The grand reopening of the Warren H. Daugherty Aquatic Center happened over four months ago. This weekend, the revamped facility will be hosting its largest event since its reintroduction to the Cottage Grove community.
On Friday and Saturday, Feb. 14-15 the Daugherty Center and the swimmers of Cottage Grove High School (CGHS) will host the Special District 4 state qualifying meet, fulfilling the pool’s promise of being not just a home for the Lions, but a central hub of swimming events for athletes all around the state.
“It’s probably one of the biggest sporting events that Cottage Grove has ever hosted,” said CGHS head swimming coach Tyson Pilling. “So it’s really good for the community.
It’s really nice that we have something that’s not only good for our student athletes and good for the pool, but good for the town.”
While the CGHS swimmers — and myriad citizens of the Grove — have delighted in using their top-tier facility over the past few months, the biggest event thus far in the Daugherty Center’s recent history involved around five high school swim teams.
On Friday, 12 teams will converge on the pool, pushing the pool deck to the limits of its capacity, while also setting the stage for a buzzworthy local event that will bring hundreds of out-of-towners to Cottage Grove and give the Lions a chance to show off their new home.
“I always kind of liked the idea of building the pool to help bring in some money into the town, help out the economy a little bit,” Pilling said. “I really think this will be one of those meets that’s a step in the right direction.”
On the competition side of things, Pilling also noted that, throughout the 2019-20 swim season, a number of 5A and 6A teams requested to use the Daugherty pool because of its speed and quality, a feather in the cap for members of the local swim community and those involved in the renovation.
“Not only is it such a great setup, but the way that it was built I really have to give a lot of credit to Matt Allen, James Miller, Bud Taylor and the pool committee for really making sure that the components you need to have for the tank were as good as they could be,” Pilling said.
The biggest effect of the pool, however, is simple. After a season of transience while the local facility was being updated — using pools in Drain, Eugene and beyond — the CGHS swim team has felt the effects of finally having a home, not just in their level of comfort and amount of travel, but in their preparation for important, late-season meets like this weekend’s districts.
“It’s absolutely huge,” Pilling said. “We have a home now, for one, but it helps in and out of the water. It helps the physical game, it helps the mental game, it helps all the way around.”
The Lions’ swimmers have spent the last couple weeks preparing for districts, tapering off from their more intense workouts, and despite some nerves, they appear ready to go.
“It’s going absolutely fantastic,” said junior Fisher Nash. “We went out [preparing for districts], we went out hard, we showed up, we put in our work and we’re just swimming fast. We’re enthusiastic and optimistic.”
As for expectations, Pilling’s are high as usual, but the coaching staff’s belief in their squad is right there with the swimmers.
“Our expectation is always to win. But, we’re as prepared as we can be for districts. We just wanna get locked in, get our races in, do what we need to do to win and then start looking towards the state meet.”
Races will begin at 1 p.m. at the Daugherty Center on Fri., Feb. 14. The start time for day two of the event is yet to be determined.