First, congratulations to Midlothian High School’s Jon Stephenson for a sensational senior season. He made a return to the Class 5A State Swim Meet in Austin, finishing 22nd in the 100-yard backstroke with a time of 55.27 seconds.
That’s faster than it takes me to go to the kitchen for another cup of coffee, and if I’m scrounging for a snack, well, a 1,500-yard event might be over before I get back to the recliner.
Now, let’s build a natatorium or a competition pool in Midlothian so many more swimmers can follow Jon to Austin.
A recent story noted the amazing success the swimmers at Midlothian and Heritage high schools had this season. Numerous records were broken, and, of course, Jon’s advancing to state highlighted it all.
However, so did the team having to travel to Duncanville regularly for practices. By the way, there just aren’t enough kudos to be given to Duncanville for being so gracious with the use of their natatorium.
Remember, one of the best swim programs around (Midlothian ISD) came within a shaved hair (swimmers shave the hair on their bodies before competing) of having nowhere to swim this season.
But even if Duncanville is kind enough to extend the invitation for years to come, why should Midlothian swimmers have to go that far? They shouldn’t.
“I can’t help but think that we could have done more this year if we had our own competition pool here in town,” Midlothian High coach Jaron Ward said. “Don’t get me wrong, I am enormously thankful to Duncanville ISD for making room for our student-athletes, and their facility is wonderful. It’s just not ours, and it’s not close enough to alleviate a lot of the complications with ancillary issues.
“Hopefully, we will get our own facility soon, and we can continue to grow in numbers and in speed for years to come.”
It must be a challenge to encourage swimmers to join a program that has to travel about 35 miles round-trip to practice. In fact, those connected with the program estimated a loss of approximately 160 hours of practice time in the pool.
There was also a loss of actual swimmers who simply did not have the time and/or the ability to make that trek every day. One swimmer, in fact, did compete but couldn’t practice with the team because the distance was a conflict with her nursing studies.
Now that’s dedication – a dedication that permeates throughout the swim program and all MISD athletics.
And despite this major challenge, they still blew the doors off most of the competition and got a swimmer to state!
“Our move to Duncanville caused us to lose numbers due to impacted schedules – swimmers who couldn’t be involved because of specialized classes and no ride back to school in time for first period,” Heritage coach Cassandra Canales said. “Both high schools rose up above it all and still managed to have a strong showing at regionals.”
Take a second and imagine if a football team had to travel almost 20 miles to practice every day. Or any other “major” sport, for that matter, but for the most impact here we’ll use the most popular sport on the planet.
Why should swimming be any different?
Granted, it’s a lot easier to build a baseball field than a natatorium or even the proposed recreation center. But that can’t be said for a football stadium, which dwarfs pretty much any other facility short of Nebraska Furniture Mart.
Midlothian has a beautiful multi-purpose stadium which includes the playing of football games. A key part of that sentence is the phrase ‘multi-purpose.”
A competition pool or natatorium would, likewise, have multiple purposes. If it’s being built solely for a high school swim program, indeed that would be a waste of opportunity for other uses – and just like the football team is glad to share its stadium, you’d get no argument from the swim team concerning sharing.
As was pointed out at a recent school board meeting by three members of the MISD swim program (two from Heritage, one from Midlothian), a community pool would benefit the ENTIRE community, including senior citizens and those who need physical therapy. It would also increase educational opportunities, such as water safety.
And if you don’t think it would help an already great swim program become even greater, take a look down the road. For years, the Granbury School District sent swimmers to Benbrook and Fort Worth to practice and, like Midlothian, they enjoyed much success in the water.
When a new YMCA opened in town with a competition pool it lifted the program to a whole new level. In 2019 Granbury sent a program-record 11 swimmers to state.
Word is the MISD and the city are negotiating on where to put a rec center that was approved in a bond election, and that the city is open to it being on land owned by MISD. Hopefully, the negotiations will move along in less time than the MISD swimmers spent traveling to their practices this season.