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Don't water down pool plans

November 26, 2006|by LYN WIDMYER

Think life is too short? Attend a swim meet.

I read that advice on a T-shirt at one of my son's swimming competitions.

Nick, now a college student, was swimming for Jefferson High School at the time. We were about two hours into a four-hour meet. The Shepherd University pool, where the Jefferson Cougars practice and compete, is a lot like a sauna.

The place is cramped, sweating hot and the benches are hard as lava rocks. There are so few lanes that endless heats must be swum for each event.

Unlike other sports' events, parents don't scream, yell or curse at the referee. That is because no one is quite sure what is going on. There is no electronic scoreboard to keep track of times or swimmers. Not that it mattered to me - my glasses were constantly fogged from the trapped humidity.

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This year 46 students are on the Jefferson High swim team. I know the swimmers and their families are thrilled that Shepherd University is planning to construct a new pool.

At first, the pool was to be 10 lanes and meet National Collegiate Athletic Association standards. Now plans for the pool are being watered down. When asked by the University Board of Governors whether the pool would meet athletic standards, President David Dunlop replied the building is not primarily an athletic facility but is geared to the student body.

Too bad Shepherd University doesn't feel part of the larger community like George Mason University (GMU) in nearby Prince William County, Va. GMU partnered with the county and the City of Manassas to construct the Freedom Aquatic and Fitness Center. The center offers a 50-meter Olympic size pool, 10-lane competition pool, a leisure pool with a two-story waterslide, a running/walking track, day-care center and courts for basketball and racquetball. The university's School of Recreation, Health and Tourism helps run the center.

The county's Office of Economic Development uses the center as a sales point when attracting businesses to the county. Local residents enjoy a first-class leisure facility and five local high schools have a great training facility for their swim teams.

We have the opportunity in Jefferson County, W.Va., to build and benefit from a center similar to the one in Prince William County.

The Jefferson County Commission is now considering a levy to fund a new swimming pool at Sam Michael's Park. Before a levy is put on the ballot, the County Commission, the Shepherd University Board of Governors and the Jefferson County School Board should get together and figure out their mutual interests in terms of swimming facilities. They should visit the Freedom Aquatic and Fitness Center. They should learn from that success.

My son swam competitively until his sophomore year of college. Nick learned the intricacies of flip turns and proper strokes but most of all he learned the value of teamwork.

Our local officials should demonstrate they, too, know the value of teamwork. They need to pool their interests and their money and build a first class aquatic center in Jefferson County.

Lyn Widmyer is a Charles Town, W.Va., resident who writes for The Herald-Mail.

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