40 Pools

Celebrating a Big Birthday with 40 Swims

#21: St. Francis College Aquatics Center

on April 20, 2012
Hannah, Janet, Mike

How much room do we have? This much!

Location: Downtown Brooklyn, New York

Configuration: 6 lanes of 25 yards

Fee: Free with Terrier Masters workout group

Fees to Date: $151.41

Pay close attention, because I am only going to tell you this once: You can have your own lane for a coached workout in a well-kept 25 yard pool five days a week for free. You don’t have to be on a quest to swim in 40 pools or to know anyone special; you do need to be a USMS member, and then all it takes is showing up to swim at 6:00 a.m. on weekdays.

polo championship bannerspolo caps and ballsThe pool belongs to St. Francis College, and the swim group is the Terriers, named after the college teams. In the aquatics world, St. Francis is best known for its men’s water polo team, which routinely wins Division I titles. Evidence of this isn’t hard to find: You pass a trophy case soon after entering the building, championship banners from the 1960s to 2010 line the walls above the pool, polo goal nets sit on deck, and the equipment room is full of balls and caps.

Mike, a great swimmer and volunteer I know through open water events, clued me in to this marvel, and Janet and I made the trip to swim with him early this morning. The East River was beautifully calm and pink with the reflection of the pre-sunrise sky as I crossed the Brooklyn Bridge, and it was a treat to be able to enjoy the view at that hour (though not something I’d want to wake up early enough for every day!). Arriving at the pool, it felt like we were entering a secret society–through the hall, down the stairs, turn on the lights, put in the lane lines, string up the flags, and presto, a pool of our very own.

The coaches on deck, Ben and Megan, provided a warm welcome and a challenging workout. Aside from this daily morning mitzvah, they both coach women’s water polo at St. Francis and work other jobs. There were at most a handful of other people participating, and the three of us each had our own lane except when Janet and I had separation anxiety and decided to share. Some of the swimmers did Ben’s workout, and some did their own thing. (Our timing worked out very well, as it turns out that Ben and Mike had gone surfing out at Rockaway yesterday morning rather than going to St. Francis.)

The pool was quite pleasant, if not as glamorous as you might expect of a polo powerhouse. My only complaint would be the dim lighting, and guess what? Starting very soon, the pool is going to close for a couple months for renovations that will replace the filtration system and redo the lighting. Problem solved.

Thank you, “little college of big dreams,” for proving that sometimes life is every bit as good as a dream.

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