Oskaloosa has had a strong YMCA swimming program for years, but has not had a high school program of its own in quite a few years.
That will change as the Indians will field a combined boys and girls program this winter.
According to Oskaloosa Activities Director Kevin Pederson, Oskaloosa had a girls team in the 1980s, but never a boys team. Oskaloosa began swimming with Ottumwa in the late ‘90s and that lasted until a few years ago when no one from Oskaloosa swam for the Bulldogs.
Pederson is optimistic about the number of athletes who will go out for swimming in its revival.
“I’ve talked to a lot of parents and we think we’ll have anywhere from 15 to 20 kids (going out),” he said. “What I’m hearing from some of the kids is that some who have played basketball in the past may be going out for swimming. I think we’re going to have pretty good numbers.
“It’s going to be a co-ed team that will compete on the boys side. The girls are swimming right now and it’s too late to get anything going with that. We’ll compete in the boys districts in February and if we’re on a relay team and a girl and three boys and they qualify for state, she’ll get to compete at the boys state weim meet.”
Pederson said there’s a lot of parental support for the sport and there’s also strong numbers from third through eighth grade with the “Y” swim team.
“I think the big deterrent with kids not swimming in high school was the fact they had to find their own transportation to Ottumwa and we didn’t provide a bus or suburban or anything so they were on their own and driving through the winter months,” Pederson said. “That was a factor in our decision because if we’re going to have 15 to 20 kids, that’s a good number of kids that can participate in swimming and they don’t have to drive.
“Sharing the Y is another concern that we have. Finding time for them to practice, which we’ve talked to the Y and Ryan Harkema. We’ve been setting swim time because a lot of people who belong to the Y exercise in the water so we’ve got to set up a time where we can get our kids in there, whether in the early morning or later in the evening.”
Pederson added the success of the Y program helped in the reformation of the high school swimming program. He said there’s really no option past eighth grade for kids to continue swimming.
“Now they can continue swimming for Oskaloosa and that’s going to be pretty good. People will want to represent Oskaloosa High School through the Oskaloosa swim team,” he said. “The (Oskaloosa) Booster Club is giving start-up money for uniforms and warm-ups.”
Oskaloosa will not have a home meet this winter as the pool at the Y has only four lanes and depth of the water at one end of the pool is not deep enough to dive in.
Pederson said Oskaloosa could get in anywhere from 8 to 10 meets this year pending on how many kids sign up for the team.