Tahlequah Daily Press

Local News

September 10, 2012

Stingrays, other swimmers worry about the future

TAHLEQUAH — When Kelley Robertson learned of the impending NSU pool closure, she had to fight back the tears.

“I was mortified,” she said. “This could be the end of the swim team.”

Robertson’s son, Jordan, is a standout for the Stingrays, the swim team associated with Boys & Girls Club of Tahlequah, and sanctioned under the auspices of U.S. Swimming.

Jordan, 20, was born with microcephaly: His head is smaller than average, and his brain didn’t develop like that of most children. But there’s nothing average about his achievements in the swimming pool, or his collection of medals, ribbons and public accolades.

When coach Bob Bradshaw moved to town and developed the swim team, Jordan found his niche. In the special-needs arena, he’s one of the top-ranked young swimmers in the U.S., and has been invited to a number of prestigious venues. He recently met Olympic champion Ryan Lochte.

“The swim team has been the world for him,” Robertson said.

She and her husband, Mark, foster two other special-needs kids; they’re on the swim team, too. The Robertsons are afraid if the NSU pool closes for a lengthy period, the team will collapse.

NSU has the only indoor pool in Cherokee County. The Stingrays may use the Fort Gibson Public Schools facility during the pool deck remodel, which is slated to take four to eight weeks. But due to its distance from Tahlequah, that pool may not be viable for practices when the Fitness Center is closed for an extensive overhaul that could take up to a year.

“I can’t begin to tell you what that team has done for these kids,” Robertson said. “I’d do anything to keep it open.”

She’s not just concerned about her own children. Robertson considers the Stingrays an invaluable asset because it costs so little to be part of it.

She wonders why NSU didn’t let the public know about the deck project, even when it was slated for December, so patrons would have time to make contingency plans. And as far as the overall Fitness Center project, she thinks it could be done in stages.

She and her husband both have experience with extensive remodeling projects. Mark is the manager of the Tahlequah Walmart, and Kelley herself was for 20 years a district manager for the company in Florida.

“Walmart went through some tremendous remodels, and we never closed,” she said. “[NSU] can figure out how to do it in phases, so the pool isn’t closed the whole time.”

Bradshaw isn’t happy with the news, either. Since the United States’ successes in the Summer Olympics, the Stingrays team now boasts 45 members. Bradshaw thinks he can work out a deal with Fort Gibson for workouts two days a week, during the deck project. But the team might not survive the longer NSU pool closure.

Like Robertson, Bradshaw believes the Fitness Center could be remodeled in stages, and he doesn’t see the issue as urgent.

“There are some problems, sure, but they’re not that serious,” he said. “Look, the requirements for U.S. Swimming are very strict, and I have to follow their guidelines. Do you think we’d be able to swim there if there were that big of a problem?”

Janice Randall, chief professional officer for B&GC, would like to see another pool built in Cherokee County, by either the city or Cherokee Nation, so the swim team and others wouldn’t have to rely solely on NSU.

“I’d like a facility that would benefit the whole community,” she said.

That suggestion might also make sense to the hundreds of others affected by the closure. A number of women are signed up for a water aerobics course through Continuing Education. Dozens of people swim regularly under doctors’ orders, with conditions like arthritis, Parkinson’s disease and scoliosis. At least three congestive heart failure patients swim at NSU, along with several cancer survivors and people recovering from surgeries and injuries. About a dozen triathletes – including world-class competitor Angela Stewart and her husband, Eddie – and a number of master swimmers hone their skills at NSU.

Some of them may temporarily migrate to another facility. NSU Vice President for Operations Tim Foutch said he’s trying to work out arrangements with pools in other cities, and he’s even looking at the possibility of procuring a portable pool, though he’s not sure where he’d put it.

Susan Semrow, an English instructor at NSU, has been swimming for several years, for both her mental and physical health. She home-schools her daughter, and they – like a number of other local home-school families – use swimming as a P.E. credit.

Semrow said most of the people she knows have neither the time, nor the money, for commutes to Muskogee or even Fort Gibson.

“I know they’re looking at some options, but I want to know why they didn’t work those out before they decided to close the pool,” Semrow said. “I think it would have been nice if they’d taken into consideration all the people who depend on this pool, some of us literally for our sanity. I don’t know what we’re going to do.”

Click here to get the entire Tahlequah Daily Press delivered everyday to your home or office. Code for E-EDITION TRIAL OR SUBSCRIBE Click here to get a free trial or to subscribe to the Tahlequah Daily Press electronic edition.

It's the ENTIRE newspaper (without the paper) for your computer, iPad or e-reader.

