New 12-lane pool at Rec Center makes a splash for UO swim club

The UO club swimming team used to drive 15 minutes to an off campus auxiliary pool that limited the team’s member numbers and decreased motivation. (Cole Elsasser/Emerald)

Lindsay Miller remembers when there were only three swimmers at Oregon’s swim club practice. The drive, 15 minutes off campus to an auxiliary pool, was limiting the team’s member numbers and decreased motivation. Some freshmen who didn’t have cars, couldn’t even dream of joining the team.

All that changed in January when the University of Oregon Student Rec Center’s new 12-lane, 25-yard pool opened. It sparked numbers among swimmers who no longer had to worry about scheduling conflicts or having their coach at practice.

“Attendance is through the roof,” head coach David Lee said.

In a sport like swimming, having a supportive team to compete against and train with is essential, Lee said.

The team hosted its first ever home meet during winter term, a long time coming for the Ducks. Oregon swam against Stanford, California and Santa Clara, California.

“We’ve never hosted a meet here before, so it was really cool, especially because it was the new pool,” Miller said, the team’s president. “It made people really excited to join the team and continue swimming.”

The old pool, Leighton Pool, was six lanes and could only host inter-squad meets. It also had poor air quality in the area around the pool. Lee believes that the freshmen presence on the team is the most promising and anticipates the size of the team to double in the next three years.

“When you have a group of people who are in it together, there’s a much higher morale,” Lee said. “People train harder… a lot of people on swim teams rise to the level of the fastest swimmers.”

In addition to the pool, Miller said Lee is able to be at the entire practices, rather than having to divide his time up, something he was forced to do last season.

“I think it makes kids want to work harder because we have a coach to help and encourage the swimmers,” Miller said.

When the team has a larger contingent show up regularly, it leads to more success in the pool. Both Miller and Brenton Hudak, the team’s vice-president, agree.

Hudak said it can be challenging to motivate oneself, but with a tightly-knit team, everyone will improve rapidly. The team has a Facebook group that Hudak thinks will allow for more casual conversations among the swimmers to form outside of the pool.

“This year was mostly about laying the groundwork and getting incorporated with the new pool,” Hudak said. “Next year, we will have a strong footing.”

That success has come early for the Ducks, who have qualified 11 swimmers so far for the national meet, which will be held in Texas in May. Last year, Oregon qualified six swimmers. Miller said the 11 total is the most ever.

The team hopes to start practices during fall term, instead of winter term, starting next year. Hudak and Miller believe the change will help their conditioning and is now possible with the addition of the pool.

“You have to put so much effort into getting back into shape, so if we can start earlier, it will be a lot better,” Hudak said.

Follow Jonathan Hawthorne on Twitter @Jon_Hawthorne

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