Justice for Swim

A piece of vital equipment used by the swim team is almost three decades old. How has the path to receiving new starting blocks been for the swim team?

Team member Sadie Halladay prepares to dive at a competition at Smoky Hill High School. (Ren Hotzfeld)

At the start of last year’s season, the swim team attempted to speak to the administration in order to receive new blocks for the pool. Unfortunately, their wishes were not satisfied and the swim team continues to practice with the same blocks the school has had since it opened in 1990. 

Starting blocks are crucial to swim, like lacrosse sticks or wrestling mats. Without proper equipment, the practice cannot go as well, and thus the final product in championships or competitions will not reflect what the team is truly capable of. By entering the pool from an elevated level and slanted position, a swimmer is able to get a quicker start than if they were to simply jump off the edge of the pool. Like practicing football without the ball, or practicing music without an instrument, the final result of the practices will not be as fruitful if they are unable to use the same equipment as during their competitions. 

Due to the water fighting the base of the old blocks, they have begun moving out of place, which throws off swimmers when diving into the pool to start. Moreover, as the blocks have been worn down over years of use, the grip is no longer effective and it is easier to slip off of them, halting whatever may be happening at the pool during the time. 

“We had a girl swimming here last year, who’s swimming at Harvard now, who slipped off of our blocks.” said senior and swim captain Manzi Venter. When a person falls into the pool during competitions, all movement is halted as the person gets out of the pool and back onto the block. This slows down competitions and is generally embarrassing for the swimmer.

Team members are often embarrassed when other schools visit for competitions. Smoky Hill’s blocks were replaced in 2014, whereas Eaglecrest’s blocks are now over thirty years old. 

“It’s annoying when other teams come here and they make fun of us,” said Venter. Eaglecrest’s blocks are small in size, aesthetically displeasing, and entirely metal. At Smoky, their blocks have a plastic board, as well as larger steps to get on top of the block itself. 

Eaglecrest’s current blocks. (Ren Hotzfeld)

With blocks as old as the school, the team is concerned about the safety of their teammates and others when using them. “We’ve had people getting up [out of the pool] and they’ll hit their knee on it. I’ve bled, and other people have bled because of it,” said Venter. With the bottoms rusted down and degrading, the swimmers’ health is at risk of tetanus from being cut by this rusted metal. According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, complications of tetanus can lead to symptoms such as muscle spasms, abnormal heart rhythms, and blood clots in the lungs. It can also sometimes be fatal.

Some members of the team believe the school’s budget is unevenly distributed throughout the sports of Eaglecrest. “Our gym’s been redone, our track has been redone, our weight room has been redone, the fields [have been redone],” said junior Cylee Karabell. After speaking to administrators about the problem, Venter says that the school had told her they did not have it in their budget to replace the pool’s blocks.

After realizing they needed to raise their own money for the blocks, Venter contacted the administration once again to ask if their fundraisers could be advertised in the weekly EHS Newsletters. She received no response. “We understand we have to do it on our own but the thing is, we’ve received absolutely no support and the support we’ve asked for is as little as sending out an email,” she said.

After almost two years of campaigning for the $40,000 blocks, the swim team has ceased operations out of frustration. The team has tried to fundraise with a carwash event or various restaurant fundraisers where a certain percentage of profits are donated to the team. 

If you are interested in donating to the swim team’s campaign for new blocks, you can buy from concessions at swim meets or support their future fundraising efforts.