Shown here are members of the 1982 Ponoka Pool Sharks Competitive Swim Club. We couldn’t put names to all of them

Shown here are members of the 1982 Ponoka Pool Sharks Competitive Swim Club. We couldn’t put names to all of them

Reflections of Ponoka: In the swim with the Ponoka Pool Sharks

Many of us who were raised here will so fondly remember way back to the mid 1970s when our great community

Many of us who were raised here will so fondly remember way back to the mid 1970s when our great community opened their first swimming pool… outdoor water wonder world beside 46 Avenue where we splashed for hours and dove from the high diving board if we dared. At the same time, Ponoka also organized a competitive swimming club, and hundreds of avid fans cheered on these young athletes from the bleachers during countless exciting meets and special events. That great tradition has continued for close to four decades under the leadership and inspiration of the Ponoka Pool Sharks Competitive Swim Club, which has encouraged many generations of children from town and surrounding districts to take to the water and enjoy the fun and challenges of competitive swimming, camaraderie and teamwork.

The club was formed in 1976 and hosted their training and programs in the magnificent Aquaplex swimming pool at 5315-46 Avenue, only a few steps from where the Kinsmen and the community had built that first outdoor pool.  As the Pool Sharks steadily grew over the years, some of the early coaches included Nancy Jackshaw, Lori Holt, Phil Cyr, and Jim Ritchie and Norm Hinkley, with lots of help from dedicated executives, parents, volunteers and pool staff. Billie Jean Goodbun came on board in the 1981-82 season, was joined by her sister Bobby Jo from 1981 to 1985, with BJ taking over the head coach duties and was assisted by Anne Harris during the 1986-87 seasons. Billy Jean (Rowland) came back on deck to co-coach the club with sister Jerry from the mid-90s to 2003, then Brooke Wiancko and Heather Bonnett took the coaching reins until 2006.

Bobbie Jo Christensen resumed the head coaching duties of the Ponoka Pool Sharks in 2006 and has passionately carried on the position to the present day, where she is assisted by Aquaplex Supervisor Jackie Schultz. BJ is extremely proud and pleased to explain that her immediate and extended family have been actively involved in the Pool Sharks for 27 years, and hopes to remain with the always energetic young group for many years to come. The Pool Sharks welcomes boys and girls five to 18 years of age who have developed through regular swimming lessons, are able to swim one length of the Aquaplex and are looking forward to the unique and exciting experiences of this exciting competitive water sport.

Training is based on the ability and age of the swimmer, with the beginner members encouraged to take a casual no stress approach that includes the mastering of their strokes, getting used to the blocks, taking part in a few novice meets, and lots of practise. Later Intermediate groups are urged each day to improve their strokes and interval times in events such as 50 to 1500 freestyle, back stroke, breast stroke, and butterfly swimming competitions. As the young swimmer progresses, there will be countless exciting opportunities throughout the year to take part and achieve standards, awards, and success in prestige events such as the summer games, provincials and many more. Over the years, the Ponoka Pool Sharks have provided hundreds of town and district boys and girls with the opportunities of their unique swimming programs, and from these lifetime values and experiences they have received, many have returned to share their skills and knowledge with family and friends, as well as becoming lifeguards, coaches and, of course, parents.

The ongoing goal of the Ponoka Pool Sharks Competitive Swimming Club, their coaches and mentors, is and always will be to train and encourage each and every member to enjoy and work hard in the vigorous program, while swimming as a team and competing as an individual. Ponoka Pool Sharks practise five days a week from July to September, as well as participating in 14-16 swim meets each season in various age groups and competitive categories.  As a tightly knit group, the senior members assist, teach and encourage the younger members, many of whom will be going out on the deck for the first time in a bathing suit in front of lots of cheering fans, and then stepping up on the blocks for an invigorating session in the pool. With these new experiences at the pool, they quickly gain confidence and self-esteem both as an individual and a member of their team.

Head Coach Bobbi Jo Christensen explains that the club hosts award events on many occasions, with each and every member receiving a reward for their individual efforts and accomplishments. She stressed with a big smile that each Pool Shark season is very busy, and while occasionally they have to learn to be both coaches and mothers, it is so gratifying to see each of their young members developing their own unique personalities, as well as having fun improving their skills both in the water and on the deck. The club is extremely pleased that their membership has increased from 20 to 40 members over the past 10 years, and is really looking forward to a bright future. The current Executive Board of the Ponoka Pool Sharks include: President Scott Shimp, Team Manager Kelly Shimp, Treasurer Lori Turner, Meet Manager Nicky Maxwell, Secretary Shannon Froese, Food Booth Chair Reid Christensen, and of course all parents are welcome to volunteer and cheer during the season.

All new and returning Ponoka Pool Shark members are urged to come out for ‘Shark Week’ at the Aquaplex from Monday, September 22 to Thursday, September 25 for a fun session from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. daily. Registration will take place during this week, and then the season will begin on September 29 at 4 p.m. with a mandatory parent information meeting and annual general meeting to follow. For more information on the Ponoka Pool Sharks Competitive Swimming Club, please call Bobbie at 403-783-8525 or Scott at 403-783-3554. Always remember that swimming could save your life some day, and if you become a member of the Pool Sharks, you can look forward to being in hot water all winter.