DOVER – For a large portion of George Zimmerman’s life, his home away from home was the pool at the Dover Intermediate School.
From 1976 until 1989, he started nearly every day at 6 a.m. at the pool. Much of Zimmerman’s life was spent helping to teach swimming, while also trying to grow the sport within the community and school district.
Now, more than four decades from his start at Dover, Zimmerman was back at the pool Thursday evening.
“The first thing that struck me was the chlorine,” Zimmerman joked.
The first aquatics director and head coach of the Dover High School swim team, Zimmerman has a lot of fond memories from his time at the old digs.
Celebrating the pool: With the pool set to be demolished shortly after Dover’s final home meet of the season next Thursday with rival York Suburban, Zimmerman was on hand when the district celebrated the pool and the swim program before the school’s meet with New Oxford.
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“A lot of memories,” Zimmerman said. “When it opened, I remember that we advertised that we were going to do a learn-to-swim program on Saturday mornings. We were keeping our fingers crossed that people were going to show up. The first group was going to be preschoolers, and we opened the doors and it was like 65 mothers and fathers that were walking their little 4 and 5 year olds to the pool deck for a lesson.”
That turnout certainly helped validate the district’s decision to build the pool in the first place. It also presented many youngsters with a positive impression of the district.
“To a lot of the kids at the time, the swimming pool was their first interaction with the Dover School District,” Zimmerman said. “So we represented the school district and we were the impression that they took home with them. And they had a lot of fun.”
Zimmerman recalls that there was a good bit of controversy over the decision to build a pool in the first place, especially for a district such as Dover, which had a small student population at the time.
Miller thrived with her opportunity: For a girl such as Kris Miller, the pool presented new and exciting opportunities that she never knew existed. Having never participated in a competitive swim event before becoming a freshman at the high school in 1976, Miller really took to the sport.
“I didn’t know anything about swimming back then,” said Miller, who became Dover’s first All-American swimmer in 1978. “All I knew was how to get from one end of the pool to the other. I didn’t know technique or nothing. And during Christmas break (my freshman year), George taught me how to swim butterfly and all the other strokes.”
Under Zimmerman’s guidance, Miller quickly became a standout in the area. That she learned how to swim so well in such a short period of time brought a bit of ire from from the other local high school swimmers.
“A lot of girls didn’t like me,” Miller said. “Because they had been swimming for years and I wasn’t. And I was as good as them or I could beat them.”
Special, but bittersweet, night: For current Dover head coach Ross Spangler, the night was special if not bittersweet.
A 2004 graduate and former standout himself, there were a lot of good memories that Spangler has of his days with the program.
“It’s great to see all of the support,” Spangler said. “A lot of people came out to celebrate all of the good memories that we’ve had in this pool over time. It’s sad to see this facility go, but at the same time all of the past coaches have helped to build such a strong program that we know that we’ll still have a bright future as well.”
New aquatics center being built: Starting next year, that future will be at a new aquatics center just about 100 yards away from the old pool at the still-under-construction new Dover High School.
For a night, however, Spangler, Zimmerman, Miller and others were able to recall all of their favorite moments from the facility.
“To see all of the former alumni here gathered is special,” said Spangler, who saw about a half-dozen of his former classmates on hand Thursday. “And I’m sure it will be special again next week, not just because it’s Senior Night and that it’s against Suburban, but because that will be the final meet ever.”
Dover sweeps: As for the Dover-New Oxford meet, the Eagles rolled to a pair of wins, with the boys grabbing a 127-47, while the Dover girls won, 127-52.
In the boys' win, Dover two individual wins from Silas Barnes (200 freestyle, 500 freestyle), Jaxson Burrage (200 individual medley, 100 backstroke), Austin Smith (500 free, 100 butterfly) and Tanner Glatfelter (100 free, 100 breastroke).
Kennedy Coble (200 IM, 100 back) and Emma Pequignot (100 fly, 100 breast) each had two individual wins for the Dover girls. Lauren Richter won the 200 free and 500 free for New Oxford.
Reach Ryan Vandersloot at email@example.com.