First Posted: 2/26/2012
The rivalry between the Dallas and Lake-Lehman high school swimming and diving teams is a little friendlier than one might think.
The Lake-Lehman team, which started competing in the Wyoming Valley Conference in 2007, entered into an agreement with Dallas this year to utilize its pool for home meets. The team practices at Misericordia University's Anderson Sports and Health Complex.
Nancy Edkins, coach of the Lake-Lehman swim, said the team previously held all of its swim meets and practices at Misericordia University, but due to the lack of diving facilities, there was no diving team.
The Dallas pool, which is located in the middle school, is a larger facility equipped with several diving boards. Erin Cooper Yurko was hired late last year to coach Lake-Lehman divers.
The Black Knights compete at Dallas when the Mountaineer swimmers and divers are at an away meet. Lake-Lehman divers always train at the Dallas facility.
Edkins, who is also principal of Lake-Noxen Elementary School, met with Matt Stretanski, former Dallas swimming coach and current pool manager, and the district's athletic director to work out a schedule.
"We're two neighboring districts – we should be friends," said Edkins. "The coaches here are fair with us. (Dallas) always comes first because it's their facility."
Stretanski, who coached the Dallas swim team for 14 years, said the Dallas team had similar issues before the natatorium was built at the middle school in 2002. The team held practices at Misericordia and couldn't have a diving team due to the lack of facilities.
"When we wanted to start diving, Wyoming Valley West, Wyoming Area, Wilkes-Barre Area and other districts were very supportive, and worked with us to get us practice time," he said. "One year, we had our home meets at Nanticoke."
Stretanski, who is also a history teacher at the middle school, said when Lake-Lehman officials approached him and others about the possibility of using the Dallas pool, he said it was like "paying it forward."
"We have a good relationship with Lake-Lehman, but we'd do it for anyone," he said.
Though the Lake-Lehman group is small (there are 16 swimmers and two divers), Edkins said the team is full of talent and potential.
Stretanski noticed a difference in the Dallas team after it began using its own pool.
"It gives them a comfort level and confidence," he said of the young swimmers. "They feel secure and they know where they're going. It's a big help for the kids, and that's why we're all here."
Junior Lake-Lehman swimmer Samantha Sabol, 17, of Shavertown, said using the Dallas facilities has made life as a competitive swimmer just a little bit easier.
"It was hard to schedule practice and meets when we were at Misericordia because we had to work around their schedule," she said. "I swam here (at Dallas) when I was younger and this is my favorite pool. I think we have more people coming to the meets, too, because the benches are bigger."
Edkins said having a pool built at the junior/senior high school in Lehman Township is just a dream, but the current situation is working well and she hopes it will continue in the future.
"People are cooperating with it and we're so grateful for the support," she said.
Edkins also said the longstanding rivalry between Dallas and Lake-Lehman still exists, but the teams are more like friendly foes.
"I don't think that will ever go away, but we still figure out how to get along in the long run," she said.