Three Columbia swim teams share a pool and a head coach
COLUMBIA - Laura Wacker arrives to the Hickman High School Pool with a coffee in hand every weekday morning before the sun rises. While the natatorium may have Hickman in it's name, the pool is home to two other local high schools. Rock Bridge High School, Battle High School and Hickman High School share a pool, a practice time and a head coach.
"As most people know in this town, there's a lot of rivalry between the three high schools usually," Wacker said. "We serve as kind of the peace keepers for everybody."
After nearly 40 high school boys file through the doors, Wacker shouts off marching orders for the day's practice. The three Columbia public high schools often battle it out on the court, the field and the diamond. However, the pool is a different story. While the swimmers score for their own schools at meets, the three teams identify as one.
"There's a rivalry between the three schools, but it's different from the other sports," Hickman team captain Jacob Lee said.
"We're all just pretty much the same team," Battle team captain Collin Pounds said. "We call ourselves 'COMO,' we don't even refer to ourselves as Hickman or Battle or Rock Bridge."
Walker said Rock Bridge has seventeen swimmers and Hickman has thirteen. Battle rounds out the group with three swimmers.
“Everybody does the Hickman cheer, everybody does the Rock Bridge cheer, and everybody does the Battle cheer,” Wacker said. “You know it just makes each team feel more powerful because they have more people cheering."
“At meets, it is a lot more fun having two more teams supporting you,” Rock Bridge team captain Jonathan Thomas said.
Even though they may feel like one united team, Thomas said the competition level is still high.
“Although we really love each other, we also really want to beat each other,” Thomas said.
“Your goal is to beat them, so you’re always racing them,” Pounds said.
The swimmers have a few more weekends to qualify for the state swim meet, but Walker said the season is already shaping up to be a banner year.
“This is probably the greatest group of people that I've worked with on probably any team that I’ve coached, and I've been coaching for over 30 years,” Wacker said. “These guys are really special. They’re very generous and very kind to each other."
The three teams head to Independence, Missouri, for the Truman Invite at the Henley Aquatic Center on Saturday.