Text Only
Local News
  • ths-jazz-2.jpg THS jazz band gets up early to hone performance skills

    It means getting up an hour earlier, and it doesn’t count as a class, but the jazz band at Tahlequah High School enjoys the dedication of a group of enthusiastic students.
    The THS Jazz Band practices every day at 7 a.m., an hour before the start of classes. It numbers 17, and is led by Director Orien Landis.
    “They have to do this before school and they get no class credit, but we have a full band,” Landis said. “They are really excited about this.”

    April 18, 2014 2 Photos

  • Easter-basket-kid.jpg Easter traditions date back centuries

    Some Christians may lament a partial shift of focus, but a Christian holy day - perhaps the most holy of all – is this Sunday, and it will be marked with celebrations all around the world.
    The Christian holiday of Easter celebrates the resurrection of Jesus. For centuries, the observant have fasted, reflected or done penance in the weeks leading to the holiday. But today, many also associate the holiday with the Easter bunny, candy, and kites. In 2013, Americans spent $2.1 billion on Easter candy.

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • Some oppose minimum wage hike; others decry strong-arming by state

    President Barack Obama and the U.S. Senate recently announced a push to raise the federal minimum wage from $7.25 per hour, to $10.10. On the heels of the announcement, an initiative petition was introduced in Oklahoma City to raise the minimum wage to the suggested $10.10. If it gained 80,000 signatures, it would be put to a vote of the people.
    This legislative session, a bill passed prohibiting municipalities from setting a minimum was or vacation and sick-day requirements. Gov. Mary Fallin signed the bill into law earlier this week.

    April 18, 2014

  • Phone scam takes $500 from couple

    Authorities are warning Cherokee County residents to watch for a costly phone scam that recently targeted a local couple and ended in their loss of $500.
    According to sheriff’s deputies, a couple contacted authorities after losing $500 to the scam. The couple received a phone call from a man who identified himself only as “Mr. Green.” He told the couple they had won $1.5 million through Publisher’s Clearing House, but to collect the money, the couple would have to purchase a $500 money card to cover various fees.

    April 18, 2014

  • Missing local teen found dead

    The body of a missing 17-year-old boy was found in southern Cherokee County on Thursday, sheriff’s investigators said.
    Brikk Pritchett was reported missing earlier this month after disappearing on March 30, a day before his 17th birthday.

    April 18, 2014

  • ts honor flight 1.tif Flight of honor

    World War II veteran Charles Harra flew missions for the Army Air Corps, and if you ask him which flight was his most memorable, he’ll say it was his 35th mission.

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • Man charged after leading authorities on wild chase

    Prosecutors have formally charged a man who allegedly led authorities on a wild high-speed pursuit across Cherokee County in late March.

    April 17, 2014

  • Sex offender bonds out after failing to register

    A Cherokee County man is out on bond after being arrested last week for failing to register as a sex offender.

    April 17, 2014

  • jn radiator shop.jpg ‘Greenbelt’ progressing

    Crews this week began to demolish an abandoned radiator shop at the corner of South Street and Guinn Avenue.

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • ts slut walk.tif SlutWalk shines spotlight on crime

    “Two, four, six, eight, stop the violence, stop the rape; slut, slut, ho, ho, yes means yes and no means no!”
    This was the battle cry across the campus of Northeastern State University, as the student branch of the American Association of University Women held its third annual SlutWalk Wednesday.

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo


What to you think of a state Legislature proposal to forbid cities from raising the minimum wage? Choose the closest to your opinion.

The federal government should set the minimum wage across the board.
States should be allowed to raise their minimum wages, but not cities.
Both states and cities should be allowed to raise their minimum wages.
Cities should be allowed to raise their mimum wages, but not states.
There should be no minimum wage at all.
     View Results
Tahlequah Daily Press Twitter
Follow us on twitter
AP Video
Raw: More Than 100,000 Gather for Easter Sunday Raw: Greeks Celebrate Easter With "Rocket War" Police Question Captain, Crew on Ferry Disaster Raw: Orthodox Christians Observe Easter Rite Ceremony Marks 19th Anniversary of OKC Bombing Raw: Four French Journalists Freed From Syria Raw: Massive 7.2 Earthquake Rocks Mexico Captain of Sunken SKorean Ferry Arrested Raw: Fire Destroys 3 N.J. Beachfront Homes Raw: Pope Presides Over Good Friday Mass Raw: Space X Launches to Space Station Superheroes Descend on Capitol Mall Man Charged in Kansas City Highway Shootings Obama Awards Navy Football Trophy Anti-semitic Leaflets Posted in Eastern Ukraine Raw: Magnitude-7.2 Earthquake Shakes Mexico City Ceremony at MIT Remembers One of Boston's Finest Raw: Students Hurt in Colo. School Bus Crash Deadly Avalanche Sweeps Slopes of Mount Everest