NEWARK – Worcester school officials this week approved a request from Stephen Decatur High School to move forward with an interscholastic swimming program at the Berlin school.
The Worcester County Board of Education on Tuesday approved a request from Stephen Decatur to create a competitive swim team. The new program will begin this winter as a club sport and compete in a handful of dual meets with other schools on the Eastern Shore and in lower Delaware that offer swimming as a winter sport.
“The swim teams at Decatur will begin training and competing this winter as a club team,” said Worcester County public schools spokeswoman Barb Witherow. “At the end of the season, the program will be re-evaluated to determine its future as a sanctioned winter sport.”
Depending on the success of the program, it could become an officially sanctioned winter sport at Decatur in the future. Currently on the Eastern Shore, five public schools and three private schools on the Eastern Shore offer swimming as a sanctioned winter sport. Public high schools on the Eastern Shore that currently have varsity swim teams include Cambridge-South Dorchester, Easton, Kent County, Kent Island and Queen Anne’s. In addition, seven public schools in lower Delaware currently have swim programs.
Decatur Principal Lou Taylor pitched the idea to the county school board on Tuesday night. Taylor said the request was based on an identified desire for a boys and girls swimming program at the school.
“For several years, our students and parents have expressed an interest in creating an interscholastic swimming program,” he said. “Based on the results of a student survey, over 80 students in ninth through 12th grade have expressed an interest in participating in a swimming program.”
In the first year, the new Decatur swim program will compete as a club team in three to five dual meets. The program will be open to all students who attend Decatur. Taylor said he anticipates roughly 20 girls and 20 boys will compete on the two teams in the first year.
“This is going to be a trial year,” said Taylor. “We know there is considerable interest up front, but we have to see if the interest remains consistent in future seasons.”
Already, two coaches have been named to lead the fledgling swim teams at Decatur both of whom are currently teachers at the school. Rick Cawthern will coach the boys’ team, and Gwen Trice will coach the girls’ team. Both are certified swimming instructors and both have competitive swimming experience.
Decatur does not have a swimming pool on campus, so the team will train in the evenings at the Ocean Pines Sports Core pool. The Ocean Pines pool can be used as a practice pool, but because it is too shallow to dive from starting blocks, all home meets will be held at the Lower Shore YMCA in Pocomoke.
Thus far, the Decatur swim teams have one home meet and three road meets scheduled for the inaugural 2007-2008 season, although the school is looking for more dates. The boys’ and girls’ swim teams become the 24th and 25th varsity sports offered at the Berlin school, which also offers 13 junior varsity sports.
The estimated cost of getting the program up and running the first year is $10,000, which includes pool rental, transportation, equipment, officials and coaches. The individual swimmers will be expected to purchase a team swim suit, cap and goggles on their own the first year.
“All of the expenses for the program will be paid through the fundraising efforts of the swim teams,” said Witherow. “There is no financial commitment from the Board of Education at this time.”
The team will hold an organizational meeting this Monday and expect to hit the pool for practice on Nov. 26.