You might say Jackson Hole High School boys swimming won its first race by a fingertip.
Early on during Wednesday’s Teton County School Board meeting, it appeared the nays would hold off the yeas, who seemed to have the stronger kick.
But both motions to table the matter of adding a Broncs boys swim and dive team for the 2022-23 school year — until either the next board meeting, on Nov. 9, or until next spring — failed.
And that’s when the yeas made their move, with board member Betsy Carlin making a motion to add it, board member Alan Brumsted seconding, and both voting with fellow board members Keith Gingery and Jennifer Zung to pass the motion 4-3.
“There was some pretty intense debating about it,” said Broncs girls swim and dive coach Jim Jenkins, the presumed selection to also coach Jackson’s first full boys swim and dive team starting Nov. 28. “That’s about as close as you can get,” he said of the 4-3 vote. “I was relieved. I was pleasantly surprised.”
Jackson Hole High School Activities Director Mike Hansen made the pitch to the board at an estimated cost of $20,000 for coaching salaries and transportation for an initial team of 10 boys, but it was met with more than a little resistance from some board members.
“I don’t like to get pushed into these things,” said board member Janine Bay Teske.
The board had only a week’s notice for the consideration, she said. At a time when the school district doesn’t have enough money to pay all of its bills, it doesn’t look good, Teske said.
“The optics of this, when we don’t have enough money to pay utilities,” she said.
Teske suggested the decision be tabled until a comprehensive study on the cost of all activities at both the high school and Jackson Hole Middle School could be done.
Girls softball will be “the next shoe to fall,” Teske said.
Kristen Mayo, the district’s executive director of resources, said during the meeting that the $20,000 or more to pay for boys swimming would come from the district’s reserve fund since its budget was finalized in July.
Teske and board member Kate Mead both made motions to table the decision, Mead until the next board meeting on Nov. 9, Teske until next spring (her term ends in December 2022), but both failed.
Board Chairman Gingery said Nov. 9 would likely be too late after staff indicated the clock was running and that the Wyoming High School Activities Association would need to know soon to prepare meet schedules, etc. While girls swimming is a fall sport that concludes in early November in Wyoming, boys swimming is a winter sport that starts in late November and runs into February.
Hunter Scott, a senior at Jackson Hole Community School, spoke during the meeting and described the ordeal of traveling to Pinedale the past three years to swim for Sublette County. Pinedale and Big Piney high schools are combined.
“Frankly, it sucks,” said Scott, also a member of the Jackson Hole Stingrays club swim team that includes boys and girls, but mostly middle school boys.
“They have exploded in numbers in the last four years,” coach Jenkins told the board.
So much so that the swim club — which uses the Teton County/Jackson Recreation Center pool, as does the Jackson Hole High School girls swim and dive team — now has a waiting list to join.
“The real impetus to this whole thing happening is the Stingrays have just been working really hard to get their numbers up,” Jenkins told the Jackson Hole Daily on Thursday. With 30-40 middle school boys showing great interest and competing, it means a boys swimming team at the high school will be “sustainable” in the coming years.
Jackson Hole High School has never had a boys swimming team, said Jenkins, who began coaching the girls team in the 1997-98 school year and then took a break and became the assistant for four years before taking the helm of the girls team again this season. In all those years, maybe three boys at most in one season competed as part of the girls team in the early 2000s. Other boys have done like Scott is doing and traveled to Sublette County to participate on that squad.
“I’d like to see us do this now,” Gingery said in voting for the proposal.
Hansen said in an email Thursday that he’s excited for the 10 or so boys who will form the initial Broncs boys swim and dive team, but he understands the hesitation of some board members.
“I think it’s great that our students have access locally to another activity,” Hansen said. “However, I very much understand why there was some apprehension from our board members, as it is a complicated issue.”