MERCED — El Capitan High School won't be open for more than three weeks but already its swimming pool is getting a workout in the summer heat.
The school's water polo and swim teams took the plunge Monday for the first time at the new school at North G Street and Farmland Avenue in Merced, inaugurating the pool that is more than 98 feet long and 75 feet wide. It's just about the same as pools at Golden Valley and Buhach Colony high schools, with a few refinements.
Rodd Parker, El Capitan boys aquatics coach, hasn't jumped in the water yet but said he needs to do it soon.
"The pool is great," Parker said. "The kids enjoy it. It's a great facility and we will be able to do a lot of activities; the coaches are excited and looking forward to a great season."
El Capitan Principal Anthony Johnson said the pool was plastered about July 9 and then sealed. The pool's 429,000 gallons of water were added along with chemicals and there was a short wait until the proper chemical balance was achieved.
"It's a beautiful pool," Johnson said. "I feel fortunate about the facilities we have. They did a great job."
Travis Kirk, the Merced Union High School District's director of facilities and transportation, said it took six months to build the pool. The heated pool has a handicapped lift to accommodate students with special needs.
Kristie Dunham, girl's aquatics coach, said the El Capitan pool is perfect-sized for a high school. There are 10 lanes for swimming. It has more deck space than the other pools, meaning more spectators can be accommodated.
Dunham is thrilled El Capitan will be able to host high-quality water polo tournaments and will be able to offer water polo instruction on a year-round basis. The pool is 3½ feet deep at the shallow end and 12 feet deep at the other end.
She said the same design plans as Golden Valley and Buhach Colony were used at El Capitan to save money. Parker said the El Capitan pool has two diving boards and it will be nice to host Central California Conference championship meets there in a couple years.
With its limited shallow area the pool isn't suited for free public swimming, Kirk said. Dunham said the pool is accessible for the community to watch sports events without disturbing nearby classroom activities.
Reporter Doane Yawger can be reached at (209) 385-2407 or dyawger@merced sunstar.com.