Sequim High School’s girls swim team begins practices at the Sequim YMCA earlier this week. (Matthew Nash/Olympic Peninsula News Group)

Sequim High School’s girls swim team begins practices at the Sequim YMCA earlier this week. (Matthew Nash/Olympic Peninsula News Group)

Sequim pool welcomes swim team

While the welcome was warm Monday at the facility at 610 N. Fifth Ave., the water was not so much.

SEQUIM — After nearly a year of closure, the pool at the Sequim YMCA reopened for the first day of the Sequim High School girls swim team practice.

While the welcome was warm Monday at the facility at 610 N. Fifth Ave., the water was not so much.

Kurt Turner, the Sequim YMCA’s branch manager, said staff has been unable to get the boiler to fire and heat the pool, so it was closer to 70 degrees than its regular 80-plus degrees.

Sequim’s girls swim coach Anita Benitez became concerned for the girls and had them jump out of the pool and do jumping jacks in between laps.

They also took breaks for hot showers to stay warm.

“We thought the state [competition] pool is cold, but this was like swimming in the Pacific Ocean,” said Stephanie Grow, co-captain for the team.

YMCA staff reported Tuesday that they were able to fix the boiler and heat the pool again.

Reopening the pool was a big deal to the girls, who weren’t sure if they’d be swimming in Sequim this season.

Board members of Clallam County Parks and Recreation District 1 who oversee the Sequim Aquatic Recreation Center voted to temporarily close the facility Oct. 30, 2015, due to financial issues.

Since then, SARC’s board members agreed that the Olympic Peninsula YMCA’s administration would take over management of the facility.

Aside from the colder conditions, Grow said it felt good to be at the pool again.

“We were scared we’d lose the pool and we’d have to swim with the Port Angeles team,” she said.

“Swimming is important to me. It means a place to go after school, stay healthy and make new friends.”

Benitez echoed Grow’s sentiments.

“We’re lucky to have it open,” she said. “We’re not sure what their options would be if the pool hadn’t reopened.”

Last year, the girls team was allowed to finish its season at SARC, but the high school’s boys team practiced and competed in Port Angeles’ William Shore Memorial Pool.

Sequim’s pool was refilled Aug. 16, Turner said, and in the coming weeks, the staff plans to redesign the welcome center, install paneling in the pool area and install the play area.

In the pool area, staff moved starting blocks to the deep end and removed the diving board and slide for safety reasons, said Gina Caliendo, Olympic Peninsula YMCA marketing and communications specialist.

Staff continue to look for a replacement diving board, she said.

Benitez said 21 girls showed up for the first practice and she anticipates more signing up in the weeks to come.

The Sequim School District and YMCA are under contract to open the pool for the team for two hours each afternoon Mondays through Fridays.

Caliendo said swim classes and open swims are not scheduled yet, but they will be after new staff are fully trained.

“We can confidently say that we will have exercise classes, the swim team and lifeguard classes when we open,” she said. “Swim lessons will be a program that we will add in January once our staff is fully trained and comfortable with the new facility.”

Caliendo said staff with the Olympic Peninsula YMCA haven’t set an opening date for the Sequim branch for the public yet, but they still are aiming for a grand opening sometime in October.

Recently, staff sent out about 820 letters to former Sequim Aquatic Recreation Center pass holders asking them if they want to put their SARC membership fees toward a YMCA membership, if they want a refund or to donate it to the facility.

Caliendo said they’ve heard from about half of the pass holders and are waiting to hear from the rest before sending out refunds.

The Sequim YMCA’s community campaign, Because Life Is a Community Sport, with a goal of $150,000, continues as well to fund building repairs, new program equipment, offer youth programming and provide membership assistance so as not to turn away those unable to pay.

Caliendo said the pool’s air handler tentatively remains slated for installation this November.

Following a recent job fair, Turner said the Sequim YMCA continues to seek 10 to 15 more lifeguards when it reopens. Certified training classes are slated in the coming weeks, and those interested should contact the Olympic Peninsula YMCA office in Port Angeles at 360-452-9244 or visit www.olympicpeninsula ymca.org.

To contribute to the campaign, contact the YMCA or Sequim YMCA advisory board member Gary Huff at glhuff2@olypen.com or 360-582-0993.

________

Matthew Nash is a reporter with the Olympic Peninsula News Group, which is composed of Sound Publishing newspapers Peninsula Daily News, Sequim Gazette and Forks Forum. Reach him at mnash@sequimgazette.com.

Terry Ward, publisher of the Peninsula Daily News, Sequim Gazette and Forks Forum, serves on the Olympic Peninsula YMCA board of directors.

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