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Are green pools good pools?

The FM varsity swim team poses in the outdoor pool at Cavalry Club.
Tim Gallivan
The FM varsity swim team poses in the outdoor pool at Cavalry Club.

Despite the Fayetteville-Manlius (FM) girls’ swim team winning sectionals eight years in a row, they seem to have little to no recognition. What the team also does not have is a pool. With the closing down of Cazenovia College and its swimming pool facility, the team has had to jump from pool to pool this season in order to get some training time. But it is not as easy as just hopping in your local pool; it has led to many setbacks and struggles for the 2023 girls’ swimming season.

Coach Tim Gallivan and Athletic Director Scott Sugar have taken on the brunt of the work in this situation. Spending their free time calling pools, organizing time with other teams, and trying to push the school district to build a pool.  Coach Gallivan has been the head coach for ten years, where he could usually go about his seasons relatively stress free, knowing that he at least had a solid pool contract he could work with.

But good things must come to an end, and the Cazenovia community is not the only one that is affected by the college closing down. The pool, an amenity that the college provided to the public, was used by a variety of teams. Syracuse Chargers, Manlius Makos, and the FM swim teams were just a few of the groups buying time to access the college’s pool.  When it shut down, these teams had to look elsewhere for spaces to continue practicing.

At the start of the season, the FM girls used the nearby Cavalry Country Club pool. It was not exactly meant for a whole team of varsity athletes at once, but they made it work, even though it had one major setback: it was outside.

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Over time, this proved to be a huge issue. “It’s hard;  you don’t know what you’re walking into. It could be a 72 degree pool and clean, or it could be a warm pool and dirty,” Gallivan said.

The Cavalry pool continued to grow in dirtiness, but the girls still showed up.  “It was like a swamp,” Gallivan said.

“I really didn’t enjoy taking my suit off after practice and finding like bugs and leaves. Not to mention like my face was burning; it was disgusting,” senior Sammy Roddy said.

And it was.  It was very green, and many of the parents were shocked when they saw the actual state of the pool.

“The district did pay for a cleaning service to come, but you can see that what they paid for, they didn’t get,” Gallivan said.

Despite the efforts to get the pool back to a pleasing state, it was persistent. And two days later, the team moved out.

The team then moved to Nottingham High School, with whom Athletic Director Scott Sugar finalized a long-standing five-year contract until further notice. But, it was not easy to get into Nottingham’s pool, and Coach Gallivan and Mr. Sugar spent numerous hours calling and contacting different pools to get some time in there.  “Lemoyne, Nottingham, South West, Valley Pool, Weedsport, Skaneateles, Fowler, Corcoran, Colgate, Fayetteville YMCA, to list a few, Cazenovia, Onondaga, Drumlins,” Gallivan said.

It is evident that despite hard work and many efforts, the pool situation has been taxing for all.

Not only has it been hard for the team to workout sports-wise, but it has also been harder to get the team momentum going, when diving and swimming are separate.  “On the surface level, I think it’s a lot harder to keep a team engaged with the sport, with each other, with the practices that they’re doing, if every single day you’re uncertain about what you’re going to walk into,” Coach Gallivan said.

After this season, it is believed that a pool could be a more reasonable concern and discussion for the district.  “There’s a need; there’s always been a want, but I believe now that we don’t have a set contract long term, even if we were to build a pool, it would take a number of years, so we’d have to figure something out in the meantime. As things in Central New York continue to develop, more and more people are going to move to districts like ours. Especially with Micron coming in, we don’t really have a lot of room to send new students and new families as they come in, we might not have the class sizing or space for it, so we might have to expand at some point, and if that pool conversation is part of expansion or part of the draw of new families moving here, I think that’d be huge,” Gallivan said.

The girls also take not having a pool relatively personally.  Before this year’s sectional finals, Sammy Roddy spoke about the lack of recognition, “It’s kind of embarrassing for a team like us, we are going to hopefully be eight-time sectional champions, we are currently seven time sectional champions, and we don’t have our own pool.”

And not only can they not practice at a certain spot, they also don’t have a place to call their ‘home.” “We’ve never had a true senior night. Even when we would have senior nights at Caz it was always rushed, because we’d have someone coming in behind us,” Gallivan said.

It is true; the team does not get much recognition despite their overwhelming success. No other FM team has the streak that the girls’ swim team has, few people seem to know about it.  “I think that that is something that people in the community are surprised about. Not only do we have a swim team, but we have a very successful swim team,” Gallivan said.

Throughout this season, the girls have been faced with many challenges, from time consuming practices, to stress on the athletes and parents.  “A two-hour practice, by the time you get there, get on the bus, get changed, get in the water, get out, get changed, get home. A two-hour practice is probably three hours and 15 minutes,” Gallivan said.

Some athletes are unable to get themselves to practice, “A lot of people don’t have a car or their parents work,” Roddy said.

However, despite this season’s additional obstacles, the girls did indeed win their eighth straight title, and they plan to continue that streak. This team demonstrates that just because you are faced with challenges does not mean it has to undermine your success.

This story was originally published on The Buzz on November 9, 2023.