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July 25, 2013

Pool problems

Another swim team, and more questions of limited space

Another local high school wants to form a swimming and diving program.

One question.

Where would it practice?

Southeast Whitfield athletic director Mark Lentych said Tuesday the school is in “the infant stages” of creating a swimming and diving program. There are three other high schools in Whitfield County with the sport — Dalton, Coahulla Creek and Northwest Whitfield — and all three use the Dalton High pool for practices.

However, with no other known available indoor pool in the immediate area, it may be the only option.

That’s assuming there’s enough room to accommodate another team.

Wheels in motion

Lentych plans to have Raiders and Lady Raiders swimming and diving teams for the 2013-2014 season, which begins in December.

The Southeast program already has a coach, too. Lentych said Carol Clayton approached him about forming a Southeast team last school year, when Clayton worked in the school’s media center. She has since become a teacher and the planned coach. Clayton’s background in the sport includes swimming for 13 years, including on the University of the Cumberlands team in Williamsburg, Ky. Originally from Chattanooga, she has experience coaching two recreation teams, the Towne Lake Sharks in Woodstock the last four years and the Bartow County Cartersville Cobias the past two years.

“I’ve always wanted to coach a team, especially one in Dalton,” Clayton said. “Southeast is the only high school in the county that doesn’t have a team, and I felt our kids should have the same opportunities as the other schools.”

Morris Innovative High School does not have a swimming or diving team either.

When Clayton approached Lentych about the idea, he wanted to gauge the students’ interest level.

“She did and made an announcement to hold a meeting and see who’d be interested,” Lentych said. “There was a pretty good interest, but you never really know from that what real interest would be.”

Kara Ratcliffe, an rising junior at Southeast, swims on the Makos and Dalton Dolphins, two Carpet Capital Aquatics Club programs. She was at the interest meeting held last spring and said “the whole library was filled” with students.

“It was just talking about and telling all the kids everything that would happen,” Ratcliffe said of the meeting. “It was basic information and how much equipment would cost like swimming suits. ... I’m really excited about it.”

Clayton estimated “around 80” students showed up but explained it’s tough to know how many are really interested until practice begins.

“I’m hoping we get 10 swimmers for next season,” Clayton added.

The biggest question mark remaining is where the Southeast teams will practice.

“We’re still working on that aspect,” Lentych said.

Said Ratcliffe, “I guess it would be great if Whitfield County had a pool, but I’m just happy we have a team, so I will take anywhere.”

The limited space wasn’t kept secret at Southeast’s swimming interest meeting, Ratcliffe said. Those at the meeting were told Dalton High’s pool, the only one known to be available, “will be very crowded.” Ratcliffe knows this from first-hand experience, since she practiced there with the Makos.

“Coach Clayton was saying we probably would practice only once or twice a week,” Ratcliffe said. “To be honest, it will be really hard to become a really good team with that limited amount of space or time. But we really need more time and more space, but she said she would try her best. Southeast, if we were to swim, we’d be considered the lowest priority to get into the pool, because everyone else has been doing it. So it’d be Dalton High, then Dalton Middle, then the CCAC, then Northwest, then Calhoun, then Coahulla Creek, then us.”

Ratcliffe said her solution also includes building a new facility for her Southeast team, plus the Coahulla Creek and Northwest programs.

“If I had an infinite amount of money, I’d build another pool that could be for all the (Whitfield County) teams,” she said.

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