SNOHOMISH — A few years ago, the Snohomish High School boys swim team was as good as any program in the state. Good enough, in fact, to win state championships in 2006, 2007 and 2008.
But even as the Panthers were hoisting the third of those title trophies, trouble was on the way. The team’s home, the Hal Moe Pool in downtown Snohomish, had closed the year before due to structural issues that were too costly to repair, and since then the school’s boys and girls teams — and later the boys and girls teams from the new Glacier Peak High School, also in the Snohomish School District — have been orphaned.
“We had a decent showing the year after (the third state championship), but every year it got a little bit harder,” said Rob Serviss, the head coach for both Snohomish and Glacier Peak. The drop, he added, “directly coincided with the closure of the pool.”
As the boys teams from both schools prepare for the 2013-14 season, the outlook is less than rosy. Snohomish and Glacier Peak have good swimmers, just not very many. Competing against schools that might have 40 or more swimmers in their programs, Snohomish has just 14 swimmers and four divers. Glacier Peak has only eight swimmers and one diver.
But the good news is, the new Snohomish Aquatic Center is scheduled to open sometime in January. Described by Serviss as “a beautiful building,” it will become the home venue for both schools.
“It’s going to have a huge impact,” Serviss said. “An absolutely huge impact.”
The 52,000 square-foot aquatic center, located at 516 Maple Avenue in Snohomish, was constructed with funds that were part of the district’s 2008 capital projects bond. The $261.6 bond also paid for renovation of Snohomish High School and other district-wide improvements.
When the new pool opens, “we’ll have a home,” Serviss said. “And we haven’t had a home for a long time. We haven’t hosted a meet in six years, so it’s going to be a great opportunity for the guys to know what it feels like to have a home meet and to have a home crowd and to have banners on the wall and a record board and all those things that make it (feel like) your home pool.
“It’ll give them a sense of identity, and even more a sense of ownership of the program by having their own building,” he said.
Since 2007, Snohomish and later Glacier Peak have trained at a Woodinville fitness club and more recently at Mukilteo’s Olympic View Middle School. Since the Snohomish School District cannot offer bus service to and from practices, team members have to provide their own transportation, which usually means a carpool.
Max Cossalter, Glacier Peak’s senior captain, says he makes a 40-mile round trip to practice every day. The problem, he said, “is that you can’t recruit people (to the team) when you’re saying, ‘Oh, yeah, you have to pay us (for gas) to drive you.’”
There is also a time issue, explained Snohomish captain Easton Lemos, another senior. School gets out at 2:15 p.m. and the carpools depart a half-hour later. Practices last from 3:15-7:15 p.m., and then everyone returns to the cars for the trip back to Snohomish, arriving at close to 8 p.m.
“That’s a long time to be practicing and on the road,” Lemos said.
The difficulty of getting to and from practices is apparently the reason both schools have small squads this season. “Our team has strong swimmers,” Lemos said, “but we just don’t have the numbers. And it’s because of the commute.”
But with a beautiful new pool about to open in Snohomish, Serviss expects more swimmers to turn out at the two schools, with success in the water to follow.
“I’m very hopeful that when the new aquatic center opens it’ll be a big boost to our numbers,” he said. “When the new building opens and we can get in there for a couple of full seasons, we’ll get that base of young talent built up, we’ll start teaching them how we do things and we’ll get back to where we were.”
Lemos agrees. “I love all the guys at Kamiak (in Mukilteo, which has an on-campus pool), but I’m jealous of them,” he said. “They’ve always had over 40 swimmers, and it’s hard for us to go over there with about 15 guys because we just get annihilated. But hopefully with the new pool next year, we’ll actually get (more swimmers) and we’ll be able to put up a fight against those teams with big numbers.
“If you give it time for the community to start putting their kids in swim lessons and in club swimming, Snohomish is going to be winning state again,” he said.