it might not get usually from a more casual fan.
“I think it’s a great meet,” St. Paul head coach Meegan Martin said. “It brings Bristol swimming to the next level and it makes swimming more important in Bristol. It sheds a light on the sport itself.”
Perhaps the best part of it, for both the swimmers and their fans, is one more meet between Bristol Central and Bristol Eastern - and a packed pool deck - awaits in two weeks on Oct. 29.
“We’re really excited for our next meet,” Lancers senior Chelsea DeMarest said.
David Glovach can be reached at (860) 801-5085 or email@example.com