Fremd senior Andrew King is confident he could have made it on a weekly, top 10 list for fastest swimmers in the state this year. But because District 211 pools force student athletes to train and compete in meters, his times were considered invalid.
Evanston Wildkit Aquatics, a popular group that keeps records for swim teams, only accepts times that are recorded in yards because those are the state competition standards followed by almost all other high schools in the state, said King's coach, Kristen Newby, who is also assistant coach for girls swimming.
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The plan approved by the board of Palatine-Schaumburg High School District 211 projects that larger pools will be in place by 2016. Here's the tentative schedule for the work:
Ÿ Conant, calendar year 2014
Ÿ Fremd and Hoffman, calendar year 2015
Ÿ Palatine and Schaumburg, calendar year 2016
Source: District 211
"He was swimming times at our pool that were probably fast enough to be on that list, but (Evanston Wildkit Aquatics) won't take conversions," said Newby, who explained there's no perfect equation to convert meters to yards.
The Palatine-Schaumburg District 211 Board of Education recently approved pool renovations for all schools, meaning students will finally train in yards like the state's other athletes.
Coaches say they're happy the board approved the renovations, expected to cost $15 million, but that the work has been needed for over a decade.
In 2002, the National Federation of High Schools deemed it unsafe for students to dive off blocks into a pool depth that's 3½ feet or less, said Brian Drenth, head boys coach for Conant High School.
The design of District 211 pools made it hard for teams to comply and still train for competition in yards, he said.
Each of the schools' pools is T-shaped, going 25 meters along the long part of the "T" and 25 yards along the shorter, top portion.
That left swimmers with two choices, Drenth said: jump off the blocks on the meters side, where the pool is deep enough to meet regulations, or just dive off the deck on the side measured in yards because it wasn't deep enough to allow use of blocks.
Hoffman Estates High School athletes would sometimes practice in yards to train in the right metric, but that meant they had to jump off the side of the pool instead of a block, like they would at competition, said Joey Arce, head boys swimming coach.
"We weren't practicing starts the way you're supposed to do them, which then takes away a lot of your training," he said. "I say that's the No. 1 factor."
District 211 boys swimming and diving teams placed in the state's top 10 14 times from 1990 to the 2001-2002 school year, and girls swimming and diving placed six times, according to Illinois High School Association records. But no team in the district has ranked since the 2001-2002 season, right before the national regulations were set.
The pool size also hurts in other ways, coaches said.
Hoffman never hosted an invite this year because out-of-town teams simply did not want to compete in meters, Arce said. This meant students never had home court advantage, he said.
Drenth said the pools were so small he'd often have to put 10-13 swimmers in the same lane following each other for practices.
And Newby said she believes the small size discouraged young swimmers from joining programs like the Hickory Willow Swim Association that use District 211 pools and that are the "feeder teams" for the high school programs.
The renovations will make the pools larger and square-shaped instead of T-shaped.
Coaches and parents like Paul King, Andrew King's father, began asking for renovations a few years ago.
"It would have been nice to have it done earlier," Paul King said of the renovations which will come too late to benefit his son, "but I know (board members) have a lot of things they've got to take care of."
The pool renovations are expected to cost as much as the $15 million the board has spent on all capital improvement projects since the swimming rule change in 2002, according to figures provided by district spokesman Tom Peterson. In that time, the district's schools got emergency generators, new bleachers, new outdoor tracks and football field turf, gymnasium floor replacements and new stadium sound systems, Peterson said.
Board members think now is a good time to get competitive bids for the pool renovations, Peterson said. Superintendent Nancy Robb's proposal shows renovation spanning from 2014-2016.
Andrew King, who will swim next year at University of Wisconsin at Stevens Point, said he's happy for Fremd's future swimmers.
"It makes me excited that they have a future somewhere that will have a nice facility and be able to improve themselves in a more constructive way."