Tamara Gressley

In a photo from a 2019 Payson Pikes meet at Taylor Pool, Brody Gressley nears the finish of his lap with encouragement from his sister, Braylynn Gressley. Also pictured are (from left to right): Dillon Gressley, volunteer coach Honey Hanewinckel, Tammy Groseclose, her son, Forrest Gressley, his wife and Pikes coach Tamara Gressley with clipboard, Annabell Waterman, Tori Rose and Tara Ormand. Tamara Gressley is coaching the new Payson High club swimming team.

Call Tamara Gressley determined.

She started the new Payson High School club swimming team even though the Longhorns didn’t have a pool to practice in.

They opened practice early Wednesday morning on the high school track, gathering to take care of basics like paperwork and getting measured for the swimsuits they’ll need for the upcoming season.

Only six showed up.

But Gressley said 10 times that many could wind up joining.

“We have 60 kids interested and I know more will be joining as word gets around that we have officially started practice,” she said.

Her sons Toby and Dillon are on the team. Daughter Braylynn and son Brody will follow in their footsteps when they enter high school.

Maybe the Longhorns will have their own pool to practice in and host meets in by then.

For now, it looks like they’ll practice at the Tonto Apache Gym pool. Gressley wasn’t sure that was an option when she held the first “practice” in program history on Wednesday but she met with the Tonto Apache Tribe on Monday and later Wednesday pool manager Eric Pendleton told her the team would be able to hold practices at the Tonto Apache pool in the early morning if all the team members joined the gym at a cost of $35 per swimmer, or $25 each if two of them pay at the same time.

It’s just one of the costs the club will have to find a way to cover this season. Unlike school-sanctioned sports, club teams must raise money for everything from travel costs to meet entry fees, Hytek Team Manager Software, team swimsuits, cover up parka jackets and necessary training gear like kick boards, hand paddles, leg floats, leg bindings, fins, goggles and swim caps.

“This program will rely on donations and fundraising to pay for the costs involved,” Gressley said.

She’s thrilled PHS students now have another sport to participate in and kids in the summer swim program have a team they’ll be able to compete on.

“I’m so excited for this new club sport to be offered at our high school,” she wrote on her Facebook page.

“We have a lot of talented, competitive swimmers from our summer recreational swim team that will take the mounting blocks this year and representing our great community as elite athletes.”

Few would have taken on the task of starting a swim team at a high school without a pool. But Tamara Gressley and her husband, Forrest, who own Gila Concrete and Tonto Rock Products, dream of a day when PHS students swim in front of Rim Country fans at home meets.

It’s the “if you build it, they will come,” philosophy from the movie, “A Field of Dreams.”

So, now PHS has a team.

Finding a pool was a huge step forward. But Gressley would have pushed forward whether she was able to find a pool or not this season because she hopes to see a pool built either at Payson High School or somewhere in Payson in the coming years.

“It’s the only way we can apply for grants,” she said. “We have to have an established team then we are able to apply.

“Even without a pool we will still train out of water and show up for the meets,” she said before she found out they’d be able to practice at Tonto Apache pool.

Town officials have considered the idea of building an indoor pool in the past and talk continues among various groups. However, a plan to bring an elite hockey school to Payson that would have resulted in a new indoor pool died because of lack of political support.

Gressley mentioned the possibility of building a pool at the high school. But PHS Athletic Director Rich Ormand said the town would have to be involved for such a plan to move forward.

“In reality a new pool would probably have to be a town endeavor,” Ormand said. “We would certainly work with the town for a joint venture of a new or refurbished aquatic facility.

“If the town wanted to relocate it to the high school we would be open to see if there could be room for it. It would probably depend on how big a facility. I do know the town still has a dream of an entire recreation center with an aquatic center. If that ever becomes reality remains to be seen. However we are showing a need for a year-round facility in the town of Payson.”

Gressley served as co-head coach last summer of the Payson Parks & Rec summer swim team, the Payson Pikes, with longtime Pikes’ coach Wendy Ward. That team practices and hosts meets in June and July at Taylor Pool, Payson’s aging outdoor public pool.

But there was no summer swim team this year because the town didn’t open the pool due to the added expense of keeping everyone safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Students can still join the team for the inaugural season since they’ve just started and haven’t even gotten into the pool in a season that runs through Nov. 4 and features meets at Cottonwood Mingus, Flagstaff, Prescott, Prescott Valley, Bradshaw Mountain and Sedona.

Any high school student can email coach Gressley at swimteamcoach1@gmail.com to let her know they’re interested in being part of the team.

Students can still take part even if they’re involved in other fall sports since the team practices before school and most other sports practice and compete after school or at night.

Gressley inquired about the possibility of renting out Taylor Pool for the upcoming season but said it will cost $20,000.

So, that’s not realistic.

Then she talked to hotel managers in the area about the possibility of using their pools, before getting the go-ahead from the Tonto Apache Gym pool.

They’re still practicing on the high school track from 6:45-7:45 a.m., but plan to move to 6:15-7:45 a.m. practices once they start at the pool.

How to helpTo find out about the options to donate, you can like the Payson Swim Club’s Facebook page, email Gressley at swimteamcoach1@gmail.com or visit the GoFundMe page at: gofundme.com at https://www.gofundme.com/f/payson-longhorn-club-swim-team-fundraiser.

But it’s not just financial help that the club needs.

“If you would like to volunteer, assistant coach, help at swim meets, in water stroke instruction, help put together pre-swim meet meals/snacks for our away meets, or protein bars for early morning practices, please contact me ASAP as we have much need for help,” she said.

Contact the reporter at kmorris@payson.com

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