Girls Swimming: Host of area pools receiving makeovers
Hinsdale South girls swimming coach Frank Kuchta admires the school's recently renovated pool, which features a new ventilation system and new lighting. | George M. Wilcox~Sun-Times Media.
Updated: October 1, 2012 4:28PM
Preseason practices for Hinsdale South’s girls swimming team took an interesting twist earlier this month.
Instead of practicing in the comfortable environment of their own pool, the Hornets’ swimmers and divers were forced to practice outdoors. At least one swimmer, sophomore Rachel Hawken, is happy that she no longer has to car-pool to practices. Hinsdale South’s pool was closed all summer for renovations, and the team returned to the rehabbed pool for the first time on Aug. 20.
“I know a lot of people missed the pool. It was different, and hard (going outdoors),” Hawken said. “It’s nice to be home.”
While the pool was closed, Hinsdale South coach Frank Kuchta held preseason practices at the Darien Swim and Recreation Club, a private, outdoor facility located northwest of the school in a residential neighborhood. The Hornets were able to also use Hinsdale Central’s pool for a few practices when it was available.
New entrances at Hinsdale South and Hinsdale Central weren’t the only major summer projects completed at District 86. South’s pool received a new ventilation system and new lighting, paid for out of the district’s operations and maintenance fund as part of a $17.9 million upgrade to the two schools, which included the installation of air conditioning as well.
However, Hinsdale South’s pool wasn’t ready for the team’s first home meet against Riverside-Brookfield on Aug. 23, due to the cold temperature of the water after the pool was filled. The meet was moved to R-B, so the Hornets’ first home meet will be against Lockport and the Proviso Co-op on Sept. 5. The first major meet in the new pool will be the Hornet Invitational, set for 1:30 p.m. Sept. 8.
The actual pool has not changed, but Kuchta welcomes the upgrades as he begins his final school year since first coming to Hinsdale South in 1985. He’s retiring as a physical education teacher, and expects to be replaced as aquatics director, girls varsity coach, boys varsity coach and girls water polo coach.
“The lights make the pool look bigger and they don’t even have all the lights in yet,” Kuchta said.
“Swimmers couldn’t breathe (because of chlorine),” said Hinsdale South junior Brianna Kirin. “We needed a new ventilation system, particularly in the summer when the heat is bad. The lighting is great. It does not look like everything is green.”
Indoor high school swimming pools are used in the morning, afternoon and at night, usually staying open from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. In addition to high school team practices and physical education classes, park districts rent the pool for lessons, and private clubs rent it as well. Many private clubs host meets on Sundays.
Mundelein’s pool remains closed while a $2.8 million project continues to not only reconfigure the pool, but increase its depth. Construction started after the water polo season, and athletic director Perry Wilhelm said he hopes the new pool will open in February.
“It was built in the mid 1980s,” Wilhelm said. “It was not deep enough. We couldn’t use starting blocks because it was too shallow. There was only one deep end for water polo. We’re making it national federation-compliant. There will be eight lanes, and all deep for water polo.”
But while the pool is under construction, the Mustangs have been forced to compete in away meets, and practices have been held at other schools in the area.
Pools at District 128 schools Libertyville and Vernon Hills reopened in May after only a few weeks to reach compliance with the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act, a federal law that changed suction devices after the death of a young girl who became entrapped in a hot tub drain.
Part of the delay in closing the district’s pools was waiting for plan approvals, and an available inspector.
“Neighboring schools helped us out and gave us pool time,” said Libertyville athletic director Briant Kelly. “We were able to bus kids (to practice), but obviously that was not the best situation.”
According to Melaney Arnold, of the Illinois Department of Public Health, 61 schools in Illinois were issued non-compliances closure notices for suction entrapment devices, as of October 2011. Currently, eight schools remain closed.
“However, those schools either have a permit to begin work on their pools or are in the process,” Arnold said.
Glenbrook North is one of the few greater Chicago area high schools with two pools, and had its smaller, older pool closed for about a month in 2011.
“We ran into issues because the pool is 60 years old,” said Glenbrook North athletic director John Catalano.
Oak Park-River Forest faced closures for its two pools from July to December 2010 in order to fix drainage issues.
“It was pretty disruptive for both the boys and girls teams, and swimming programs in the school, too,” said OPRF athletic director John Stelzer. “We use it for physical education classes.”
In an unrelated move, inspectors discovered that the height requirements for diving weren’t tall enough, so OPRF had its diving board removed. Its diving team now practices at Riverside-Brookfield.