Grand Junction Dolphins swim club to merge with Maverick Aquatics on July 1
An era is coming to an end.
Friday at the El Pomar Natatorium at Mesa State College was the first day of the 57th annual Grand Junction Dolphins Invitational Swim Meet.
After 57 years, this is the final meet for the Dolphins.
The Dolphins are merging with a new Mesa State team called Maverick Aquatics, and as of July 1, the Dolphins will be extinct.
“It’s sad that a lot of the Dolphins tradition is coming to an end,” Dolphins swimmer Tyler Fair, 16, said. “But it’s good to have something new happening.”
Jacob Swinn, who runs a swim club in Roseburg, Ore., is the coach of Mavericks Aquatics. Longtime Dolphins coach Dale Leonhart and his assistant Terri Hermes don’t know their future as coaches within the new club, but Leonhart said he would like to be involved as an assistant coach. During the school year, Leonhart will continue to coach the Grand Junction High School girls swim team as well as the boys District 51 Griffins.
“I’ve had my hand on the tiller for 20 years, but now I have to move over and that’s okay,” Leonhart said. “That’s how progress works and it’s a good thing for swimming in the valley, but not a good thing for the Grand Junction Dolphins traditions.”
No one from the new Mavericks Aquatics was at Friday’s meet, but Hermes said the college has planned to add a youth swimming club for a while.
“The college had their minds set on it before we came to train (at El Pomar) so it was already in the process,” Hermes said. “They wanted their own club and Junction wasn’t big enough for two clubs so the Dolphins have laid the groundwork and it’s more practical to join them than trying to stay on our own.”
The Dolphins train at El Pomar, and would have to compete for pool time if it didn’t merge with Maverick Aquatics. The merge is happening midseason and during the next big event at El Pomar, the Western Slope Championships in late July, Maverick Aquatics will be competing in place of the Dolphins.
Leonhart said the timing isn’t perfect for the switch since the club swimming season isn’t over until August.
“It’s awkward if you look at it from the competitive swimming side,” said Leonhart, who took over the Dolphins in 1991. “You would want to go to the end of the season and search during July and August and seat the new guy in the beginning of September.
“But now, the guy they hired is leaving a club he was at midseason and coming here.”
The Dolphins started in 1954, and are the longest running swim club in the state of Colorado. The Grand Junction Dolphin Invite is one of the longest running club swimming meets in the country.
“We started kids on their way to being responsible young adults with a good understanding of work and the rewards of work,” Leonhart said. “I still have swimmers come back to see me today and it’s a family situation where we’ve built up an amazing network.”
The Dolphins meet is the first significant long course event of the summer. Some of the top Dolphins’ swimmers Friday included Taylor Kidd, who finished third in the girls 13-14 100-meter backstroke in 1 minutes 15.02 seconds, and third in the 200 freestyle in 2:22.22.
Fair finished fifth in the boys 15-over 100 backstroke in 1:08.64.
After the first day of Dolphins Invite, the Loveland Swim Club lead the team results with 487 points. The Dolphins are in seventh with 106 points.