The entire pool area was repainted—bright white glass tile at the ground level, topped with creamy white paint up to the ceiling—and trimmed in Saint Viator blue colors with its traditional lion mascot.
A new, six-foot lion was painted at the bottom of the pool, replacing the large ‘V’ and two smaller lions, and the entire basin of the pool was repainted.
“It’s so much brighter—and more welcoming,” says junior captain Ashley Alteri. “Everyone used to call it the dungeon, but not anymore.”
The centerpiece of the upgrade project is the new starting block for swimmers, complete with a track start wedge, side step entry and trimmed with the lion image on each. Track start starting blocks were approved in 2013 by the National Federation of High School Swimming and Diving Rules committee.
Steve Burks, director of building and grounds for Saint Viator, oversaw the upgrades to the pool over the summer.
“It’s a much-needed facelift,” Mr. Burks says. “The last improvement we made was the new scoreboard, but we hadn’t touched the aesthetics in more than 10 years. It was time.”
He describes the new starting blocks as state of the art and ones that will bring Saint Viator swimmers in line with starting blocks used at club and college level swimming—and the Olympics.
A pair of Olympic qualifying coaches head up the team this season. Dillon Thompson, who qualified in the 400-meter individual medley in 2012 and swam competitively for Yale University, is the head coach. He also is a senior level coach with the Palatine Park District.
His assistant is Sam Wilcher, a three-time Olympic qualifier who came up through the ranks of swimming with the Arlington Alligators and swam competitively at Purdue University.
“I’m really excited to be here and working with the girls,” Coach Thompson says. “The facility is beautiful. There’s a lot of history here and we want to uphold that, but also put our own stamp on the program.”
Both the coaches and swimmers are watching the Olympics and stars like Katie Ledecky, who already has three gold medals and a silver.
“She’s not that much older than us,” says Georgia Christy ’18, who also swims freestyle events. “She’s a huge inspiration.”
Her coaches admit that the Summer Olympics spike an interest in swimming every four years and they hope to reap the benefits.
“I use it as inspiration,” Coach Thompson says. “I tell the girls that all of these Olympic swimmers started out in high school swimming.”