Wendy Ward has two reasons for hosting the inaugural Payson Community Swim Meet.
She wants to involve all Rim Country residents in an aquatic activity that should be loads of fun and at the same time raise money for the Payson Pikes swim team she coaches.
“Our goal is to do both of those things,” Ward said.
The meet will be held from 8 a.m. to noon, May 30 at Taylor Pool and is open to entrants of all ages who can swim at least 25 yards.
Swimmers will compete in one of 12 age/sex divisions from 6 years old to 70 years and up.
Participants may choose any three events to participate in including freestyle, breaststroke, backstroke, butterfly and individual medleys.
“We will also have some fun events,” Ward said. “One of them is competition against the lifeguards.”
Also at the meet, a silent auction will be held with participants bidding for what Ward calls “themed baskets.”
A concession stand will be open to meet the hunger pangs of the swimmers.
The meet entry fee is $5 if paid before May 25 and $7 after.
All the money earned will be used to fund the Payson Pikes swim team that is currently muddling through some financial hardships due to town budget cuts.
“But we will have a team, we have heard there’s one town pool that might not open this summer,” Ward said.
This season, the Pikes — which begin practice June 1 — will have just three home meets with an option of parents taking their children to the Verde Valley Invitational.
Losing the Pikes would be a huge blow since the team has been a big part of the Rim Country’s summer recreation scene since Jim Quinlan — sometimes referred to as the Father of Taylor Pool — founded the team in 1986.
Under Quinlan, hundreds of youths learned to swim at Taylor, became Pikes team members and later worked as lifeguards and swim instructors.
“We had so many kids go through the program,” he said. “We tried to teach them that you could work hard and still have fun.”
Quinlan remembers that many who swam for the Pikes or worked at Taylor had other summer responsibilities.
“Some were playing Little League or were in high school sports, but most usually found a way to work out in the morning and be at meets on Saturday,” he said. “They had full schedules.”
In resigning as Taylor Pool manager in 2003 to teach classes at Gila Community College, Quinlan did so knowing throngs of young swimmers considered the pool almost a second home.
“The kids were always a big focus for us,” he said. “I’m proud of that.”
Among the former Pikes members who used what they learned on the team to build a career is Austin White, now a dolphin and sea lion trainer for a U.S. Navy technical services company in San Diego.
Prior to signing on with the company, he was an associate trainer at Dolphin Stadium at Sea World.
White learned to swim at Taylor Pool, became a member of the Pikes, then went on to become a lifeguard, swimming instructor, Pikes’ coach and eventually the pool manager.
“Much of what I learned was on the Pikes,” White said.
For more information about the Community Swim Meet, call Ward at (928) 468-0137 or log on to www.payson