By Reach for the Wall staff.
As we move into the High School Swimming season, Reach For The Wall thought it would be interesting to delve into the history of the Montgomery County High School Swim and Dive Program. We didn’t have to look far, this interesting history was found in the MCPS Swim and Dive handbook.
The varsity swimming and diving program in Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) is a unique and successful program. The following history of the program’s development will help coaches understand and appreciate the existing program, its evolution, and the unusual circumstances that surround the sport.
High school swimming began quietly in the early 1960’s when schools such as Walter Johnson and Walt Whitman formed teams. Independent schedules with any interested schools, even those out of the area, were the basis of competition. At the end of the dual meet season, teams entered the Washington Metropolitan Swimming and Diving Championships (Metros) meet along with other public and private schools throughout the area. The teams were male only and blended AAU swimmers and summer swimmers to form surprisingly strong teams. Pool space was rented from local indoor pools for practices and meets. MCPS provided no financial support at this time.
After having formed school teams in order to enter the Metros, swimmers regrouped the following year to begin dual meet competition. In the late 1960’s, with the opening of pools such as Rockville Municipal, Montgomery Village, and later the availability of pool time at Montgomery College and St. Maurice, additional schools formed teams.
In 1972, the number of MCPS Boys’ Varsity Swimming and Diving teams increased to seven. Also in 1972, for the first time, the Metros meet invited all participating schools to enter – not only a boys’ team but a girls’ team as well. The meet provided a shorter schedule of events for girls involving mostly 50-yard swims.
The number of teams doubled to fourteen in 1973. While girls continued to swim short races in dual meets, their events in the Metros were increased to match National Federation of State High Schools (NFHS) events. In 1974, seventeen MCPS schools had both boys’ and girls’ teams. This was also the first year that MCPS held two Division Championship meets which culminated the dual meet season and preceded the Metros Championship.
By this point, the MCPS budget included stipends for swim coaches and a substantial percentage of pool rental costs, which ensured equitable practice and competition conditions.
Changes and improvements in recent years have enhanced the success of the swimming and diving program, even though some problems unique to the sport continue to exist.
From the beginning, the MCPS High School Swimming and Diving program has been plagued by limited pool availability. It has been necessary for teams to rent pool time at numerous facilities throughout the county. Currently, all 25 MCPS high schools have boys’ and girls’ swimming and diving teams. Many teams practice before school starts while others practice late in the evening. A few schools are fortunate to practice after school. Due to the lack of available pool time for a third practice, all schools are restricted to two one-hour water practices per week.
The MCPS high school swimming and diving program is supported by knowledgeable and willing parents who officiate all meets. This may not be an ideal situation, but it keeps the cost of the program down while utilizing a great resource. Without strong parental support to help the coaches officiate meets, to provide transportation, and to assist in numerous other ways, this program would not exist. MCPS now provides considerable support to the high school program both at the local school and county level. MCPS pays for all coaches’ stipends and all pool rentals for practices and meets including the divisional and regional championships. The budget includes funding to purchase meet supplies, rules books, awards, and computer programs. The local Montgomery County Swim League continues to lend support with supplies for the championship meets, and some local Montgomery County Swim League clubs provide meet supplies to their area high schools for dual meets.
The varsity swim program, as it exists today, follows the NFHS Swimming and Diving Rules Book. Due to time limits, space and pool availability, MCPS does have some exceptions to the NFHS rules. Those rule changes are in this handbook. The meet program and league structures are similar to most in the country. Many MCPS swimmers participate in year-round swimming programs and compete at the U.S.S. level as well as at the high school level. MCPS provides an opportunity for high school swimmers to qualify for “High School All-American,” a level that a significant number of MCPS swimmers consistently achieve.
For the immediate future, only limited improvements are possible. Until more county facilities are built, adequate pool space to expand practice and meet time will not be available. One or two more indoor pools strategically placed in Montgomery County would stabilize the program and remove most of the inconvenience to swimmers, parents, and staff.
Until that time, however, it is important that parents new to the program, staff, and swimmers and divers realize how much this program has developed due to the determination of all those involved. Practices will continue to be scheduled at one of the closest available pools at the best available time for both team members and coaches. Schedules and divisions will be determined with the best interest of the entire swimming and diving program as the main concern. It remains imperative that parents continue to volunteer to officiate the meets.
The program will be evaluated each season in an effort to make every improvement that facilities and funds allow. The continued cooperation and understanding of everyone involved will ensure that the MCPS varsity swim program will maintain its high level of success.
No history would be complete without acknowledging the contributions of Mr. William “Bill” Bullough. He is the patriarch of the MCPS Swimming and Diving Program. In the 1970s, he took the program from its infancy and carefully nurtured it into the exemplary program it is today. Each year, he adjusted the Montgomery County Recreation Department’s swim program schedules to ensure that MCPS high schools had pool space at the times needed to accommodate coach and team schedules. His professional leadership and personal commitment are forever imprinted upon the MCPS Swimming and Diving Program. Upon his retirement, Ms. Pam Ambrose, recreation supervisor, Kennedy Shriver Aquatic Center, assisted the MCPS swimming and diving program. Since 2007, Ms. Christa Krukiel, recreation specialist, Montgomery County Recreation Department (MCRD), has served as liaison between MCPS and MCRD.