LCC swim team struggles with lack of pool availability

The La Costa Canyon girls swim team won the CIF championship in 2019.

The CIF San Diego Section recently cleared the way for high school sports such as swimming, golf, tennis and track and field to resume in February. After a missed 2020 season following a girls team CIF championship in 2019, the La Costa Canyon swim team was anxious to get in the water but they faced an additional delay: They had no pool contract to start the swim season on Feb. 1.

As the San Dieguito Union High School District has no district pool, all of the high school aquatics teams must rent pool time from outside facilities.

“It happened so quick,” said Coach Patty Mackle. When swimming was moved to CIF’s “Season 1” and allowed to begin, she only had two weeks to find a pool, which proved to be an impossible task.

The Magdalena Ecke Family YMCA in Encinitas, which has hosted LCC for over eight years, is open but is currently unable to accommodate sports clubs, like swim teams, due to guidelines and restrictions mandated by local and state government.

The team had hoped to use Mt. Carmel High School’s pool but the Westview High School’s pool pump broke which pushed LCC’s priority down the list. The city of Carlsbad’s Alga Norte pool is booked until 9 p.m. at night with every possible water sport.

Torrey Pines and San Dieguito are using the Boys & Girls Club in Solana Beach for nighttime practices that run as late as 9:45 p.m. and Canyon Crest Academy has a contract to use Cathedral Catholic High School’s pool, squeezed into a 5:30 a.m. slot. The Boys & Girls Club had offered LCC its only available times: 9-10 p.m. on Friday nights and 6-8 p.m. on Saturday nights.

After endless calls to facilities, Mackle ended up finding time at a community pool in San Marcos.

“It’s only five lanes and super shallow but it works,” Mackle said. “It’s wet and it’s better than anything we have.”

The pool was able to offer a doable time slot of 3-5 p.m. and Mackle expects practices to begin on Feb. 23. At this point, she still doesn’t know who is on the roster as all season 1 athletes are scrambling to get their physicals and be cleared by CIF.

The problem of pool availability is not the Mavericks’ alone: “North County schools just don’t have pools,” said Mackle.

In their Coastal League division that includes Canyon Crest Academy, Sage Creek, Carlsbad, San Dieguito and Torrey Pines High Schools, none has a pool of their own. During the upcoming two-month season, Mackle is anticipating that might make it challenging to host meets.

“It would be a lot easier if the district had a pool,” Mackle said. “It would be no problem.”

Since 2014, a parent-led Aquatics Committee has been advocating for a pool or pools for San Dieguito. A district pool could support the over 500 aquatics athletes as well as support physical education for all students and community programs like Junior Lifegaurds.

In June 2019 the SDUHSD board directed staff to explore the feasibility of aquatics facilities in the district, hiring Aquatic Design Group and Green Play to study an aquatics center at La Costa Canyon. A pool development study presented last November estimated that it would cost $10.7 million to build the pool. The district’s next step would be getting it into the overall master plan and identifying funding.

For swimmers’ sakes, Mackle hopes it is sooner rather than later—the lack of pools has been an issue since she was a youth athlete 40 years ago, recalling meets held in a “dinky” pool.

“It’s crazy that we haven’t got a pool,” she said. “I know that the parents are fighting for it.”