They have transitioned from a cramped and dingy four-lane pool to a spacious and well-lit eight-lane facility.
That has not been the only upgrade for the Davenport Central boys swimming program this winter. The performances in the water have vastly improved, too.
Central compiled a winning dual record and has participants in 10 of the 11 events Saturday afternoon at the Iowa high school state meet in Marshalltown, believed to be the most for the program in at least four decades.
“This feels more like a home,” junior Andrew Shie said of the facility that opened last month. “The last pool was like a burden and not very fun to practice in, but every day we come in here, we want to practice because it is really nice and makes us want to get better.”
The Blue Devils immediately made a giant splash in their new digs.
In its only meet of the season at the pool on Jan. 19, Central broke two school records — the 200 medley relay and Shie in the 100 breaststroke (58.76 seconds).
The relay, comprised of Joseph Shie, Andrew Shie, Charley Cummins and Seth Land, swam what was then a state season-best time of 1 minute, 37.58 seconds. And that came after a 7,000-yard workout the night before.
“They weren’t tapered for it but they just went after it,” coach Duane Stahl said. “They asked if they could wear the fast suits. They wanted to take a shot at the school record, but they didn’t expect to go that fast.”
Bettendorf out-touched Central in the relay by less than a tenth of a second at the district meet last week. Still, the Blue Devils are positioned to challenge for a championship and a podium finish (top six) this weekend.
“We’re a community, we like each other and we’re brothers,” Joseph Shie said. “We all like to compete and put effort into a team relay.”
This is the quartet’s first season together.
Cummins and the Shie brothers were on last year’s medley relay that qualified for state, but the addition of Land has elevated Central to a title contender. He and his brothers, Devin and Wyatt, moved in from the Rock Island district last summer.
Seth, an Illinois state qualifier in the 500 freestyle last season and sectional runner-up in the 200 free, has qualified in four events.
Paul Eure, an assistant coach, and Central’s academic programs were influential in the decision to change school districts.
“I wanted to better myself in both fields — academics and swimming,” Seth said. “It has been amazing to be part of this program and swim with kids I have in club since i was 12.”
Each member of that medley relay qualified in their specialty stroke. Joseph Shie is in the 100 backstroke, Andrew Shie is seeded third in the 100 breaststroke, Cummins is in the second heat of the 100 fly and Land will swim the 50 and 100 freestyles.
Devin Land, meanwhile, qualified in the 200 and 500 freestyles while the Land and Shie brothers are seeded 11th in the 400 freestyle relay.
“It represents Central well to have that many events, but it does put pressure on us to perform well,” Joseph Shie said.
Central is projected to score points (top-16 finish) in seven of the 10 events it is entered. The Blue Devils didn't score a point at last year's state meet.
“It has been a really special season,” Cummins said. “It has been nice coming to the new facility and proving we are still a good team.”
Because of that, the perception of swimming has changed at Central. The Blue Devils have nearly 30 swimmers in the program, and Joseph Shie is the lone senior among the state qualifiers.
“People recognize it more here,” Seth Land said. “They realize there is a new pool and everyone wants to get in the pool, so many kids want to join swimming. You add that with the success we’re having, it is bringing motivation back to the sport.”
It was a lengthy process just getting into the facility.
Central spent the first half of the season practicing mostly at Davenport North and occasionally using the Davenport West pool.
“It was a little bit frustrating because they kept telling us it would be this week, then it was pushed back another week, a week after that,” Andrew Shie said. “Once we came here, we knew this was going to be a really good home for us.
“This will really give our program a boost for years ahead.”