Just Keep Swimming

The AHS Swim Team struggles to stay afloat with a decrease in members.

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Elizabeth Anderson

The girls swim team swims laps in the YMCA pool during the 2021-22 swim season. The team had seven members, which is the fewest number of participants it has had in years.

Eleanor McCalla

The ache of your muscles as you slice through the water like a hot knife through cold butter: there’s no feeling quite like it.

According to an AHS Needle story from 2013, the Atlantic High School swim team was established seven years ago, during the 2014-2015 school year. At that time, AHS had four female students who went to Lewis Central six days a week to practice and compete with their swim team. This made it inconvenient for the students and wasted the potential of having a strong swim team of our own. According to another AHS Needle story from 2012, “Athletic director Josh Rasmussen presented a survey to the freshmen, sophomores, and juniors to seek interest in possibly starting a… swimming team at AHS.” There was sufficient interest among students, so the development of Atlantic High School’s own swim team was underway.

According to activities director Andrew Mitchell, “Several years ago, years before I arrived here, Atlantic went through a time of budget cuts… Swimming, unfortunately, was cut altogether. I can only assume it was because of low numbers vs. a cost factor.” Since then, the team has had insufficient numbers to warrant full funding. In recent years, the number of swimmers has continued to decline. On the girls swim team, from 2018 to 2021, there were 12, 10, 9, and 7 participants respectively. The boys team from 2018 to 2021 had 7, 6, 6, and 9 swimmers. Not only have numbers been waning, but an increasing number of swimmers come from other nearby schools that do not have swim teams of their own. On the boys team this past season, fewer than half of the swimmers attended Atlantic High School, and all 4 Atlantic swimmers will be graduating in the spring.

Swimming, unfortunately, was cut altogether. I can only assume it was because of low numbers vs. a cost factor.”

— Andrew Mitchell

Because full funding from the school was never reinstated, the school provides and pays for the transportation to and from all of their events, and fundraising pays for the rest of the team’s expenses. Junior Alexes Reynolds has been a member of the swim team for all three years she’s been in high school and believes that the school should help the team pay for more expenses. However, she said, “They haven’t done it yet, so I don’t think they will.”

Sophomore Nevaeh Duranceau also notes the financial concerns of swimmers. “[The school wants] to say ‘our swimmers’ all the time, but we’re not through the school if they don’t fund us,” she said. Mitchell, however, said “I consider it an Atlantic High School Team as they follow the same rules as all other sports have. Also, in order to compete against other schools, they have to be.”

Senior Alex Sampson, who has been in swim for four years,  said the team has the potential to continue to improve their abilities in the future, “If we even have a team next year.” Similarly, Reynolds said, “In the future, I think Atlantic will no longer have a swim team because we simply do not have enough people interested in it. I think people will have to go somewhere else, like Lewis Central if they want to swim.”

Atlantic has the only high school swim team in Cass County, and the team is a melting pot for the smaller towns nearby whose students want to swim. Students from Clarinda, Audubon, and others gather at the Nishna Valley YMCA to swim and build a team together.

Reynolds has found both physical and emotional benefits through her participation in the swim team. “Swimming has helped me stay very active and fit because of how much we do at practice,” she said. “I think emotionally it has made me stronger because of all the hard struggles that come with it.” Duranceau, similarly, has found solace in participating on the swim team, because it “keeps me busy at the beginning of the year.” Her high school experience, like Reynolds’, would be different without the swim team. “Physically, [swimming] keeps me in shape; mentally, [it] keeps me from going crazy,” she said.

Atlantic’s swim team could potentially come back from this. Atlantic, Griswold, and CAM students combined total of roughly 830 students. That’s not to mention roughly 900 students from Riverside, Clarinda, and Audobon, all of whom have had students participate in Atlantic’s swim team previously. This totals over 1700 high school students, yet only about 15 participate in swimming. 

The AHS swim team is caught in a whirlpool cycle and struggling to stay afloat. Shortly after funding for the team was cut, the swimmers were forced to fundraise and spend their own money to afford gear and transportation. This made the sport less appealing to potential future swimmers. Fewer people decided to join. As the swim team continued to lack participation, the school allowed swimmers and their families to fundraise or pay for the team’s expenses on their own.

If you can swim and you have free time in the fall or winter, now is the time to try something new and dive in headfirst.”

— Nevaeh Duranceau

Not all hope is lost though. If enough students join swimming and commit to the team, the school will consider helping to cover more or all of the costs accrued by the team. With the financial burden lifted, it will pave the way for even more swimmers interested in joining the sport in the future. “At this point, there are no plans to change the school providing more than just transportation,” said Mitchell. However, he added, “I will not say it will always be this way, it’s just not being discussed right now.”

In the end, AHS students need to make a choice. If the team is going to live to swim another year, the general consensus among participants is that this year is the last opportunity to save the team before it sinks. In Duranceau’s words, “If you can swim and you have free time in the fall or winter, now is the time to try something new and dive in headfirst. The swim team needs you.”