The Shafter High football team was known as the Road Warriors, having to play all of their games away from Shafter for over a year while their stadium was being renovated. Imagine having to go out of town to even have a daily practice.
That is the situation that the Shafter High swim team has faced for the past two years. With the Shafter pool at the Aquatic Center closed, the team has not had a place to hold meets or even practices.
Led by Coach Larissa Davis, this dedicated team of swimmers have been bussed to Independence High School, to use the Kern High School District Pool Complex for its practices. Every meet they participate in is away from home, giving them a challenge that has made them come together even more as a unit." I am so proud of these kids. They are a dedicated bunch of students who work so hard," said Davis.
An average day has the students attend school and have a tutoring session after school before getting on the bus to go to practice. Most of the students are not getting home until 7:30 p.m.
The pandemic didn't cause the loss of their home pool. That was put in motion well before anyone in Shafter had heard of covid-19. With repairs needed on the heater in the pool, and the termination of the agreement between the Shafter Recreation Department and the City of Shafter for maintaining the facility, the Aquatic Center and its future were in a holding pattern.
This caused the disbanding of one of the major contributors of talent to the Shafter High swim team, the Shafter Stingrays Swimming Club.
Davis took over the Shafter High swimming program in 2017, beginning with around 25 students. In the next two years, Davis had a team at 60 swimmers. Then the trouble began.
"The situation didn't kill the program, but it sure caused the program to take several steps back," commented Davis. "It has been really rough on the students. But, we have a bunch of kids who are determined and dedicated, which they really have to be to go through this," she said.
Despite the challenges, the program is thriving in the pool. They have four swimmers on the girls team that have already qualified for the Valley Swim Meet. Josephine Martin, Annemarie Piuser, Sydnee Macias and Rilynn Lee make up the Lady Generals' relay team. They have qualified as a relay team, and they also have qualified in individual events as well.
At a meet up north at Sunnyside High School, Josephine Martin broke a 10-year-old butterfly record. The relay team also grabbed second place in the event out of 30 schools competing.
They are competing with Wasco for the SSL championship, with the SSL meet being held in two weeks.
It appears that the Shafter swimmers will have to face this challenge for another year, as the city is expecting to complete the improvements on the pool, making it operational, in the summer of 2024.
"We have some swimmers that will go through their entire high school careers without ever competing in a home swim meet in their own pool. That is really sad. But, our kids are determined to succeed and wont be stopped," Davis said .