Swim Meets at the Pierre Pool: Tales From a Survivor

Swimming is hard, but the Pierre meet is worse. Junior Ali Kirsch recounts her story of pain, struggle, and disgusting locker rooms.

By Alison Kirsch

As Charli Stamper, seasoned swimmer and avid meet-goer states, “I don’t like the Pierre pool. It’s dirty. And gross. Are you able to come to my softball game tonight?” The Pierre meet may just be the worst swim meet to ever exist on the USA Swimming rosters. However, the more time you spend wallowing in the disaster that is the Pierre Aquatic Center, the more equipped you are at surviving the meet. 

Showing up to the pool is probably the most frenzied, crowded event one can experience. Parents running around frantically with their set sheets, trying to find their children before they miss their race; Pool managers constantly patrolling the area; Coaches (who are supposed to be watching their racers) sitting in a circle talking casually and blocking the entire entryway. The Pierre Aquatic Center is made up of three decks for seating, including the bottom floor where the pool is. Strangely enough, every single deck is always packed with bodies. A word of advice: AVOID THE LOCKER ROOMS AT ALL COSTS. They are carpeted. Carpeted. This induces an absolutely putrid smell akin to that of a moldy, wet dog. The only locker rooms that do not have carpet are located extremely far away from the pool, but it’s well worth the walk. 

Even more hectic than arriving at the aquatic center are the warmups. The pool deck is small, and with the extra hundreds of bodies packed together you can easily get lost in a sea of nervous swimmers. Latch on to your coach and hold on for dear life as he wades through the crowd, delivering you to your destination: the warmup lane. Looking out at the water two important details are evident. One, it’s green. The pool managers put so much iron in the water in order to turn their pool green, which is their team color. Two, it oozes a cold draft. As Philip Piniero states, “The pool is cold. Like really *explicit* cold”. The pool is like a lake in Antarctica. Jump in fast and go crazy. Swim at a feverish pace in order to produce your own body heat so you don’t die of hypothermia. 

After warming up, get out of the pool and run. Well, don’t run (that will earn you a stern talking-to), but walk very fast. Even though it’s winter, the aquatic center keeps their air conditioning on full blast. Hurry to your chairs and bury yourself in a mountain of blankets before you lose feeling in your legs. I stay under my blankets for the majority of the meet, only ever protruding from my cave to grab the food my dearest parents gather for me. Eating is one of the most essential practices during a swim meet. You can’t expect me to swim a 400 IM running on the sad bowl of cereal I had at 5 AM that morning; I’d rather fall over and perish. Acceptable foods are as follows: cheap Walmart smoothies, generic pretzels, fruit of any kind, and a copious amount of yogurt.  

Races are by far the worst part of any swim meet. If you hear a swimmer say that their favorite part of a meet is racing, they are deranged. Back away slowly.  My official doctrine regarding races states that one should swim as fast as they can in order to get out of the freezing pool as soon as possible. My races are a blur of struggle, pain, and the occasional annoying pop song that always seems to find its way into my head.  

Swimming is hard, but the Pierre meet is worse. However, it’s not all bad. Usually, the Pierre meet in on my birthday, and so they call my name on the loudspeaker and tell me happy birthday.  I strongly believe that if it were not for that one aspect, I would refuse to attend. 

Header image courtesy of the author