Grain Valley sophomore Wyatt Huffman was ready to give in.
His mother Tracy Huffman was considering paying tuition to the Blue Springs School District so Wyatt could be on a high school swim team. He had been a part of the sport since he was 9 years old, swimming for club teams including most recently – Kansas City Swim Academy.
He wanted to stay in Grain Valley so he could still be with his friends, but then, earlier in the year, Wyatt changed his mind.
“He said, ‘Mom, I might want to switch to Blue Springs so I can swim.’” Tracy Huffman said.
Now he won’t have to go that route anymore after the Grain Valley Board of Education approved for Grain Valley High School to have its own boys and girls swimming and diving teams starting next school year. Before this school year, the only major Missouri State High School Activities Association sport the school didn’t have was swimming and diving. That will change when the Eagles first step foot into the Blue Springs Family YMCA with their brand new boys squad.
“We’re going to jump in with both feet,” Grain Valley activities director Brandon Hart said. “We have enough support here. As we continue and we join the Suburban Conference next (school) year, it will offer us the opportunity to compete in the sport. Twenty-four of the 26 teams in the Suburban Conference have swimming.”
“We’re very grateful for the YMCA to partner with us. For the first year, we’d like to have 15 boys and 15 girls to start for each program.”
Grain Valley will share the pool with Blue Springs South, but there are some challenges with that, Hart said. Since the Jaguars practice right after school around 2:30 p.m. during the weekdays, that forces the Eagles to find a different time to practice. That time will have to be before school.
“It will present challenges for the kids, but in the swimming community, that’s not completely uncommon,” Hart said. “There’s a lot of schools with shared swim facilities. I know we have some swimmers here. A lot of them are on club teams.”
However, that’s a sacrifice that parents and student interested in participating in the program are willing to make. Hart said he had received calls here and there from parents asking about possibly getting a swim team since he became activities director two years ago. He inquired about using the Blue Springs Family YMCA’s pool for possible swim teams.
When he worked out a deal to rent out the facility every morning, he presented the idea to the students at the high school during an informal meeting. He sent out surveys and saw there was plenty of interest in the school having a swim program. It was voted upon and approved by the school board.
Grain Valley is currently searching for a head coach for the program, and the job opening is posted on the district website. Hart said he is hoping to find one by the time the Suburban Conference meetings begin in April.
Meanwhile, parents like Sni A Bar Elementary principal Carrie Reich, who has a freshman daughter planning on joining the girls team, is ecstatic that the district was able to make this happen.
“There are a large part of Grain Valley students on Team Swim Academy and that’s just where all their swimming has taken place,” Reich said. “My daughter and the other kids on the team have been pushing to have a swim team at Grain Valley.
“There was a time we weren’t positive this was going to happen. I didn’t realize it was going to happen so quickly, so I am really happy. I was at the school board meeting and vocally said ‘Yes!’ out loud. There are some kids who used to do summer swim that aged out of it. And weren’t much into it to swim year round. But now that there is a school, team, some of the kids will be going back to swimming.”
Added Huffman: “I kept asking Brandon when we were going to get a team, jokingly. He then popped in one time and said next year. It’s a relief because it’s something my kid is good at and loves. Hopefully (Wyatt)) will get his name on the board with a couple of records.”