DESTIN — Not only is the South Walton High facility expanding, but their athletic program is as well with the addition of a swim program.
“We were looking to expand our athletic department as our school expands,” said South Walton Athletic Director Phil Tisa.
Right after graduation in May, South Walton began construction on the addition of 10 new classrooms to keep up with the growth. And with more students comes more interests.
“We surveyed around 600 students and got over 90 positive responses to swimming,” Tisa added.
“I think it fits well with our community and that we could become competitive pretty quickly.”
Heading up the new swim team is 29-year-old David Shackelford of Fort Walton Beach, who won a gold medal as a sophomore for the Vikings when he anchored the 200 freestyle relay.
Earlier this week the South Walton Seahawks had their first official practice at the Destin Aquatic Center, which will be their home pool.
“It’s a new thing for a lot of them,” Shackelford said.
The Seahawks have between 30 and 40 athletes on the swim team and have plans to compete in five swim meets this season.
“We should have a strong girl’s team,” he said, noting such swimmers as junior Emily Thompson and seniors Katie Pickers and Alli Diebolt.
Shackelford said a lot of the girls have swum for club groups or have a background in swimming but maybe haven’t done it in a while.
As for the boys, Shackelford said they are “young and still learning.” The majority of the boys swim team is freshmen and sophomores with one senior who has never swam competitively.
The Seahawks have five meets scheduled this first season but will not be able to participate in the district or region tournaments according to the Florida High School Athletic Association.
Nevertheless, Shackelford said they looking to get them as much time in the pool as possible.
The team practices Monday through Friday with the first meet slated for Sept. 1 against Choctawhatchee High at the Destin Aquatic Center.
“We have a group of motivated teenagers that want to prove something,” Shackelford said. “We’re going to have fun … but we want to work hard and compete.”