Kids ready for a splash

Lodi News-Sentinel - - SPORTS - By Mike Bush NEWS-SEN­TINEL SPORTS WRITER

To­day and Sun­day, there is go­ing to be plenty of Dol­phins, Pi­ran­has, Seals and Tri­tons jump­ing into the Tokay High swim­ming pool.

That is be­cause the an­nual City of Lodi Sum­mer League Cham­pi­onships will be tak­ing place. The Dol­phins, along with the Pi­ran­has, Seals and Tri­tons, are the city’s youth swim­ming teams.

Ac­cord­ing to John Grif­fin, coach and founder of the Lodi Swim Club who helps run the an­nual league cham­pi­onships, there will be ap­prox­i­mately 400 swim­mers from all four teams in age brack­ets 5 through 18 ex­pected to com­pete. The an­nual sum­mer cham­pi­onship has been held since 1962.

To­day’s events start at 8 a.m., when swim­mers warm-up. Com­pe­ti­tion in the tri­als be­gins at 9 a.m. and should run un­til 1 p.m. Sun­day will be the cham­pi­onships, which will also be­gin at 9 a.m. and con­clude around 1:30 p.m.

For the last three years, the city cham­pi­onships were held on Thurs­day and Fri­day nights at the Tokay pool, in the late af­ter­noon hours go­ing into the evening. But Grif­fin noted that many fam­i­lies of swim­mers com­plained about leav­ing the aquat­ics fa­cil­ity close to 10 p.m.

“I per­son­ally left at 10:30 p.m. be­cause of clean-up,” Grif­fin said. “Peo­ple didn’t want to spend late evenings here. They wanted to re­turn to the old for­mat; get it done mid­day than get­ting it done late at night.”

Out of the 400 kids ex­pected to swim, Grif­fin said that the 9-10 age bracket — boys and girls — is the largest.

“At 9 and 10, they get it,” Grif­fin said.

The num­bers are still solid in the 11-12 age bracket for both gen­ders, Grif­fin said. Once swim­mers hit 13, most are tak­ing the sport se­ri­ously and want to make a splash in the back­stroke, breast­stroke, freestyle and in­di­vid­ual med­ley events.

“At 13 and 14, they be­come more spe­cial­ized,” Grif­fin said.

The lat­ter part is where Grif­fin comes in. The Lodi High swim­ming head coach is also the founder and coach of the Lodi Swim Club. He’s been over­see­ing both pro­grams since 1982.

“Those kids will hope­fully reach over and swim with clubs in an ef­fort to be an­other Mad­die Woznick,” said Grif­fin, who is re­fer­ring to re­cent Lodi High grad­u­ate in Woznick. She shined in the 50 freestyle and 100 freestyle that led to top places in the TriCity Ath­letic League, SacJoaquin Sec­tion and the Cal­i­for­nia In­ter­scholas­tic Fed­er­a­tion cham­pi­onships the last three

years.

Grif­fin has over­seen the city cham­pi­onships for at least a decade. But he’ll miss this sum­mer’s an­nual event with good rea­son; he’s in Santa Clarita with Cindy, his wife and coach, watch­ing nearly a dozen Lodi Swim Club mem­bers com­pete at the USA Swim­ming Cham­pi­onships, which started Fri­day and con­cludes on Sun­day.

“The last 10-12 years I’ve been at the meet,” said Grif­fin of the city cham­pi­onships.

Be­fore the start of to­day’s cham­pi­onships, each team com­peted against the other in dual meets. All were held at Tokay High’s pool. No team scores or times are kept in those dual meets, as Grif­fin wants the young swim­mers to have fun while learn­ing.

Be­fore Tokay High be­came the host of the cham­pi­onships in 1972, when the school opened its doors, Lodi High hosted the event. Tokay’s Olympic size pool can have 12 to 16 lanes; Lodi’s pool is only six lanes.

Grif­fin hopes that the site of the cham­pi­onships might change en­ter­ing the next decade. That is be­cause Lodi Uni­fied School Dis­trict’s board of trustees has set aside $5 mil­lion to build a new

aquat­ics fa­cil­ity at Lodi High — pend­ing on board ap­proval.

Ac­cord­ing to Leonard Khan, busi­ness ser­vice di­rec­tor for the school dis­trict, the Lodi High swim­ming pool is not part of cur­rent de­sign for the class­room mod­ern­iza­tion that the school board passed ear­lier this year.

“Our ar­chi­tects have for­warded a ques­tion­naire re­lat­ing to pool de­sign in or­der to pre­pare a pro­posal for its de­sign,” Khan said in an email.

A pro­posal is ex­pected to be pre­sented, but could be as late as De­cem­ber, Khan said.

Should the school board ap­prove of rip­ping out the old pool and build­ing a new one, Khan be­lieves it’s rea­son­able to ex­pect the com­ple­tion of the struc­ture to be con­cur­rent with the com­ple­tion of the Lodi High site/class­room mod­ern­iza­tion.

Grif­fin also pointed out that Lodi city of­fi­cials would, ul­ti­mately, make the fi­nal de­ci­sion on the site of the city cham­pi­onships in up­com­ing years — even if Lodi High gets the green light for a new swim­ming pool.

Ad­mis­sion to to­day and Sun­day’s cham­pi­onships are free. A snack bar would be on site. Grif­fin also noted that cham­pi­onship T-shirts would also be avail­able to pur­chase.

BEA AHBECK/NEWS-SEN­TINEL FILE

Sophia Huerta, 6, hops into the pool as she gets ready to swim dur­ing the City of Lodi Swim­ming Cham­pi­onships at the Tokay High pool on July 13, 2018.

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