It takes a lot more than a stroke of luck to create a championship swim team, and Gillette has mastered the formula. Unparalleled facilities, a dedicated coaching staff and talented swimmers have helped lead the Gillette Swim Team to 15 consecutive state championships.
"We have a really nice facility here, and we don't ever really stop practicing," says Phil Rehard, GST head coach for the past eight years and the 2009 Wyoming Swimming Coach of the Year.
"The club program has approximately 200 registered participants, with a staff of seven to eight assistant coaches," Rehard says, "and swimmers are able to train and practice year-round, thanks to the well-equipped ."
"The center features the state's only 50-meter pool," Rehard says, "and a first-class weight room, with an outdoor portable pool that is erected during the summer months.
"The building opened in 1982, and we had people on the school board who pushed it through so that now we have this awesome aquatic center," he says. With that capital commitment came a commitment to swimming.
Students in Gillette
"We run a swim program through our school where every student in grades one through 12 comes for a 10-day period of swimming lessons," Rehard says.
"Our program sees every kid in our school and our community from the time they enter first grade until graduation, so we have the opportunity to recruit every kid in our system to be on our swim teams." This exposure to an active lifestyle also leads to healthier students, and the system has made a commitment toward that as well, with a healthy schools coordinator who oversees nutrition and physical activity. "It's a real bonus for us to have him," Rehard says of the coordinator. "We have one of the best programs like this in the country.
The hard work of our coaching staff is integral, and we're fortunate to have the money to pay enough coaches to keep the ratio between swimmers and coaches low. We also appreciate the great support of the parents." The Campbell County Parks and Recreation Department and the Campbell County School District joined hands in creating a facility that combines a full-service recreation center with a multi-use competitive sports and training facility.
The $55 million center features lap and leisure pools, two water slides, five tennis courts, three basketball courts, a 200-meter track and a 42-foot climbing tower resembling aspects of the Devils Tower National Monument, plus a spectator venue for organized sports, exercise rooms and babysitting areas. The rock theme is used throughout the aquatic area.
The 256,000-gallon, six-lane lap pool at the new center uses an efficient sand filter system and features a diving area more than 13 feet deep, with water heated to 85 or 86 degrees. The leisure pool includes numerous water features, including a windmill, water tank and a net that holds flotation devices so that children can walk across the water.