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AUSTIN EDITION Ellis Pool is still top-notch

Who can remember what the old one looked like?

Covering the section swimming and diving meet last week at the Ellis pool once again made me appreciate the fine sports facilities in Austin.

For those of us Austin High alumni who can remember what the old pool in the bowels of the high school was like, the Ellis facility is still state-of-the-art over 30 years after its construction.

The old pool was situated in the basement of what by the 1970s had become known as the "old gym." That's back when the Ove Berven Gym wasn't old, it was the best place in the state to watch a basketball game, but that's another story.

Swimming in that old pool was like venturing into an underground cavern system. There was barely enough room to swim, let alone host an event like a section meet.

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No place to dive

With a pair of Austin girls qualifying for the upcoming Class A State Meet in the diving competition, it gave me another chance to ponder the past. In the old days, the ceiling was too low and they couldn't dive in the pool at AHS.

Packers coach Lynn Gulbrandson has presided over the swimming and diving program for most of the years that the Ellis pool has existed. Yet, a majority of the credit for getting the pool built in the early 1970s goes to legendary Packers coach Bud Higgins.

The former coach built the Packers into a competitive program and Gulbrandson has carried on that tradition. The Packers were fine hosts of the Section 1A Meet and the Ellis pool continues to draw rave reviews from the visiting teams that come into town.

Stare at the ceiling

It was plenty noisy at the section meet as the fans cheered loudly for their favorite girls. The low ceiling at the Ellis pool caused the yelling and clapping to reverberate, making for a true tournament scene.

In the old days, there wasn't enough room for this type of crowd. The ceiling was so low you almost hit your head when entering the old pool at AHS and that was just in gym class, not under meet conditions.

Anybody who doesn't appreciate the athletic facilities available to Austin athletes should be put in a time machine and transported back to tread water in the old basement pool while staring at the close proximity of the ceiling.

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If the state of the sporting facilities are a reflection of the town, then Austin should be highly thought of by surrounding communities.

Emotions run high

While the state of the sporting venue was left to be pontificated on by those watching the section meet, the girls in the pool had a more pressing agenda. They were fighting for a berth in the state meet at the University of Minnesota Aquatic Center in Minneapolis.

Seven girls from Austin made it to state, but many others from the 10 teams at the section meet were left behind. In the end, tears were shed because for many the season came to an end.

This is an exciting time for the girls who get to keep swimming and diving. Still, they couldn't have made it this far without being pushed by the competitors who have now fallen by the wayside.

All of this emotion was summed up by Austin senior Lindsay Lukes. She was down after sub-par performances in the preliminaries, but was all smiles after qualifying for state in four events. It was even sweeter in her final appearance at the Ellis pool.

Scott Kolb is a Post-Bulletin sports writer. He writes a weekly Tuesday column and can be reached at skolb@postbulletin.com

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