Swimming In a School With No Pool

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Antioch Community High School has a swim team, but it doesn’t have a pool.

Since the 2012-2013 school year, four Sequoit swimmers, who are unable to practice together until the very days of their meets, donned the Antioch “A” at competitions and tournaments, yet not many people know the team exists. In fact, the team are gearing up to finish up their second season.

The team is comprised of freshman Jack Connelly, sophomores Jordan Jacob and Logan Boyce, junior Zach Besson and coaches Tony Besson—Besson’s father—and Linda Jackson—Jacob’s mother.

“My son was a freshman last year and wanted to swim. This was the only way we could [compete through the school].  You had to have someone in the district represent the child,” said Jackson. “We couldn’t find anyone [to represent our children] so Tony and I both decided that the best way to make sure our kids could swim was if we went and got certified [to coach] ourselves. Both Tony and I got our Illinois High School Association coach’s license. We had to go through background checks and training to become certified. Then we had to apply at the district.”

Not only did Jackson and Besson have to become certified and licensed to coach the team they planned to assemble, they had an even bigger structural complication to address. 

“It’s hard not having a pool, it would be great if we actually did have one. You just have to work with what you have,” said Jacob. 

“Obviously it would be a plus having a pool here that they could practice in together the entire season…We’re like the Jamaican bobsled team; we’re the high school with no pool, but we have a swim team,” said Jackson. “A lot of these kids are currently in swim clubs [and practice with their clubs] because we don’t have a pool … What [our swimmers do] is they sever from these clubs and represent the high school [during meets],” said Jackson. “As soon as [our swimmers] step in and swim as a team they can no longer practice with their clubs. It benefits them to practice with their clubs longer so we pull them out at the last minute. [Together], they’ll swim conference and sectionals.”

Despite these obstacles, the team was formed.

“It was just great to get our name out there [at our first meet]. A lot of other schools were pretty shocked to see that Antioch had a [swim] team and they were very supportive,” said Jackson.

Working with the clubs that the boys practice with has been essential from the beginning.

“The schedule for conference and sectionals is set in stone so we just have to work with the clubs and let [our swimmers] know that they will be missing meets with their clubs because they’re competing [for the high school] as well… They’re [club] coaches are very supportive,” said Jackson.

What the team never expected though was the immense support it has received from the community. Whether it’s patrons at a local restaurant when they learn ACHS has a swim team during a team dinner, or being asked about their warm-up jackets at school, these swimmers know they’re special. What really astounded the swimmers though was the support they received from other schools.

“It was great to see us getting cheered on at sectionals last year, [our team] had a lot of support from the other high schools which was really nice to see. Swimming is one of those sports that even though you’re swimming at a different school, you’re still a swimmer and [everybody] cheers each other on,” said Jackson.

More support and recognition from their own school is really what the team would like to see, however.

“It would be great to see some of the high schoolers come to some of the sectionals or conference,” said Jackson. “A high school meet is very exciting, it gets extremely loud, screaming people in the stands, it’s very exciting, it really is a lot of fun. For people who have never gone to a swim meet, I think they’d be pleasantly surprised to see how exciting a swim meet can be.”

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Even more so than support and recognition though, the team would really like to see more swimmers join the team.

“It would be great to see every event represented by Antioch, we currently don’t because [our swimmers] can only swim in two individual events and two relays or one relay and three individual events [each]. There are a lot of events Antioch is not represented in. The other schools [come to meets] with twenty kids on a team. Some of them have junior and varsity, we don’t. We come in with four, but these are four boys that really want to be there,” said Jackson.

“A relay consists of four people, we barely had a relay this year. We have exactly four people. I’d really like to see more people coming onto the team,” said Jacob.

Even with the challenges the team faces, coach Jackson is very optimistic about their future.

“I think we’re going to have more people involved once they know about it. They’re going to want to swim. I know that some girls want to swim and start a swim team as well. I think [the team] is only going to get bigger. It will be nice to see where [the team is] at in ten years from now,” said Jackson. “It’s nice that these guys paved the way for other kids to be able to do a sport they love and represent [their] high school. There are over a hundred kids who swim for [the Antioch Waves] in the summer. Those kids are eventually going to go to high school and will want to swim.”

With all the obstacles the team has gone through it’s easy to forget about the competitive aspect that the team faces as well.

“This is very competitive swimming. These kids swim miles a day in practice,” said Jackson. “Last year these boys swam against people who are going to the Olympic trials. The caliber of swimming in Illinois, and especially Lake County, is so high and these boys are swimming with these kids and they don’t even have a pool. It’s [great] that they at least have the opportunity to [compete].”

As this year’s season approaches it’s two competitions, the team is very excited to once again compete together.

“[Being on our swim team] is great, especially the meets, they’re the best part of it,” said Jacob.