Diving in | CraigDailyPress.com

Diving in

Elementary school students getting their feet wet

John Vandelinder

Ridgeview Elementary School physical education teacher Matt Ray stands at about 6 feet 8 inches tall.

Standing in the center of the Moffat County High School pool – surrounded by fourth-graders -he appears above 10 feet tall.

With good measure.

You see, Ray is on duty.

He has the task – with a little help from his friends – of helping more than 25 children learn the basics of swimming.

Each morning, at precisely 8:55 a.m., student swimmers come busting through their changing room doors ready to make some waves.

“Half of these kids are swimming for the first time,” Ray said. “It is a great opportunity the school system provides them. Most families don’t have money to invest in swim lessons, so we do that here.”

Students from Ridgeview, Sunset and East elementary schools get a chance to do the breast-stroke, some diving and for most participants, the doggy-paddle.

“I love the diving,” 9-year-old Cutter Polly said. “That, and going underwater.”

“Me too, I love the diving the best,” echoed Trace Fallon, 10. “We get to learn a lot of different strokes though.”

Ray isn’t alone in the dispersing of his aquatic knowledge.

Lifeguard Anita Riddles is by his side, as are volunteers Loretta Earle and Steve Tegtman.

“This program introduces them to the water for the first time,” Riddles said. “It helps them to become comfortable and safe around water.”

Tegtman is partaking in his seventh year helping kids learn to swim.

“I believe this is the best project run by the School District we have for the kids in town,” he said. “All the residents in town live by water. It could totally help save lives further down the road.”

For many participants in the two-week long event, they aren’t thinking of what’s down the road.

It’s all about the now.

In the pool.

“I want to be an Olympic swimmer someday,” 9-year-old Sarah Pressley said. “I’m working on my diving today. I love to swim and be around my friends.”

Each elementary school class is allotted 25 minutes a day to work on swimming and water safety.

Ray said he usually starts to get bombarded at least one month before the classes begin, by children eager to have the chance to participate.

“‘Coach Ray, coach Ray, is it swim time yet? Are we gonna swim?’ they ask me,” he said. “They light up every time they come through that door,” said, pointing toward the dressing rooms.

“It’s a thrill to watch these kids learn,” he said. “We have kids who don’t know how to swim when they first get here and by the time they are finished, they are diving in the water.”

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