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Frances Meadows Aquatics Center set to host state swim meet
More than 1,200 swimmers and 6,000 guests expected to visit Gainesville this weekend
Splash Aquatic swimmer Paul Powers, a North Hall High senior, practices at the Frances Meadows Aquatics Center on Monday. The Gainesville Parks and Recreation is hosting the two-day state swim meet for ages 7-18 at the venue Friday-Saturday. - photo by Jared Putnam

Running the state swimming championships at the Frances Meadows Aquatics Center this weekend is something that its division manager Andi Harmon knows will require all hands on deck to make run smoothly.

The meet, sanctioned by the Georgia Recreation and Parks Association, will bring more than 1,200 swimmers and 20 teams ranging in age from 7-18 to the Gainesville indoor facility for a two-day meet starting Friday. The meet is hosted by the Gainesville Parks and Recreation at Frances Meadows, which is also where the Splash Aquatic team trains.

“The kids are so excited to have the meet here,” Harmon said. “They’re proud of their facility and excited to show it off to the rest of the state.”

The Gainesville Parks and Recreations department earned hosting privileges after a successful bid in December, 2012 to the board of directors of the Georgia Recreation and Parks Association.

When swimming starts on Friday, staff and volunteers will be responsible for keeping the meet — with swimmers coming from Valdosta all the way up to Dalton — running on time and the pool’s deck clear. Local swimmers representing both Splash Aquatic and the Lanier Aquatics, both based in Gainesville, are trying to bring home state titles.

Splash Aquatic coach Andy Deichert says that the Frances Meadows’ activity room, measuring 4,400-square feet, will be used to allow swimmers to unwind and rest away from the pool. Also, the Splash Zone outdoor water park will be available to swimmers during the day.

Parking will also be available with the Frances Meadows facility holding room for 300 cars, while the adjacent Gainesville Middle School has parking for 340 vehicles.

According to Harmon, an expected 6,000 attendees will be in Gainesville for the swim meet, the majority of those out-of-town visitors who will bring money into the local economy.

A kick-off party is scheduled for Thursday night at Frances Meadows as swimmers arrive in Gainesville for the weekend, along with a concert in downtown Gainesville on Friday, another chance for visitors to be introduced to local businesses.

“We hope to hold a first-class, well-run event,” Deichert said. “Our goal is to meet everyone’s needs.”

Deichert adds that everyone from management and supervisors to custodians and maintenance will have a hand in making sure the meet runs smoothly.

The Splash Aquatic coach is also excited to give some of his youngest athletes exposure to meets at a high level.

While Deichert is well known for coaching the Powers brothers, Paul and Ty, he’s also excited about the potential of a younger crop of athletes, most who have been with his program one year, or less.

“In my career, I’ve worked with swimmers from Australia that made the Olympic team,” Deichert said. “But I find working with swimmers at this level just as thrilling and exciting.

“They have the same passion, energy for swimming and get the same fulfillment out of it.”

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