Area pools have reopened, and Marion County residents have been eager to get back in the water.
Randy Carlson, swim coach and pool manager at Marion’s Sports and Aquatic Center, is surprised at the number of daily visitors— especially now that outdoor pools have opened.
“Everything has kind of gotten more relaxed as people have their vaccinations,” he said. “People are wanting to get back to their lives once more.”
Carlson is humbled that 62 swimmers have signed up for league teams this summer including all six girls on Marion High’s swim team.
“It’s been absolutely amazing,” he said.
Peabody coach Rachel Winter says its swim team has been having a great season, too. The 52-member Peabody Super Swimmers are undefeated.
“We did have last Saturday’s meet canceled, but the kids are doing amazing,” she said. “They are putting in all kinds of hard work and learning and growing and kicking butt.”
Peabody pool manager Hadlye Clark, 18, said rainstorms had shut the pool, but the traffic before the storms had still been steady.
“For a while, when it was warm, there were quite a few people here,” she said.
Cara Duell, manager of Hillsboro Family Aquatic Center, said area families had purchased 600 season passes.
“They’re so thrilled that it’s open,” she said. “They tell me how much they missed it last year.”
Duell has a day job as a substitute high school English teacher.
This is her first season managing the pool, but she is no stranger to the job.
Duell ran three YMCA aquatic centers in Illinois before moving to Hillsboro in 2013 when husband, Nathan Duell, became swim coach at Tabor College.
Still, Duell admits she worried about getting Hillsboro’s pool running after it sat empty.
“You never know with moving parts when you don’t use them for a year,” she said.
Getting chemical balance and temperature right for 100,000 gallons of water was a painstaking process.
“I know a lot of people think you just put water in it and open the pool,” she said. “It’s not that simple.”
Duell also learned how to maintain the pool’s relatively new water features.
She was stunned when she saw three lifeguards struggling to crawl around in the pool’s two-story slide and coat it with wax.
“I thought that was pretty funny,” she said. “I was like, ‘Well isn’t it just my fat butt in the water and away we go?’ But because of the material that slides like that are made out of, you have to wax them to protect them from damage.”
Duell has a few ideas for theme nights to make this year’s season fun, but most visitors are just grateful the pool’s open.
She enjoys saying hello to youngsters she has taught.
“They are so excited to be there,” she said. “And I love getting wet hugs.”