For the first time in nearly two years, the Lansing Bobcat girls swimming and diving team relaxed in the warm confines of their own blue and gold clad pool.
There was no traveling to practice and no playing host at another team’s home. The wall facing back to the gallery was filled with Lansing High School’s accomplishments and records, not some other team that, quite honestly, may not have the accolades Lansing has heaped onto itself over the years.
“I think it’s allowed us to connect more as a team than when we would have to travel to TC3 or Ithaca High School (and) we would spend a lot of time on a bus,” Lansing co-captain Jackie Brown said after a Saturday morning practice Sept. 23.
Brown said though it may sound like being on a bus for the 30-minute drives to Dryden or Ithaca is bonding, that isn’t the case. The senior said those trips were mainly the students stressing out about homework or applying to colleges. Or simply talk of how they didn’t want to be traveling to Tompkins Cortland Community College just to practice.
The Lansing High School pool was part of the school’s Capital Project that was voted on in December 2014. It was scheduled to be available to the girls team last autumn, but complications set it back to the beginning of 2017, when the boys team scheduled its home meets at Lansing.
It was delayed again as workers did a forensic analysis that went through the grout, tile and ground under the pool, superintendent Chris Pettograsso said in January 2017. The underlying problem, she said, was in repairs done to the pool in prior years that didn’t hold up as long as expected.
Work was completed this summer and head coach Diane Hicks-Hughes was able to schedule her home meets at the team’s actual home.
“Now since we have a home pool we’ve been able to come to practice right after school,” Brown said, “and that way on Friday night if we all want to go to a team dinner or a football game, we can do that together. I think that’s allowed us to bond a lot more, which is the best.”
Added co-captain and classmate Meghan Matheny, “everyone’s just a lot happier. You can tell.”
Not having a home didn’t impact the team’s ability to stay atop the competition, though. The Bobcats finished their season away with a 10-0 league record and a Section IV team title, edging Watkins Glen, 398-366. They finished the season ranked No. 2 in Class C, according to section4swimming.com.
In their return to sparkling home confines Sept. 19, Lansing defeated Dryden 100-74 for its third win of the year in meets reported to section4swimming. Lansing defeated Southern Cayuga, 61-33, and Whitney Point, 77-16.
Against Dryden, Brown finished third in the 100 breaststroke (1:27.46); third in the 200 freestyle relay with teammates Abby Overstrom, Mackenzie Stark and Laura Ferris; and third in the 200 medley relay with Overstrom, Libby Weaver and Valencia Gell.
Even though each swimmer, even in relays, is in a pool by herself competing Brown said having increased connections and bonding with teammates has proved beneficial.
“I think that although it is an individual sport, like you swim by yourself, cheering is a really important part and getting everybody to work as a team,” she said. “Do your best, not only for yourself but your team so you can benefit later.”
It was an edict shown by doing not saying in the home meet, where Brown and Matheny paced the side of the pool -- which features a foot of non-slip tile requested by Hicks-Hughes for the young children – cheering on their teammates. The swimmers gave specific attention to lane 6, the closest to them, and the one with lower-placing participants.
“We always say every point counts,” said Matheny, who set a school record at the top of the meet in diving with a 263.35 score. “So even if you’re the third swimmer in a race for your team you’re still fighting for that fifth-place extra point.
“So cheering on the side and knowing that you have your team behind you is huge.”
Matheny, who set another school record three days later for 11 dives and qualified for the state competition, placed first in the 50 freestyle (27.69); 200 freestyle with Katy Barr, Marin Allen and Caroline Dennis; and had the fastest time in the 400 freestyle with Stark, Dennis and Grace Kadlecik.
The Bobcats were faced with their toughest competition back-to-back earlier this week: Watkins Glen and Waverly on Tuesday at home and Thursday on the road, respectively.
They defeated Watkins Glen, 95-90, at home and defeated Waverly 94-86 to reach 5-0 in meets this year.
“We really want to win, stay undefeated and then win IACs and win sectionals,” Brown said.
Lansing will attend to EFA Invite the weekend of Friday, Sept. 29 and travel to Odessa-Montour Tuesday, Oct. 3. The Bobcats will return home to take on Elmira Notre Dame Thursday, Oct. 5.
This article ran exclusively in the Lansing Ledger Sept. 27. Follow Cassandra Negley on Twitter, @casnegley.