Durango High School Swim Team Says Goodbye; For Now


The pool at the Fort Lewis Aquatic Center awaits swimmers before practice on Wednesday, February 1st. The pool is home to the Durango High School Girls Swim Team.

After many years of practicing there, the Durango High School Swim Team must say goodbye to the aquatic center at Fort Lewis College. For the 2023-2024 season, the team will be practicing at the Durango Recreation Center. The last practice at the college pool will be Monday, February, 6th in anticipation for the state meet.

View of Fort Lewis Aquatic Center from the diving board before practice on Wednesday, February 1st. The swimmers are tapering for Southwest League Championships and, for some of them, state.

The aquatic center at Fort Lewis was built in 1956, making it 67 years old. For context, my mom swam at that pool in middle school. She would get ready for school in exactly the same bathrooms.


Certainly, the vibe of that pool is very… 50s. Everything from the uneven yellow and green tiles to the arched ceiling is dated. Our coach, Tom Joyner, made a point of only planning one home meet this season for this reason. We’re lucky he did because the boiler failed multiple times this season, forcing us to cram into four lanes at the rec center. This is because if the water’s too cold, you can’t swim in it, simple as that. 

Everyone who practiced there could’ve anticipated that the facility was approaching its expiration date. The college has effectively been using the pool deck as storage space for a while now. Basketball hoops, gym pads, a body fat sensor that looks deceivingly like a hot tub, and even a couple of aged futons called the pool deck home during the preseason.

Of course, moving to the Rec Center is not a complete upgrade. When I asked Lana Bodewes, a junior, about it, she commented, “The Rec Center is so crowded, you can barely hear your own coach.”

As cathartic as it is to complain about the whole thing, we’ve also had a lot of good times at that pool:

I still have a whisper of a scar on my big toe from when I left a chunk of it on the diving board last year. I bled a lot, but the most concerned one was definitely our old diving coach, Mark. He totally went into fireman mode to treat me. Even if he wasn’t a first responder, we have a multitude of lifeguards who could’ve put a bandage on my toe.

Emma Ebner, a sophomore says, “I’ve been swimming at the FLC for only two years, but I learned so much and gained so many relationships at the pool. Some of my favorite memories were made at that pool and I will cherish those forever. My mom swam and lifeguarded at that pool when she was in college and it is so cool to have [multiple] generations spend time at the pool. Not going to lie, that pool is very ghetto and I prefer the Rec Center, but I got to know myself as a person and as a swimmer at that pool.”

Elyza Baumchen, a senior, says her, “…favorite moments from the college pool are jumping off of the diving boards and blocks. The week of districts we start tapering, and since we aren’t doing as big of sets we end practice early. We spend the remaining time we have, doing jumps and dives off of the diving board. I love it when the divers show us tricks, it’s always really fun.”

To Heidi Clay, a sophomore, “The Fort Lewis pool is a special place. I swam in it for the first time at a meet as a little kid. At the time I did not know it was a meet and was just having fun. But since then, having fun has defined the pool for me. The DHS swim team has a strong community where everyone feels welcome. Every practice is just as much swimming as it is getting to know the team better and making friends. I have so many good memories at the FLC pool with the team, from learning to dive (lots of belly flops included) to taking fun selfies to making best times in meets. The pool is a very special place to me and I will be sad to see it filled in.”

If you’re considering joining the swim team for our 2023-2024 season, I can promise you that you won’t regret it. But don’t take my word for it: Ahsley Forrest, another senior, wrote, “In December of 2021, I stepped into the Fort Lewis Natatorium intimidated by my lack of experience and excited to see what being a swimmer was like. Jumping into what was deemed the “guppy lane” for those who didn’t know how to swim, I slowly started to learn freestyle, and then backstroke, and then give my best shot at butterfly and breaststroke (heavy emphasis on the fact that this remains a work in progress). Along the way, I was humbled by dog paddle relays and the impossible-seeming mid-pool 50yd sets. I am so grateful I chose to start swimming, grateful for the team, Coach Joyner, and the Fort Lewis pool.”

Swimming in and of itself is a deeply satisfying experience. In a good set, a beat becomes rhythm becomes a melody. The chill of the water and the resistance of it wakes you up, makes you feel more deeply etched within yourself. It’s both a challenge and a thrill. I for one look forward to our team’s future.

If you want to be a part of it, we love new faces, regardless of experience level. We are a no-cut team, which means that anyone is free to participate regardless of skill or speed. The more, the merrier definitely applies (quite literally, if we have more than 14 swimmers attending a meet, we don’t have to ride a microbus).