Welcome to the second season of the Payson Longhorns Swim Club.
There’s only four of them at the moment — three boys and a girl. Brothers Toby (a senior) and Dillon Gressley (a sophomore) and junior Alex Baer and classmate Tara Ormand all return from a year ago.
They’re the pioneers.
The ones who endure for the thing they love.
To dive into the water and propel themselves forward with a mighty stroke and leg kick, cutting through the pool.
You know, the pool they don’t have.
These pioneers of the Payson High athletic scene hoped their debut campaign would be their only one without a home pool to practice in and host meets in.
But Taylor Pool remained closed this summer a year after the Town of Payson kept it closed for its entire two-month season in 2020 because of the challenges and cost of implementing new measures during a pandemic.
That and the scarcity of parts needed in the filtration system to keep the aging pool open another summer.
Town officials argue its simply too expensive and would be a financial drain.
Tamara Gressley coached the Payson Pikes summer swim team at Taylor Pool along with longtime coach Wendy Ward as the team grew to 53 members in the summer of 2019.
But there’s more dust than water these days as the pool has been dry ever since.
And she served as head coach of the Longhorns a year ago when they started the season, not knowing where they were going to practice until Gressley secured early morning practices in the Tonto Apache Pool.
They’re there again this season, although the practices are in the evening from 6:15-7:45 p.m.
Lori Thompson is the head coach this year after serving as a volunteer assistant for Gressley with the club last fall. COVID-19 restrictions led to the Longhorns participating in just two meets in their first season.
“We want to thank Tamara for keeping swimming alive in Payson last year and carrying the torch,” Thompson said.
“We went to two meets because of COVID. And not having a pool limits the (number of) meets.”
Thompson moved with her husband, Tom, and son, James, to Rim Country three years ago from Southern California, where she grew up swimming and spent more than 35 years coaching a variety of aquatic disciplines including swimming, synchronized swimming and water polo.
She has developed teams, coached national level swimmers and hosted high-level international swim meets. Thompson has developed and operated several award-winning aquatic centers.
That makes her a good person to continue the effort to build interest in the sport at Payson High School.
Thompson hopes the number of swimmers on the team increases this year and welcomes students to join the club.
“We’re still accepting kids,” she said. “We’d like to get 12 to 15 kids out for this.”
She said swimming is a great way for kids to stay active and join a team.
“We are taking precautions and have guidelines to follow as far as keeping kids safe, but it’s been shown swimming is one of the best things anybody can do to stay healthy,” Thompson said. “Swimming is a no-cut sport, which means all kids get the opportunity to participate in a healthy activity and be part of a team.”
Any student interested in joining the club can call or text Thompson at 562-417-7421 or email her at email@example.com or see PHS athletic director Ryan Scherling at school.