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MAC finding it difficult to host winter meets without permanent facility

Mitchell Aquatic Club swimmers Christian Fossum, left, and Isaac Smith, right, dive into the water last summer during the MAC Corn Palace Invitational at the Mitchell Aquatic Center in Mitchell. (Aaron Saunders/Republic)

The Mitchell Aquatic Club specializes in hard work and dedication in and out of the pool.

MAC swimmers have garnered state championships, earned college scholarships and gained statewide notoriety, but few know about the hard work that takes place outside the pool by the parents of many of the swimmers.

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This swim season, MAC will host four swim meets. The events are the MAC Pentathlon (Nov 2-3), MAC Winter Invitational (Feb 1-2), Corn Palace Invitational (June 27-29) and State A Championships (July 26-28). Both summer meets are held at the Mitchell Aquatic Center, while both winter meets are at EmBe in Sioux Falls.

Hosting meets in Sioux Falls has left some MAC supporters longing for a place to call home in Mitchell during the winter.

“We have had two meets in Sioux Falls ever since the middle school pool shut down,” MAC President Ryan Huber said. “The parents continue to do this because the swim meets are really a huge fundraiser for the club, but it is getting real old for the parents to have to continue to drive an hour to host events.

“I honestly think that if the MAC doesn’t have an indoor pool within in the next five to 10 years, there might not be a Mitchell Aquatic Club anymore.”

The club used to hold its indoor swim meets at the Mitchell Middle School pool. But after the Mitchell School District decided to close and fill the pool in 2009, MAC began traveling to Huron. For six months, MAC practiced at the Nordby Center in Huron. The club was then given $17,800 for a temporary swimming facility on Main Street across from the Mitchell Recreation Center, which collapsed and drained out onto North Main Street, in 2010.

The club was able to purchase another temporary pool with insurance money, but the pool is not regulation size and, therefore cannot host meets.

“This is supposed to be a temporary pool,” Huber said. “The hour glass is definitely running on us. If we had an indoor pool, we could potentially hold more meets and could have the winter state championships here, which would bring a lot of people to Mitchell.”

Huber said Dakota Wesleyan University President Amy Novak, Avera Queen of Peace Hospital President and CEO Tom Clark and Mitchell Mayor Ken Tracy have been supportive of the club’s pursuit to find a permanent home.

In the summer, the club practices at the Mitchell Aquatic Center. Huber said there have been discussions on whether or not the center can be renovated and made into an indoor pool or if the Mitchell Recreation Center could be renovated to have a regulation-size pool installed.

To host two summer meets and practice at the aquatic center, MAC pays $1,500.

MAC swim coach Kyle Margheim said the club pays $2,200 to host its two swim meets at EmBe in Sioux Falls. He added the club also rents equipment from the facility, which cost $800 to bring the total cost of the two meets held in Sioux Falls to $3,000.

“Our swim meets are the biggest fundraiser for MAC,” Margheim said. “The meets helps us raise money to make things better for the kids we have. We want to do the best we can to provide the best for our families and the kids.”

Margheim said there are more cons to hosting a swim meet in Sioux Falls than there are pros.

“We don’t get to bring people from the community in to watch the meets,” Margheim said. “The kids also don’t really get to have a home swim meet during the winter because we are having it in Sioux Falls.”

MAC swimmers like Christian Fossum, 16, don’t mind traveling to Sioux Falls to compete, but said it would be a lot more fun to compete in Mitchell.

“Swimming in Sioux Falls has its advantages and disadvantages,” said Fossum, who won three state titles during the summer season. “I like that we get to have some good swim meets with good competition, but it would be nice to swim at home and have our friends cheer for us.”

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