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To compete in swim meets, Mass. boys join girls teams

Jonathan Wall
Prep Rally

We've all heard the stories of girls trying to compete on the same field as their male counterparts. But what about stories where the roles are reversed? Based on the number of sports options offered to high school boys, you never hear about them being forced to join the girls' team.

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Until now. In Massachusetts, a serious debate is brewing over a record number of boys joining girls' swim teams throughout the state for the fall season.

As the Boston Globe reported, the reason boys are being forced to swim with their female counterparts is because the state only has a fall swim season for the girls. Very rarely do you see one sport cater to the girls and forget the boys during the fall, but that's the case in Massachusetts.

It wouldn't be a big issue except for one minor problem: Boys are starting to break records at the girls' meets. As the Globe noted, Norwood (Mass.) High's Will Higgins broke a meet record for the girls' 50-yard freestyle in October that had swim officials in the state wondering if they should put Higgins' name in the girls' record books.

That seems to be one of the biggest problems coaches and swimmers within the state seem to be grappling with at the moment. Of the 48 high school teams competing in the state this fall, the Globe said eight teams have male swimmers on girls' teams.

The Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association has already noted that state laws allow boys to compete with the girls, and vice verse, so if only girls happen to be swimming during the fall, well, boys have the right to swim next to them.

"I want all the boys who want to swim to be able to swim," Andover (Mass.) High swim coach Marilyn Fitzgerald told the Boston Globe. "My only concern is with the girls. The girls in the fall have to be treated in the same manner as the girls in the winter … and that is not happening.

"Boys and girls should have their own championship."

Therein lies another issue: getting boys their own championship. Earlier this fall, a dozen boys qualified to swim in the girls' Division 1 state championships. Normally that wasn't the case. Most of the boys competing during the fall weren't good enough in years past to qualify.

But times have changed. One male swimmer even came close to winning a race at the state championships.

If one of them had won, noted Fitzgerald, "We would have been crowning a boy as girls' state champion. Inherently, there's something wrong with this.

"Everybody is upset about it. I'm sure the boys themselves would rather swim against boys,'' she said.

Based on the reactions from coaches around the state, it's clear something must be done to rectify this situation. There aren't enough boys to field a swim season during the fall, but if officials continue to let the fall swim season go on in its current form, a boy is going to win a state race, and officials are going to have to decide if they want to crown a boy champion at the girls' championship meet.

It hasn't come to that just yet. But sooner or later, it will.

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