Batavia athletic director Dave Andrews believes the school’s new swimming co-op with West Chicago is the school’s first such arrangement in an IHSA-sanctioned sport.
While Bulldogs athletes have known mixed company in club activities such as hockey, the swimming partnership allows them to compete full-time as Wild Dogs.
No, that isn’t an indictment of anyone’s stroke mechanics, simply the fusion of “Wildcats” with “Bulldogs.” That is the team’s handle, and it’s proud.
Batavia freshman Myanna Cook wasted little time in becoming one of the co-op’s pioneering members, advancing to last month’s girls swimming and diving state meet in the 100-yard backstroke.
In the past, Batavia swimmers competed for their club teams throughout the boys or girls seasons before gathering a faculty sponsor to come on deck for the IHSA state series. Siblings Albert and Catrina Roth, who swam at Dartmouth and Syracuse, respectively, topped the recent list.
“Just through discussions with parents, many had talked about their kids’ desire to be on an actual school team,” Andrews said. “To me, it just made sense to explore that [co-op] avenue. It was pretty natural, actually.”
With West Chicago entering the Upstate Eight Conference Valley Division from the DuPage Valley Conference this season, Batavia emerged as a co-op partner. Andrews worked alongside West Chicago counterpart Doug Mullaney to sort the red tape.
“Certainly have seen a lot of positive changes for the team,” Mullaney said. “We have obviously more numbers, we’re competitive in the conference … and we’re just able to field more athletes and provide opportunities for the kids at Batavia.”
Four girls competed in the fall season, while five boys – including Cook’s senior brother, Karsten – recently began their campaigns. The Batavians take a school bus to West Chicago’s pool, a familiar place for any of them who swim for the West Chicago Sharks during club season.
Geneva, whose coach, Mary Keyzer, has taken a group of at least nine girls to practice at West Chicago in recent falls, also showed some interest. Batavia’s existing relationship with the nearby school certainly helped.
“We’re happy for them,” Keyzer said. “It’s a great opportunity for those kids.”
In an email, Geneva athletic director Jim Kafer wrote the school will continue to explore options as long as there’s interest among students.
Keyzer was set to meet this week with prospective boys swimmers; she knew there were at least five returners, but was unsure about any freshmen.
At Batavia, the Cooks might not quite carry the legacy of certain families to swim at the St. Charles schools or Marmion, but they at least offer their town’s sports-loving public known commodities.
While Batavia lacks a pool, it still boasts Wild Dogs in the race. Brian Grebner, Cooper Hawkins, Noah Randall and Mohammed Salam also are part of the co-op boys team.
“It’s just going to grow organically in the community because I know we have more than a few swimmers,” Andrews said.
Until then, Batavia is happy to get its feet wet as part of a full swim team.
• Kevin Druley is a sportswriter for the Kane County Chronicle. He can be reached at 630-845-5347 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @kevindruley.