Feature by Jennifer Wilson, Swimming World intern
EVANSTON, Illinois, January 28. ADD them to your bucket list, swimmers. Given that a single list could not encompass all deciding factors, categories have been included for clarity's sake.
The History Buffs
George F. Haines International Swim Center, and Fort Lauderdale Aquatic Center (International Swimming Hall of Fame).
Home to Santa Clara Swim Club, the International Swim Center is not only named after one of the greats, but has produced many of them. Mark Spitz trained here, and Olympians return each year for the Santa Clara International Invitational. It may not be a state-of-the-art facility, but that certainly hasn't inhibited fast swimming. To date, 26 World, 35 American and 64 Foreign National Records have been broken at the pool.
For students of the sport, the Fort Lauderdale pool holds few comparisons. The Aquatic Complex and ISHOF will be forever paired. The pool has hosted national and local events as well as Olympian and amateur swimmers for the past half a century. Venture down the road to the Hall of Fame museum for historical enlightenment and inspiration. Additionally, Fort Lauderdale is in the midst of a renovation of the facility.
High and Mighty
The Olympic Training Center. Countless national team members flock to Colorado Springs each year. This training-trip headquarters is not for the faint-hearted though—at altitude, yours will have to pump harder, and that difference can be unpleasant. But upon returning to sea level, you'll feel tangible results as well as an extreme sense of accomplishment.
IU Natatorium and Federal Way (Weyerhaeuser King County Aquatic Center).
Arguably the two most famous pools in the country, each one continues to measure up to its reputation. "The Nat's" seating capacity makes it the biggest pool in the country, but that only begins to indicate just how much it has to offer. 101 American and 15 World Records have been set in the pool to date at national meets, NCAAs, and Olympic Trials.
Since 1990, Federal Way has accrued an equally impressive event resume. It certainly hasn't passed its prime: guess which city drew hosting duties for the NCAA Division I Men's Championships in 2012?
New Kids on the Block
University of Iowa, and University of Missouri Aquatic Centers.
These recently-built aquatic centers certainly have all the amenities imaginable. Iowa just opened and is already slated to host both the men and women's Big Ten Conference Championships next year. Site of the Missouri Grand Prix, Mizzou's pool has already gained a reputation for producing fast swims. Both sites will be regular championship destinations in the future.
The Clothes Make the Man
SMU Perkins Natatorium, and Orlando YMCA Aquatic Center.
These pools earned their spots on the list not because of the facilities themselves but because of the events that define them. Each January the Dallas Classic draws in swimmers from the best collegiate men's teams in the country and the energy created by the athletes and crowd of a few hundred has a transformative effect on the small six-lane pool. As for the Orlando Y, it's where most young swimmers get to experience their first national meet. NCSA Junior Nationals as an event for those at the developmental national level it's hard to find much better. The relatively lenient time standards lead to a massive meet with a unique buzz—and the retractable roofs create an outdoor pool feel.
Jennifer Wilson is a Swimming World intern who currently competes as a junior at Northwestern. She is a breaststroke specialist who is majoring in journalism.