HELENA — Upon walking into the YMCA, there was a booth set up to support Helena Capital's Alex Barker, who is battling Leukemia.
The booth had a poster signed by members of both swim teams, a poster for the public to sign and a drop box for cards of encouragement which would be delivered to Barker.
Downstairs at the pool, group of swimmers had letters and symbols painted on the chests to spell out #ALEXSTRONG♥.
Nothing about the crosstown swim meet won by Helena High was conventional. There was no clock and the meet was capped off with three rounds of water polo. So, the fact that there was support and enthusiasm for members of both sides, instead of (at least a little) animosity you might find at other rivalry games, was very much on-brand.
"The way the kids get along — I'm always so impressed even when they're supposed to be rival schools, they still support each other," said Helena High and Capital coach Julia Shannon.
Instead of times, a simple scoring system was used to determine the winner. A victory in a given event was worth one point. The two squads went through every event a dual meet would feature except for the 500 freestyle and the 400 free relay.
The Bengals won 13 races and the Bruins won six.
"I enjoy just watching the kids have fun," Shannon said. "We don't have a competitive pool, so it's a good season-culminating event."
Helena High then swept the three water polo matches by scores of 4-3, 2-1, 3-2, totaling a 16-6 win for the Bengals. Each match# comprised have two five-minute halves.
Get in the game with our Prep Sports Newsletter
Sent weekly directly to your inbox!