‘They saved our season’

Cache County Water Polo. Image courtesy of Cache County Water Polo

The Mountain Crest and Utah State University swimming pools both have long-overdue repairs and improvements they plan to take care of this year. The trouble is, they both plan on fixing those problems at the same time this spring. For groups that use two of only three public pools in Cache Valley it creates a scheduling nightmare and had one group fearing they would not be able to play their sport this season.

“When we first heard that two of the only three public swimming pools in the valley would be closing at the same time, we reached out to Cache County (School District) to see if they could stagger (their repair schedule), we reached out to USU to see if they could stagger (their repair schedule),” says Cache Water Polo head coach Eric Richards. “It impacts recreational swim, it impacts water aerobics, it impacts high school water polo, families, but they weren’t able to get on the same page. So we were poolless.”

Had it not been for some cooperation between USU and Sports Academy and Racquet Club (which has its own private pool), Cache Water Polo would have had to cancel their season entirely. When Richards reached out to Sports Academy and Racquet Club, they said they would help the club sport in April and May if USU could help them in February and March.

They, in essence, saved the season,” Richards exclaims with a big sigh of relief.

Had the team not worked out an arrangement with the two institutions, the team would not have had a place to practice or play games. The water polo season has recently started and already the team has moved its practices and games to Utah State because of the extensive repairs at Mountain Crest.

“The Mountain Crest pool has had a leak for 10 or 12 years,” Richards explains. “They’ve had to run water 24-7 to keep it filled up. They’ve finally found the leak and they will repair it. They will do a new paint job, redo the locker rooms, the shower area, the entry way. It will look like a brand-new facility at Mountain Crest.

“I know USU’s renovation is very similar. I know they are redoing the deck, they are redoing the showers. It’s just bad luck. We haven’t had a pool closure for years. To have them both happen at the same time is a one in a million shot.”

The team will not play any games at the Sports Academy, but will use it for practices during the week. Without a facility to at least practice in the team would have had to cancel their season, and that was a tragedy Richards did not want to see play out for the sake of the players and their families who have put in so much time and energy into the sport.

“We have 10 seniors on the team and some of them have played water polo for six years. For them not to play in their senior year, they were ranked #2 in the state, and still have a good chance to win a championship. They were pretty destitute. I love that a community school like Utah State is willing to help families. We have 52 kids that we wound up keeping on this team and we have 52 grateful kids and their families.”

In March, all practices and games are at USU. In April, the club team comprised of high school students from multiple high schools, plus a U14 team from middle schools, will have games in Brigham City, Ogden and Salt Lake. In May, the state championships take place in Ogden or Salt Lake City. As a club sport, the athletes and their families bear a greater responsibility for fundraising and transportation than a typically sanctioned sport would. Richards says the sport is growing throughout the state with 29 teams and, based on current trends, he hopes water polo will be a sanctioned sport in the next three to five years.

The team’s largest fundraiser is going on now. They are selling fresh oranges from California that get delivered just two days after being picked by the grower. For information about the oranges, or about Cache Water Polo, Richards invites anyone to reach out by calling (435) 764-7933.

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