Swimming: Kids ready for a splash

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.

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 Tri-City Athletic League, Sac-Joaquin 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.

Contact Mike Bush at mikeb@lodinews.com. Follow on Twitter: @MBushLodiSports.

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