The Bowling Green swim team will get a chance to defend its title during this week’s Region 4 swim meet at the Owensboro Healthpark, but this year will be much different from any other season.

With restrictions still in place due to COVID-19, the meet will be divided into three days with no fans in the stands and trips to one of three sites that will host sub-state meets that will determine a state champion.

It will be a unique finish to a unique season that began in January and has extended two months past the normal finish.

“We are definitely excited about it,” BG coach Dee Wilkins said. “Of course I am nervous trying to get everybody ready with the changes in our training that we are doing. We will be there and give it our best shot. Hopefully it is enough to carry it out.”

Because of the season getting extended, Bowling Green enters the region without its normal home pool. The pool was torn down last month as part of a scheduled renovation, with a new facility available for next season. Wilkins said when the date was originally set two years ago it was with the idea the swim season would be over, but because of the push back of the season that wasn’t the case. Bowling Green has trained the last six weeks at the Warren County pool.

“Once they locked the date in, they couldn’t change it,” Wilkins said. “Thank goodness Mike Wilson over at Warren County schools allowed us to come over there and train in the morning. The kids are up at 4:30 in the morning and we are there at 5 Monday through Friday trying to keep the season going.”

Neil Romney, coach of the four Warren County schools, said his teams enter with uncertainty after a difficult season.

“What I have seen this year is we have had some surprisingly good swims considering we haven’t had our typical preparation,” Romney said. “I am hoping we can continue that trend, but I do know because of the interruptions in our training and the challenges that we have faced that it has been difficult to get that continuity in training.”

The format for this year’s region meet will have the girls’ swimming events on Tuesday. The diving events will be Wednesday, with the boys’ swimming events scheduled for Thursday. Only swimmers, officials and coaches will be allowed to attend with the event being streamed for the public online at https://www.facebook.com/OCathSN/

This year will be a timed final with no prelims to determine seeding.

“This is a one-shot deal,” Wilkins said. “I’ve tried to tell my kids there is no prelims then go back the next day and swim. You are going to have to be ready to go. You are going to have your mind focused and ready to go.”

With only one chance to qualify for state, both Wilkins and Romney expect the strategy for swimmers to be a little different this year.

“For the very strong swimmers they could go 90% in prelims, get a good qualifying spot in finals and then unleash,” Romney said. “Now they have to put it all out there in the morning. It’s a different psychological challenge.”

The top two finishers from each region and the next seven at-large to swim advance to the sub-state meet, one of three meets across the state that is scheduled for April 21 in Russell County. Region 4 will compete against teams from Region 1, 2 and 3 times compared to the times at other sub-state meets to determine state winners.

“The state I would argue is a bigger change than the region meet,” Romney said. “The regional meet we are still competing against the same swimmers in the same pool, only the format and the date have changed. Again we are grateful they are having a meet at all, because many states didn’t offer a state meet or even some cases a regional or district. We’ve done well in Kentucky and I know the KHSAA has worked really hard to make these opportunities available for athletes – not just swimming, but all sports.

“They are just excited to have the opportunity to compete in postseason and show what they can do and try to put all of their efforts into this season out there and see what they can come up with.”{&end}

– Follow prep sports reporter Micheal Compton on Twitter @mcompton428 or visit bgdailynews.com.