Collin Baldacci is the official USA Swimming representative for the state of Wyoming, and one of the biggest issues in his state is a lack of facilities.
Can Cowboys swim fast? The Cowboy State has produced three Olympians in events that require swimming just in recent memory, Scott Usher, Barb Metz and Ryan Bolton, but while in Wyoming, they didn’t get to train or compete in great facilities. The entire state of Wyoming, an 8-hour drive from end to end, only has one 50 meter pool.
For those who don’t know, Wyoming, while big in area, is the smallest state population-wise bolstering a just 563,000 residents. Now the swimming community in Wyoming is really not a large amount of people. Ranching, and other sports take a lot away from the swim teams due to the fact there are not super great facilities here.
The Campbell County School Aquatic Center boasts a 50 meter x 25 yard pool with on-deck bleacher seating and two scoreboards. This pool is host to the Gillette Swim Team, who last July won their 21st state title in a row. Now because of their (our, I’m from Gillette) facility, we host both high school state championships, every summer state championship, and a lot of the winter state championships. Making a lot of people have to travel upwards of eight hours to get to our town. *
Some people have talked about a pool in Pinedale, Wyoming who with a population of 2,009 people built a new pool at their High School in 2007. It was speculated that it was built exactly 50 meters long and when they added a bulkhead it became 47.5 meters. As great of a story as this is, it’s not true. Because of the limited space around the high school it was built at, the pool is 35 yards by 25 yards with a double wide bulkhead. It is however, a very nice facility, that you can see pictures of here.
Even our State University in Laramie has a dungeon pool where there’s not even enough deck space for spectators to watch in the natatorium. Instead they have to sit in an adjacent classroom with a wall of windows viewing the pool and listen through the speakers to what the announcer is saying. They have tried the past decade to get a new pool built, but keep getting turned down. Tom Johnson the head coach has done a phenomenal job with what he’s allotted though. Scott Usher a 2004 Olympian went to Wyoming, and just this past summer Coach Johnson took the largest amount of swimmers from Wyoming to ever go to Olympic Trials, but they didn’t have the opportunity to TRAIN long course before. They competed down in Colorado before trials, but because of NBAC being at the training center in Colorado Springs, they couldn’t get in to train in a long course pool.
So why aren’t there any other 50 meter pools here? People around our state just don’t realize the need is there.
In January of 2010 Casper Swim Club (CASC) brought in Isaac Sports Group, to do a pool feasibility study as the city was planning to build a new high school. Now Casper is located almost dead center of the state and already hosts many of the state championship events in their facilities. When the high school plan became a jumbled mess, CASC started pushing for a new pool next to the aquatic center that was just added to the existing rec center.
This aquatic center had a play pool, some slides, and a 4 lane- 23 yard lap pool, but no competition pool. There was a perfect opportunity to add to it, as the machines running that pool were made for pools two and three times that size, and there was an open ﬁeld next to it with an ice rink on the other side (ice rinks and pools workout great together because of the heating and cooling needed for them). The Isaac Sports Groups study found that the town could easily accommodate a 50 meter pool, and that the beneﬁts would reach far past just the competitive swimming world.
But that plan was turned down too, because the two high schools in the city didn’t think they could share practice time. Now if a National meet can run a men’s prelims, and a women’s prelims at the same time – in one pool –why couldn’t they run two practices at the same time? Simply put, it was an excuse to not spend money on a sport that isn’t as popular.
Just think about the potential Wyoming Swimming holds. In addition to Usher, We’ve also produced two Olympic Triathletes, Barb Metz from Casper, and Ryan Bolton from Gillette. If we could get just ONE more 50 Meter pool in the state, we could reach out to so many more kids who don’t have an Olympic-sized pool to swim at. Producing more college athletes, and who knows, maybe more Olympians. It does take strong kids to work on a ranch or farm like many kids do in Wyoming. All that’s missing is the ability to get them in the water of a great pool.