The All-City Swim Meet: Over 50 Years of History and Tradition

Photo Courtesy: Madison All City Swim and Dive League

Summer swimming leagues are a popular way to introduce children to the aquatic sport and make them fall in love with it for the rest of their lives. All kinds of summer leagues exist around the U.S. that are similar in training sessions, swim meets, and overall traditions.

All-City Swim League

Up north in the Madison, Wis. area, there is a long-standing summer league called the All-City Swim and Dive. The All-City Swim and Dive league was founded in 1962 with the purpose of introducing kids ages five to 18 to swimming. Starting with only five teams – Ridgewood, Hill Farm, Shorewood, West Side, and Maple Bluff – the All-City Swim Meet competed in one open water summer competition in a lake. Nowadays, thirteen pools are members of the league.


Photo Courtesy: Greg Dixon

For over 50 years of history and tradition, All-City has been providing a fun, dynamic experience in healthy competition and sportsmanship for the youth while forming great friendships and creating life-long summer memories.

The league continues to host the annual All-City Swim Meet. With over 2,100 age group swimmers and over 5,000 entries, it is easily one of the largest outdoor amateur meets in the United States.

Early Years

During the late 1950s, an All-City Swim Meet took place every year at B.B. Clarke Beach in Monona Lake. Swimmers would qualify for the meet throughout the summer and competed in lake events such as the 10- and 20-yard freestyle. Diving events took place as well, including a high dive event.


Photo Courtesy: Madison All-City Swim and Dive League

Similarly, a beach meet would be held at Shorewood Hills. The course was set up on a pier in a small “H” form with wooden brown boards and a red and white target attached at the center on either side so the length would be approximately 25 yards. At the starting signal, they would use a hammer and hit it on the metal pier. There were no blocks, therefore the competitors would dive off the pier and swim between primitive lane lines which allowed weeds, waves, and dead fish to flow freely through.

The B.B. Clarke meet already had “All-City” as a name, so when Hill Farm decided to create the new (and official) pool meet in 1962, it went through several names, such as the City Pool Meet and the All-Madison Pool meet. During the 60s, there was both a pool and a beach meet. It was not until 1984 that only the pool meet was officially established as the Madison All-City Swim Meet.

Founding Pools

The Ridgewood Pool opened in the summer of 1958 on the southwest side of Madison. It joined the league during its inaugural year in 1962. The swimming and diving teams at Ridgewood have had a history of success built on more than 50 years of tradition. In fact, many of the All-City coaches grew up swimming at Ridgewood.


Photo Courtesy: Madison All-City Swim and Diive League

The Hill Farm Swim Club is Madison’s third oldest private outdoor family swim and dive club. It was established in 1960 with the long-lived motto: “Have fun.” They have always enjoyed an excellent reputation throughout Madison’s swimming and diving history as a a cornerstone club providing a safe place for children and families to spend their summers.

The Shorewood Hills Swim and Dive Team is part of the Shorewood Hills Pool. The Shorewood Hills Sharks are a founding member of the All-City Swim and Dive League and has been a part of the local swimming and diving community in Madison for more than 50 years. It is the only outdoor 50-meter pool in the Madison area that is used as an eight lane, 25-yard pool for swim meets. It also has two 1-meter diving boards for diving competitions.

West Side Swim Club was the first pool in the All-City League. Founded in 1961 as part of the West Side Businessman’s Club, West Side was also one of the founding pools for the first All-City Meet in 1962 and has participated every year since.

In 1962, Maple Bluff Country Club became one of the five original teams that established Madison’s All-City Swim and Dive League.


Photo Courtesy: Greg Dixon

Notable Swimmers

Summer swimming leagues have been the cradle for several elite athletes. Brad Horner, a Master’s national and world record-holder in the 100 and 200-meter fly, swam in the All-City Swim Meet during the 60s. Likewise, the first American to go under 50 seconds in the 100-meter free, Jim Montgomery, was a rising swimmer kid at the All-City Swim Meet as well.

University of Wisconsin-Madison student and NCAA finalist Beata Nelson has several breaststroke meet records that remain unbroken. Wisconsin natives Aja Van Hout and Ivy Martin also swam in the All-City Swim League.

Additionally, 2000 Olympic Trials qualifier Jane Evans swam in the All-City Meet right before heading to the national competition.

Furthermore, Shorewood Hills native Erick Heiden, participated at the 1968 edition of the meet. Although he did not become a swimmer, he is a five-time gold medalist in speed skating.



Photo Courtesy: Greg Dixon

As the years go by, the All-City Swim Meet has developed with time, but its roots remain deep in their history. From using starting blocks to touch pads and having underwater cameras for turns at this year’s edition of the meet, the All-City League has developed over time and will no doubt continue to play a crucial role in summer swimming in Wisconsin.

All commentaries are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Swimming World Magazine nor its staff.