HAY Lightning is the name of the longstanding team of swimmers hosted by the Hockomock Area YMCA, which practices at pools housed at the Foxboro, Franklin and North Attleborough YMCAs. For this team of athletes ranging in age from 6-18, the goal of swimming at the Sunkissed Invitational swim meet every March or April has become a highly anticipated event.
If going to nationals is one of a swimmer’s goals for the season, then the swimmer must make the commitment to attend practices and work hard. Additionally, swimmers must give themselves every opportunity, over the course of the season, to swim the events in which they are trying to qualify.
During the pandemic this past year, members of the YMCA team have continued to swim and improve their skills, including competing in 12 swim meets between September and March.
The nationals meet, designed in accordance with USA Swimming guidelines, gives the opportunity to compete in a national meet to many more swimmers than comparable meets in other organizations. Historically, swimmers, who otherwise may never encounter this experience, get the opportunity to travel to, and compete in, a big four-day meet. The qualifying times are attainable goals for most junior swimmers (at least 10 years of age) as they approach the age of 13, and for senior swimmers from 14 years of age.
Hosted by Team Charlotte Swimming, this year’s event—formerly planned to take place in Charlotte, North Carolina—was forced to become a virtual event. Parents, most of whom usually attend the meets and perform chaperoning duties for meals, as well as timing and officiating duties, pulled together to ensure a successful local event, while honoring the seniors and upholding important team traditions such as door decorating, swimmers’ parade, and roses for anyone earning a spot on the podium. Participation on the National Team involved 25 percent of the swimmers.
“We saw amazing achievements that included kids receiving qualification times that will allow them to compete at other prestigious events,” said swim dad Dan Campbell of Plainville.
“Twenty-seven of the meet participants swam at personal best times.” Campbell continued, “Beyond the 189 swims at Sunkissed, we know how fortunate our kids were to be able to swim throughout the short course season. My daughter Megan, who will go on to swim in college with eight other recruits, is one of two who got to swim during COVID—and she is the only one that’s been able to compete. That she achieved four personal bests at Nationals is something else.”
It is a testament to the commitment of the team when one looks at Sunkissed results to see nine team records broken, including the shattering of the 20-year-standing 500 free record. Harikalal Birali (of Franklin) broke her first team record, Jack Maron (of Sharon) broke two, and Jill Carline (of Attleboro) had a standout showing with six team records.