The Vineland High School swim teams are taking a road trip on Saturday - a much longer one than usual.
Instead of traveling 30 miles north for the South Jersey Interscholastic Swimming Association Coaches Invitational at Gloucester County Institute of Technology in Sewell, the Fighting Clan boys and girls teams will swim at the Eastern States Invitational at the Nassau County Aquatic Center in Eisenhower Park in Long Island, N.Y.
Girls coach Mike Schneider said that the swimming program typically participates in both events but had to choose due to a scheduling issue this season.
Schneider, a 2003 Vineland graduate, said that the program has been participating in the event since even before he was in high school and that it was only right to carry on the tradition.
"It just happened to be a week later then they usually have it, which is why we have the conflict this year," he said in a phone interview Wednesday. "I'm hoping next year they will be able to do (the Eastern States Invitational) the third weekend in January again, because we definitely like doing both meets."
Schneider said the event is mostly geared toward boys programs. He said the amount of girls teams participating can barely be counted on one hand. The event, which features teams from New York, Rhode Island and Connecticut, to name a few, records team scores for the boys, including an announcer energizing the crowd and swimmers for the final heats.
However, he emphasized the uniqueness the meet provides for the girls that few other events can offer since they will be swimming against boys.
"In New York, girls swimming is a fall sport," he explained. "So as far as the competition aspect, they are getting an opportunity to swim in a world-class facility. They are going to have a chance, for a lot of them them, to swim in the nicest competitive pool they will ever get to swim in. So, that kind of atmosphere provides them the opportunity to swim some really fast times.
"Some of the girls will get very fired up to race against boys, some of them will just want to do a good job and focus on their races. Every year kind of remains to be seen."
The Nassau County Aquatic Center was built in 1998 for the Goodwill Games, an international sports event similar to the Olympics that was held in the 1980s. Since then, it has regularly hosted major swimming and diving competitions, such as the NCAA Division I and Big East Conference championships.
Senior butterfly and individual medley specialist Courtney Middleton said she is sad that this will be her last time going up to the meet with her teammates.
"This is what I look forward to all year," the 17-year old said. "This is my favorite part (of the swim season). We get to stay overnight and we're the only girls team (from around here) that goes there, so it's fun for us. It's better (than local events) because it's a different experience for us."
"I'm very excited," 15-year old freshman Emma Hood said. "I look forward to it because it's a big bonding experience with my team. (And with playoffs around the corner), I do think that it's going to be beneficial because it's not every day you get to swim against a guy who is faster and stronger. You get that extra challenge."
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