October 21, 2021

Bowling, swimming seasons open virtually

Sam Feeley/sports editor

Cortland High senior bowler Adam Minnard completes a spare during the season opening virtual match against Liverpool Tuesday at Cort-Lanes.

CORTLAND — The winners of Tuesday’s high school bowling season opener between the Cortland Purple Tigers and the Liverpool Warriors are…

To be determined.

But at least they get to play.

While high-risk sports such as basketball, hockey and wrestling continue to wait and see when their seasons will begin, if at all, low-risk sports such as bowling and swimming began Tuesday.

To minimize the risk of COVID-19 transmission, many bowling matches and swimming meets will be held virtually that is, the teams will log their scores and times at their home venues and submit the results online to determine the winners.

The idea is for teams to bowl or swim at the same time, potentially live streaming their performances at each other’s venue, but some matches will have to take place asynchronously.

Case in point, Cortland bowled their side of their match with Liverpool Tuesday afternoon at Cort-Lanes, but will have to wait until Thursday for Liverpool’s results.

Cortland head coach Annette McMahon recognized the differences of not bowling in the same room as one’s competition.

“I think it does impact the team,” McMahon said. “There’s nothing like the spirit of competition when you’re face to face. I’m not sure if playing singleton like this can really replace that. But the kids bowled great tonight and I’m really glad with the scores. I guess we’ll have to play throughout the season to see if it affects the scores and the play.”

Cortland bowlers Corey Smith and Tori Strobeck saw advantages, however.

“I think there’s a tiny bit less pressure,” Smith said. “I think it’s good that we’re not playing directly with the other teams so that we can actually social distance more.”

“I think it’s better that we’re separate from the other schools, because if we need to help our teammates we can, and we have more time to help them out,” Tori said.

Cortland athletic director Matt Wood hasn’t been part of any virtual meets in the past, but he sees the usefulness of the concept even when there isn’t a global pandemic.

“When you run into smaller lanes, you can’t accommodate that many people,” Wood said. “I guess you can use it for other reasons than just pandemics.”

While Cortland does not have a swimming team, other Salt City Athletic Conference schools that do will use technology that allows swimmers to race at the same time from different venues without any lag on the internet.

“To be allowed to do anything is great,” Wood said. “It’s the whole delay, the whole waiting for word from the governor’s office that’s frustrating. Otherwise, we’re ready. These kids have gone through the registration process and the nurse has checked on them. They’re good to go.”

It also helps that the Purple Tigers bowlers have been getting plenty of reps in before the high school season.

“Most of these kids bowl in leagues on Saturdays,” Wood said. “They’re all set to go.”

As for the match itself, the Purple Tigers were happy with their scores, and especially with the momentum the boys and girls gained in their third games. The teams fed off each other’s energy, and the five girls finished with a score of 2,329, with Strobeck leading the way with a 515, while the six boys finished with a score of 2,754, with Smith, who was the team’s Most Improved Bowler award winner last year, bowled a 550.

“The kids are really excited to be able to be here,” McMahon said. “It feels kind of weird being the only sport playing, but we’re glad that we’re here, glad that we can do this.”

As the Purple Tigers await Liverpool’s results on Thursday, McMahon believes the final score will be close.

“Last year when we bowled them, the girls won and the boys lost,” McMahon said. “We lost some senior boys, but our strength this year is enough to make us competitive.”