Debbie Stewart has seen a lot in her 19 years of coaching high school swimming in Longmont, but even this year is a first for her.
The head coach at Silver Creek is having to adjust their practice schedule significantly as the Centennial Pool in Longmont is being repaired due a faulty sump pump causing flooding that significantly damaged to the pool’s electrical system in mid-August. The Longmont Times-Call reports that city officials are hoping to reopen the pool at the end of January.
Without a main pool to practice, teams in Longmont have been scrambling to find time and locations to practice this season.
“Every day we have a different schedule,” Stewart said. “Sometimes we’re at the YMCA in the morning for 45 minutes and have to share with other teams, so we only get short workouts. The next day, we’re getting on a bus from 3 (p.m.) until 6:30 going to CU, so we’re out of our district.”
Stewart added that her team has even practiced in a two-lane pool an HOA allowed her team to workout at.
“We try to get 64 girls cycled through that,” Stewart said.
Finding a pool is just one of the hurdles the Longmont teams are enduring. Because they share minimum facilities, teams are either forced to practice for a short period in the morning before school or at all different hours in the afternoon and evening. Longmont swim coach Carly Daelli has even held practices so late that she heads home from them after 9:30 p.m. on some nights.
“There’s not a lot of control with what’s going on,” Daelli said. “(The girls) have been responsible getting there on time and take time for practice. When we go to CU, it takes 3 hours but you’re only in the pool for one-and-a-half hours. They’ve been adjusting well, but they’re tired from all the travel and the meets.”
The ever-changing schedule and shorter practice time has seen some impact this year. Both coaches mention two major hurdles in particular. The first is the starting blocks, as only one of the facilities has some for the swimmers to use, but that is limited to only a couple for an entire team.
Stewart said the lack of practice from the starting blocks made a big difference for her team in their 94-92 loss to the Windsor Wizards on Dec. 13.
“That hurt us bad in Windsor,” Stewart said. “We lost the meet by two points and one of our relays got disqualified. I blame it on that.”
The group that has been the impacted the most, according to both coaches, were the divers. With CU being the only pool they can use for practice, they have had to endure the most change with their practice schedules this winter.
“They go to CU every day, and with one diving coach for the whole district, it’s been hard on them to catch bus, get to CU, practice and go home,” Daelli said. “I’ve seen them only a handful of times this season.”
Stewart added that the divers have sometimes had practices called off within an hour of starting due to maintenance.
“They have suffered the most, and this is the biggest diving team we’ve had,” Stewart said.
The final noticeable impact is the fact that none of the Longmont schools will be able to host a home swim meet this season and have a chance to recognize their seniors. Instead, a night to honor the swimmers will be held at CU later in the season.
Despite the odds, the Longmont teams are seeing good performances so far in the early season.
Silver Creek found itself ranked No. 5 in Class 4A in the initial swim rankings posted by PrepSwimCo.com on Dec. 19. Standouts like Emma Hermeston and Alexandra Smith have been winning their events in head-to-head duals and finishing high in larger meets so far this season. Other area standouts like Lucy Matheson of Longmont and Juliana Urbina of Skyline are also turning in good starts to the season.
“We’ve been pleased given the conditions we have to train under,” Stewart said. “They have stepped up to the plate with the circumstances.”
Even though the teams have done well so far, there’s still plenty of work they will have to overcome in order to get to the high level at state in February. Now the coaches believe they have a strategy for practice schedules and working around the conditions to finish strong.
“I think it will help them know that we can still swim well, no matter what happens,” Daelli said. “We’ll figure it out. They should work around it and not use it as a reason for not doing as well.”