NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - The new North Charleston Aquatic Center says they are hosting the 2020 South Carolina High School League State Swim Championships starting this weekend.
Organizers say this will be the first High School State Championship in any sport in South Carolina since the pandemic began.
South Carolina High School League Assistant Commissioner Daniel Brooks says they moved the state meet from Columbia to the new North Charleston Aquatic Center this year because of its new facilities and its additional space for social distancing.
“We’re setting the tone for all state finals to come afterward,” Brooks says. “This is a different year. What happens within those championships totally depends on the venue and limitations. We may find ourselves in other state finals with no spectators and that’s just because of the COVID year.”
The South Carolina High School League says they and the North Charleston Aquatic Center will host more than 1,000 athletes over the span of Saturday and Monday.
The event starts Saturday morning, but Brooks says each group will be split up by class regions and between girls' and boys' teams.
The most athletes inside at one time will be during the AAAAA region with about 225 swimmers and Brooks says that will be the same for the girls and boys groups.
Officials say all of the girls' meets will be Saturday and all of the boys will swim Monday. They say no races will take place Sunday.
“We are excited to bring an event of this magnitude to North Charleston and are honored to have been selected to host the SCHSL State Swim Meet,” North Charleston Director of Recreation Doyle Best says. “This year’s meet poses certain challenges, but the City of North Charleston is up to the task. We look forward to hosting a great competition and showcasing our new, state of the art facility.”
Best says the North Charleston Aquatic Center will be cleaning and sanitizing the venue between each region meet. He also says all athletes will be required to wear masks when they are not in the water and they have to social distance when not competing.
Teams will get the results of their races right away ,but Brooks says there will not be a group award presentation. At the end of the championships, he says just the coaches will be presented with awards.
Brooks says the SCHSL would like to have a more formal presentation later in the year if health and safety guidelines allow.
The SCHSL says they have decided that no spectators are allowed this weekend.
Ashley Ridge, Fort Dorchester, and Bishop England volunteered as the host schools for this year’s state championship and Brooks says some of those parents have volunteered as timers for the event.
The SCHSL understands that this situation is not ideal for a lot of parents, Brooks says.
“Parents, we do ask that you livestream this event. We hope that you understand that we did everything possible to make sure that we could offer a championship for our athletes in South Carolina,” Brooks says. “The only way that we saw that we could do this without drastically cutting the number of athletes that we brought to the championship, was to eliminate spectators. Unfortunately, that’s the only way that we could get this to work and we wanted to provide the greatest opportunities for the athletes of the state.”
Brooks says the only other people allowed inside will be coaches, officials, aquatic center staff, and school principals and athletic directors.
All races will be live streamed on the National Federation of State High School Associations website, however the SCHSL says there is a fee parents and others will have to pay in order to watch.
Additional information with rules and meet schedules can be found on the SCHSL' swimming page.