Despite strong individual talent, small team size hinders team’s ability to win

March 17, 2023 — by Jonny Luo and Martin Xu
Photo by Natalie Chua
Freshman Taewon Yim competes against a Los Altos Swimmer in the 200 IM event at a home meet on Mar. 10. 
With a declining roster of 44 swimmers and divers, the swim team can field fewer swimmers per event .

It was raining, windy and cold. Four swimmers lined up behind the block, ready to swim the 200 yard JV freestyle event at a dual meet against Los Altos on March 3. The only problem: There were no Saratoga swimmers in this event. 

With only four girls on the JV girls’ team, the team was unable to fill many events during the Los Altos meet, ensuring the team would lose the meet. As such, for the first time in the swim team’s history, the four girls on the JV girls’ team were all moved up to the varsity team for the rest of the season — meaning there is now no team of a JV girls’ division. This change also means the girls’ varsity team can field extra relay teams, allowing them to score more points.  

Both the varsity boys’ and girls’ teams lost the meet against Los Altos, with scores of 112-70 and 99-71 respectively. In an away match at Gunn High on March 16, the girls’ varsity won 93-66 while the boys’ varsity team lost 109-60. 

This lack of swimmers is a symptom that has been plaguing the swim team since the pandemic, and each meet, there are often a few swimmers who cannot make it due to illnesses or scheduling conflicts that further challenges the ability to field a competitive team. This year, the team only has 42 swimmers and two divers, meaning that Saratoga swimmers are often outnumbered in events: There are often only one or two Falcon swimmers per event, whereas larger teams like Los Altos have multiple swimmers per event. 

The top five swimmers in each event are awarded with points (6, 4, 3, 2 and 1 respectively), and each school can only have three athletes score per event. With fewer swimmers in each event, the team has fewer opportunities to score points. 

In order to win an event and therefore the meet, a team must place a swimmer in first and another in either second or third. For example, if the school has swimmers place first and third in an event, the team scores nine points, while the opposing team scores seven. However, if the school has swimmers place first and fifth, the team only scores seven points, while the opposing team scores nine. 

“There’s no way we can get as many points as a team that puts five people per event, even if we score first or second,” senior Channie Hong said. “We also don’t have a lot of divers, and since it’s swimming and diving, we automatically lose a certain amount of points in the beginning [of each meet].”

While recent weather has impacted many other sports, from tennis to track, swim practices have continued throughout the poor weather. Unlike other outdoor sports, the pool remains within a consistent temperature range, according to Coach Michael Allegretti, who has coached at the school for the past five years. 

“The recent weather is not uncommon for this time of year. Once in the pool, it’s really the coaching staff that battles the wind and rain,” Allegretti said.

While swimmers continue to train in heavy rain, cold weather and strong wind gusts during practices, swimmers like Hong have noted that it causes certain difficulties in practices, especially when doing dives as swimmers have to get out of the water. 

For example, practice on March 14 was canceled because the strong winds blew the pool covers into a tangle, preventing swimmers from swimming. 

When the weather allows, the team has been training techniques, such as learning open turns and practicing transitions between strokes for events like medley. 

According to Allegretti, technique work involves utilizing a variety of drills to emphasize specific focal points within the strokes. Drills can be done at any point within the season during the various training cycles.

Allegretti would also like to encourage everyone to come out and cheer on their fellow classmates at their upcoming home meets on March 31, April 6 and between April 26-28.

Despite small numbers and bad weather, the team has been working on something they’ve missed out on in the past three years due to the pandemic: team bonding. While swimming may seem like an individual sport, team aspects of the sports shine through as swimmers cheer for each other during individual relays and race together during relays. 

With the last several years being impacted by COVID-19, Hong has noticed that the swim team isn’t as close as he had hoped. 

“A big problem in the last few years for us is just being a team instead of acting as individuals racing,” Hong said. “We’re trying to do a better job at [hosting more team bonding events].”

With more interactions at swim meets and after-practice team bonding events — such as eating out at Super Duper after the Los Altos meet on March 19, with more planned in the future.

“I think the swim season has been going very well considering the last couple of years has been through COVID-19,” Hong said. “We’re all slowly improving and as people continue to get in shape, we’re all going to be better together. We all challenge each other and we all improve.”

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