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Scrambling for pool space

By BRANT JAMES, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published September 1, 2002

BROOKSVILLE -- Water, water everywhere and not a place to swim.

When Brian Hengesbach swam at Springstead in the mid-1990s, the county's three teams had to vie for pool time at the Hernando Family YMCA or try to arrange for space at Brooksville Golf & Country Club or Silverthorn.

Sometimes practices had to be at 5 a.m. Marginally interested swimmers became uninterested.

Things are no different today as Hengesbach begins his second season as coach at Springstead, guiding the boys and girls.

"It wasn't until I got to (the University of Findlay, Ohio) I realized all these other counties have pools and resources," Hengesbach said. "You have to have competitive teams in the area and start kids young, not when they get to high school.

"For quality to get better, you have to have the resources," he said.

Hengesbach's younger sister, Alison, and other area club swimmers have to travel to Pinellas, Hillsborough or Citrus counties to compete.

"Crystal River traditionally has been one of the powerhouses (among local high schools)," Hengesbach said, "and a lot is due to the fact they have a club team and keep the interest going throughout the year."

Stacy Jarrell swam competitively in South Texas Amateur Athletic Union leagues for 10 years and retained enough passion for the sport to take over Central when it appeared the departure of Julie Withington might scuttle the season.

Jarrell, too, is amazed a state so steeped in competitive swimming can be so devoid of resources in some areas.

"It is disappointing to me," Jarrell said, "when Florida is the home of the swimming Hall of Fame (in Ft. Lauderdale). It's wonderful for a community to have a swimming facility and have competitive teams and a place for the high school teams.

"Everyone (at the YMCA) has been very gracious, but it would be nice for the community to have a place."

"Hopefully, someone will do something about it soon," Hengesbach said.

Perhaps as early as next year. Hernando County Parks Director Pat Fagan told commissioners at the 2002-03 budget workshop that area leaders have been discussing with the Times the possibility of the publication making a "major contribution" toward a proposed $2-million aquatic center.

Anderson Snow Park in Spring Hill is considered the leading site under consideration.

"I've heard a lot of things about a facility, but nobody's done anything about it," Hengesbach said.

NEW COMMITMENTS: Jarrell said Withington resigned as coach to help her daughter, who is beginning to swim competitively in clubs.

Jarrell, a substitute teacher, was encouraged to take over as coach when one of her marine science students, Erin McCarthy, told her the team might be folded for a season.

Jarrell approached athletic director John Sedlack and was hired as coach.

-- Information from Times archives contributed to this report.

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