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The Antelope

Aqualopers consider KHS pool a stroke of luck

GRACE MCDONALD / ANTELOPE STAFF The Cushing Pool was built in 1962 and decommissioned in 2016. Since then, the UNK swim team commutes to Kearney High School’s pool for practices.

In spring of 2016, the UNK swimming pool in Cushing Coliseum was decommissioned. Since then, the Aqualopers practice at Kearney High School’s pool.  

Head swim coach, Becky O’Connell, assisted with construction before she was hired at UNK.

“It’s a state-of-the-art pool,” O’Connell said. “In the process of constructing the pool, I made sure the official paperwork was filled out, signed and submitted to USA swimming. (The KHS) pool is one of the few certified USA pools in the state.” 

The $7.4 million pool was a part of Kearney High’s construction, and it opened in 2016. The 25-yard-long pool has eight lanes and low diving boards. O’Connell said KHS is also one of two locations in Kearney that has a high board with the other being Harmon Pool. 

The Aqualopers use the facility for free and commute for practice from 5:10-7:10 a.m. twice a week, 5:30-7:30 p.m. every day and occasional practices in the afternoons. 

“It’s all high school and college athletes using it,” said Audrey Stelling, a sophomore swimmer. “The only downside for us is the ideal practicing time is taken by the high school because it is their pool, but we have very nice equipment, such as blocks and stuff that wouldn’t have been provided if we were here on campus still.”

Freshman swimmer, Emily Miksch, said the KHS pool has been her favorite pool since high school. 

“We’re really fortunate because it’s a fast pool,” Miksch said. “The water doesn’t bounce off the walls and it’s a good temperature.”

The swim team also lifts weights at KHS, and they wear masks when they are out of the water to follow COVID-19 procedures. Loper Lessons also takes place at KHS, which involves teaching disabled children in the community how to swim.

While the swim team appreciates the facility, Katie Cornelio, a freshman swimmer, said she wishes there was a place to hang an Aqualoper record board and show some Loper pride.  

 “We’re lucky that Kearney High school has the same colors as us because that matches really well,” Cornelio laughed. 

Along with the resources at KHS, there is plenty of space for spectators, which wasn’t always the case. 

The six-lane pool in Cushing was built in 1962 and could seat up to 100 people. O’Connell said it was too expensive to keep Cushing Pool running, but it was once open to all Lopers through Campus Rec.

Ashley Hein, a junior swimmer, swam in Cushing in high school and she said room was scarce for swimmers to sit. Spectators used lawn chairs or watched competitions through the window. 

“When I was at the old pool, I remember it being like moldy green,” Hein said. “Every time I dove into the pool to start my race, I could not see where I was going. I just remember it as basically a bad experience being there, and I’m really glad that we switched over to the Kearney High pool.” 

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