Moffat County Profile: Sylvia Griffith

Michelle Balleck

Sylvia Griffith has webbed feet and chlorine running through her veins.

Or at least that’s how she describes her addiction to swimming and the city of Craig pool.

She has been the aquatics manager at the Craig Swimming Complex for more than 20 years. She has spent her whole life here.

“It’s my hometown,” she said.

She graduated from Moffat County High School 30 years ago, and 90 of the 125 graduates in her class were still living close by at their 10-year reunion.

“It makes it really neat to have lifelong friends,” she said.

And she wouldn’t want it any other way.

“What’s not to like about Craig?” she said. “Everybody knows your business, but all those things that are aggravating are also endearing.”

She married her husband, Michael, at the age of 17, or “almost 18” as Griffiths said. They have three children, Mistalyn, Jared and Tyrel.

They also have two grandchildren, Tya, 6, and Saeban, 5, and are expecting a third, Jillian.

Spending time with kids is what keep Griffiths at the pool. They are her favorite part of her job.

“Look at all those smiling faces,” she said, with a matching one on her own face, as she watched middle school students playing water basketball.

She started her position at the pool 25 years ago and recently returned after a four-year hiatus at Ridgeview Elementary School, where she was a teacher’s aide.

“I’m happy to be back,” she said. “There were a lot of aspects of it I missed. I never really got out of it, I guess.”

The complex includes a 220,000-gallon lap pool and 180,000-gallon wave pool, a favorite among youths. And many of the swimmers are from out-of-town. Griffiths sees families from Steamboat Springs, Meeker and Oak Creek.

“It’s really kind of a regional draw,” she said.

The pool records about 40,000 visits each summer and employs almost 50 people, allowing lifeguards to go on vacation or attend camp.

Last week, Griffiths opened the pool for Craig Intermediate School and Craig Middle School students to enjoy during their physical education period. Friday was the final day for swimming.

“I always have mixed feelings (about that),” she said.

But the end of summer does not mark the end of Griffiths’ job.

“We’ve got two weeks of work getting pools ready for winter,” Griffiths said.

Then she hits the books. In October and November, the staff analyzes numbers and pool reports, and by January “we start getting ready for next year.”

She orders supplies and starts hiring guards in February and March. and by the middle of May, kids will be back at the pool for gym class again.

“It keeps going and going and going and going,” Griffiths said.

She also stays busy through the winter teaching swim lessons, gymnastics and senior swimnastics, water aerobics for older people.

She also finds time to be a lifeguard instructor, helping potential guards become CPR and first aid certified.

She’s proud she has gone 20 years with no drowned swimmers at the pool, but hopes she can expand her staff to include a Spanish-speaking guard in the coming years.

She also strives to make swimming a prominent sport again. She grew up two blocks from the pool and always had a season pass to go there.

“When I was a kid, that’s all there was to do,” Griffiths said.

But now, youths have so many other activities to choose from, and the pool is not as well-visited, she said.

“I really wish we could get more kids back in lessons,” she said.

She uses a favorite quote by Plato in lessons often to impress upon people how important a skill swimming is for everyone to master.

“‘Man is not learned until he can read, write and swim,'” she said. “Think about those people in New Orleans. They have to know how to swim.”

She intends to stick around at the Craig Swimming Complex to work toward those goals.

Her love of swimming and watching kids grow up in the pool keep her there.

Even when the time comes to retire, she’s not sure she could bring herself to do it.

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