A year ago, when Skyline swimmer Gavin Dustin touched the wall and completed the 200-yard freestyle at the state meet in Boise, he knew.
He had won state.
“That was it,” Dustin said. “That was the race.”
This year, he had to wait a little longer to find out.
Because of COVID-19 restrictions, officials decided to make this year’s state meet virtual, meaning that swimmers qualified for the state meet with their times from district meets. There was no in-person state meet.
In a normal year, swimmers who won first or second in a particular event advanced to state in that event. This year, officials maintained that set-up, but instead they sent times to state, where they ran times against each other and determined winners.
The only local to take first place was Dustin, who won the individual title in the 200-yard freestyle, finishing in 1:46.84. The Skyline boys took sixth overall with 79 points.
“There was more suspense and nervousness after I finished, which was weird,” Dustin said. “Normally, it’s just over, you know? So I was just hoping.”
He hoped right.
Still, the plan wasn’t always to hold a virtual meet.
In September, IHSAA officials started considering the idea and prioritized a few things including safety, for one. But they didn’t want to end the season early. They wanted to hold a culminating event. They examined possible facilities for the state meet — it’s usually held at the West Boise YMCA, which is only admitting about 75 people inside at once — and determined it wouldn’t be feasible due to COVID-19 restrictions at every other facility.
So the state meet would be virtual.
“It’s not the culminating event that they wanted, either,” said Bonneville coach Glenn Roth, who also works as the IHSAA’s rules interpreter.
Dustin’s mother, Christine Dustin, is the Skyline coach. Toward the end of September, she said, coaches received word that state would be virtual this year.
That meant the district meet would serve as the defacto state meet, for one, but it also established COVID-related rules for each district meet: Swimmers from different schools couldn’t race to each other — an empty lane separated them in what Dustin called “a weird complication” — and swimmers adopted a mindset that they were racing themselves.
“They were having to do their own thing and hope it was good enough," Christine Dustin said.
Around the area, Bonneville sophomore Brendan Bateman took sixth in the 500-yard freestyle with a time of 5:41.99.
The Idaho Falls boys took third overall in 5A, scoring 150 points. Zane Herway (1:54.80) and Casey Adams (1:57.16) led the Tigers in the 200 freestyle, while Moana Grimes (2:06.15) took sixth in the 200-yard individual medley and second in the 100-yard backstroke.
But Dustin, understandably so, was most excited about one finish in particular.
“He knew what he had to do to win,” Dustin said of Gavin. “I get to see him at home and all those other settings, so I got to see how excited he was. It was awesome. He knew what he had to do. He had to go faster than he was last year. And he did it.”