Bobby DeRoest’s voice boomed throughout the Madras Aquatic Center.
“All right, let’s go,” he said. “One hundred free and 100 IM drill. Three times. Go.”
For the first time, DeRoest said, Madras High School will have a competitive high school swim team. The team will follow OSAA rules and regulations, the students will compete in the Intermountain Conference, and they will have a junior varsity and varsity team. Their first meet is today against Pendleton.
They are official.
The team is young, no seniors and only one junior.
“We don’t have any delusions of grandeur that we’ll beat every team in the conference. We’re going to set our goals and have fun. We have a young team and we’ll be getting our feet wet, I guess literally,” said DeRoest, the coach and general manager of the MAC.
DeRoest said the students’ abilities range from more advanced to having learned recently how to swim.
“It’s a positive outlet for the kids. It’s another choice for kids after school,” DeRoest said. “I’m a big proponent of the sport — the values, the discipline and commitment it teaches.”
Shane Beamish is the assistant coach. He graduated from Madras High School in 2003.
“I wish we had this when I was here,” he said.
It’s not lost on the swim team members how lucky they are. Dustin Henderson, 14, a freshman, is confident the team will do well this year.
“I would have been pretty sad if there was no high school team,” he said. “I’m hoping to get scholarships for college from swimming.”
Brianna Hunt, 14, also a freshman, first found out she liked swimming two years ago — when the aquatic center opened its doors.
“I like being in the water; it’s a different world,” Hunt said. “It’s sparkly and pretty. And swimming keeps me in shape and keeps me from sitting at home after school.”
The Madras Aquatic Center is an approximate 27,100-square-foot facility. It includes a 25-yard, six-lane lap pool, a recreation pool with a water slide and a spa hot tub. It’s located near the Jefferson County Middle School. The building was financed with a $48.1 million construction bond approved by Jefferson County voters in 2004.
A triathlon in September held in part at the aquatic center is helping fund the high school swim team. This September, the event raised $9,000. The Jefferson County School District doesn’t have to pay for the swim team, although the district does donate $50,000 a year to the center so that all third- through sixth-graders receive two weeks of swim classes.
The Madras Aquatic Center Trust is a charitable foundation whose mission is to help fill the funding gap and fundraise for the MAC. Right now, the foundation’s board, a group of community members, is fundraising to provide swim lessons and programs for the community’s children who could otherwise not afford to swim.
At swim practice, Lauren Short, 16, a junior, was warming up, swimming laps.
She has childhood memories of driving at least 45 minutes from her house to find a pool in the summer. She said it feels good that now she can stay local when she wants to swim.
“It’s about time Madras gets one. ... A swim team and a pool, both. It’s nice,” Short said.