(1-20-18) – Competitive swimming in Mercer County has been around a long time, many communities have community pools that sponsor teams from all ages during the summer. The addition of YMCA facilities in Mercer and Auglaize counties would expand the the opportunity for competitive high school swim teams.
Local high school teams developed shortly after the Mercer-Auglaize Counties YMCA was built and opened in 1986 on the WSU-Lake Campus and later the addition of the South Branch located between New Bremen and Minster was opened in 1994. The indoor pool facilities helped in the process and opened the door for schools to have a practice site and a meet home.
The Western Buckeye League since 1997 sanctions both boys and girls swimming, just 20 years ago.The Midwest Athletic Conference has not added swimming to date as a sanctioned sport.
One of the biggest challenges to local swim programs has been pool time for practice and meets, none of the schools in Mercer County have a pool on their campus. The lack of those facilities is probably the biggest setback and for MAC schools not having the conference is another.
Two Mercer County coaches share their thoughts on some of these issues and the local high school swim climate.
Scott Smith, Varsity Swim Coach at Marion Local:
This year we have the largest swim team in the schools history at 38 swimmers(27 girls and 11 boys). We have no feeder program except for back yard pools and ponds. I see our team as giving many non super athletes an opportunity to participate on a varsity sport with the possibility of earning a letter. They are learning an activity they can do the rest of their life.
We practice at the Auglaize Mercer YMCA south branch between Minster and New Bremen. We get 4 lanes of the pool three days during the week for 1 hour each practice. We do get an additional 1 hour 15 minute practice slot with only 3 lanes on Saturday mornings prior to when our Saturday meets begin in December.
I would love to see a pool at the school. The high school I attended in Akron had a pool attached. Since Marion Local does not have a community summer pool, a school pool could provide duel purpose. Another pool in the Mercer County area would have no problem keeping occupied.
There are many very talented swimmers in Mercer County. Celina girls should do well at state as well as a couple of their boys. St. Marys, Coldwater, Ft. Recovery, Minster and New Bremen are also very strong and all have swimmers that should at least make it to Districts and possibly State. I am hoping to get a couple swimmers to Districts.
Yes, I would love to see a MAC conference meet for swimming. Currently, we have 6 MAC schools recognizing swimming as a varsity sport. It is my understanding we need 7 teams to make it a MAC conference. St. Henry has 4 girls swimming as a club sport. They have 100 swimmers on their community summer swim team and I would think if the high school recognized swimming as a varsity sport they could field a varsity swim team.
Ft. Recovery Swim Coach Mindy Bubp:
Not having a pool at school, what effect does that have on your program?
1. I believe our swim program would be larger if it was not such a time commitment to practice. We have 1 1/2 hours of time spent in travel and prep!
2. High schools that have pools on site often practice 2 hours a day 5-6 days a week unless they have a meet, for an average of 10-12 hours of pool time. Those hours put us at a disadvantage when it comes to competing at Sectionals/Districts/State as there are schools with pools or much closer facilities. FRHS practices 4-5 days a week so we get approximately 6-7 hours of pool time a week. We may be on the high side compared to some of the other Mercer County swim programs that strictly rely on the YMCA’s. So we may be lucky that we even get that amount of pool time, but again the travel is prohibitive, and add bad weather into the mix and our pool hours drop significantly!
3. For high school teams more pool time would potentially lead to better performances which is great, but it would also lead to more swimmer development. It would allow for growth of our entire Fort Recovery swim program since we could host more clinics and potentially have practices for younger kids during the winter months for them to be able to try the sport. Having a pool closer might eventually allow for a JH program so that younger kids could start associating swimming with a school team sooner just as we do with most other varsity sports.
Would you like to see the MAC turn swimming into a conference sport?
Absolutely!! The athletes put in so much time and effort into swimming and to be officially recognized as a MAC conference sport would mean so much to these kids.
Junior Cassy Martin holds 5 of our 8 individual HS swim records and is a member of all 3 HS record holding relays. Cassy obviously is a very well rounded swimmer, but excels in the sprint freestyle events. Cassy is also currently ranked Top 5 in the District in the 50 free.
Seniors Alexis Bubp and Sophie Timmerman are both HS record holders and have been District Qualifiers along with Cassy every year. Alexis swims the 200IM, 100Fly and Sprint freestyle events and Sophie swims the 100 Breaststroke and middle distance freestyle events for the team.
Other thoughts –
Swimming is a tremendous sport for any athlete to consider! The cardio benefits, core strength and coordination skills swimming concentrates on also transfers to other sports while having a very low injury rate. Swimming is a sport where everyone can participate regardless of skill level. While some may not move on to the District level everyone can participate throughout the rest of the season. All swimmers have the chance to see individual improvement, as well as share in team goals and show commitment to the sport, team and school.
Matt Slavik, who is now the Head Swimming Coach at Jay County, sees the difference between having a pool on campus and the difference it can make to a swim program:
Mercer County has been blessed with a lot of great swimmers and divers over the years and have many success stories, but I am not sure they were able to reach their full potential at the high school level. There have been a large number that continued their swimming/diving careers and blossomed at the next level, in large part due to consistent training. For the most part we are unable to keep kids involved and provide adequate training for high school swimmers (unless they choose to swim club) due to lack of facilities.
I was fortunate to start my swimming and coaching career in Mercer County and had the opportunity to see high school swimming take hold in the communities that already have outstanding summer and a YMCA program. My career path brought me to Jay County Indiana, where we are fortunate to have a pool in the high school.
Indiana has some of the best high school swim/dive facilities in the country in turn produces some of the best athletes and teams in the country.
The advantages of having a high school facility allows us to provide consistent training for our athletes. We are able to practice at times that allow the athletes time after practice to accomplish school work, instead of relying on the YMCA for open pool time. Generally, available water time (with the exception of Celina) is late in the evening. We are able to host meets at our high school which provides a greater school spirit. Our swimmers/divers are recognized by the high school because we are able to draw a greater attendance, of more than just parents because we are not crammed into a hot facility not set up for competition. This all creates a stronger “TEAM” in a highly individual sport. This in turn provides us the opportunity to keep more kids involved. With the ability to host dual meets, invitationals, etc. for our team and rent the facilities to Mercer County teams, we can offset a large part of our operational costs.
In general, Mercer County has athletics that are some of the best in the state. With the exception of swimming all of them have places to practice and compete. They do not have to compete for practice and competition time. If Mercer County were to have more facilities I believe that swimming and diving would follow suit and see more consistent achievement at a high level and have greater involvement like the other athletic programs.
The OHSAA has sanctioned swimming for many years, according to the OHSAA web site:
The Boys Swimming & Diving Tournament is one of the oldest statewide high school tournaments. The 2006 OHSAA swim tournament program states that the first swimming and diving tournament was held in 1928. However, according to the All-Sports Record Book, put out by the OHSAA in 1957 to celebrate the organization’s 50th anniversary, there was a State Swimming & Diving Meet in 1927.
The state tournament for girls swimming and diving began in 1977. All schools competed together in one class/division until 2000.