For those who frequent the swimming pool at Gig Harbor High School, there’s a welcome new sight this season: New starting blocks.
The new blocks replace the old ones, which had been in use since 1979.
It’s been a wish-list item for the swim program for several years now. With the help of the Gig Harbor sports boosters, it became a reality.
“The last three years, it’s been a big push to raise the funds,” said Gig Harbor swim coach Mike Kelly. “The pool hadn’t had much attention given to it in many years. There was a good push the last three years.”
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There are six blocks, one for each lane. But what’s the big deal? The blocks are just there for the swimmers to jump off, right?
It’s not quite that simple, though.
The original blocks weren’t built for modern track starts, where swimmers have one foot in front of the other. The start is generally considered the most explosive way to enter the pool.
“If you were to look at starts in the ’70s, the swimmers would have both sets of toes over the edge of the block,” Kelly said. “With the track start, swimmers found that to be the more competitive start.”
On the old blocks, the length of the block was too short.
“The new blocks have a back step plate, which allows you to place your feet in the proper position,” Kelly said. “Obviously, the new blocks are great. We can actually do a modern track start.”
Kelly also had safety concerns about the previous blocks.
“We had people slipping and falling off those,” Kelly said. “So this improves safety for the athletes.”
The new blocks are also removable, instead of the old blocks, which were permanent fixtures. During water polo season, the swimmers would have to lift the water polo cage over the permanent starting blocks.
“One slip and you could have an accident occurring,” Kelly said.
With the new blocks, the swimmers can simply remove them in under a minute and place the cage in the pool. Mostly, Kelly was just happy to see the improvement.
“It was a great joy to get some help from the sports boosters to get behind that project and bring it to fruition, bringing us to the ability to do modern, competitive racing,” he said. “We may not have the best pool but we make the most of what we have. We run a successful program. We’re excited about the prospect and getting to use the new starting blocks. It’s been a positive enrichment of the Peninsula School District facilities.”