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Fish out of water: Guilford’s post-pool swim team

For the first time in its history, the Guilford women’s swim team will exist and compete without the campus pool they had known for so long. Now, the Guilford women’s swim team ventures off campus for practices. Players with cars drive teammates to the pool at Greensboro College for early morning training at 7:30 a.m. – the only time that the pool is unoccupied.

“It’s actually a really nice pool,” said junior and swim team captain Kelsey Albert.

The Greensboro pool lengths are in yards, not meters; yards being the preferred measurement in American swimming. Also, the half-hour trip from Guilford gives swimmers time to wake up and better concentrate on maneuvers, instead of abruptly going from bedroom to breaststroke via a short walk.

However, Albert said, these benefits do not make up for the lack of an available pool on campus.

Declines in recruitment are possible in the long term, as prospective swimmers will question the lack of a campus pool. Also, swimmers living in Greensboro without cars will have difficulty finding a place to practice in the off-season.

Many students and faculty who swam for exercise and fun were upset at the decision to fill the pool in April 2009. The pool had also hosted swim events for the Greensboro community.

“I was shocked when I heard they were going to close the pool,” said 2008 alumna and former swimmer Marion Chamberlin. “My first thought was for the team.”

All of the swimmers interviewed said that in the weeks before the shutdown, the athletic administration failed to properly inform the team of the change. When the news was released in a meeting on April 15, it was sudden and final.

“They basically told us we had no choice,” said former swimmer and sophomore Cristen Kennedy.

The pool had been in poor physical shape for years, leaking water and becoming a budgetary liability for the athletic program. Last year, the department decided to cease efforts to repair it.

“The question (from that point) was what could we do with that space,” said P.E. Center facilities manager Mike Merkel.

Some argue that the new facilities benefit a wider spectrum of students than the pool had. The Mary Ragsdale Fitness Center has 21 new exercise machines, as well as two new ellipticals and two new treadmills.

“Student gym use has risen by 15 percent since the conversion,” said Merkel.

A crucial issue for swimmers is whether the change of location might impair the team’s chances in competitions.

“It won’t affect (the performance of) the team,” said senior Justine Merritt.

Armed with camaraderie and steely confidence, the Guilford women’s swim team looks forward to making this season one of their best.

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