Blue Dolphins History

History of the Sullivan Blue Dolphins as of June 2008

As the Corp of Engineers began building Lake Shelbyville , four miles south of Sullivan, community residents expressed concern for educating children in water safety. In 1961, the Sullivan business and Professional Women’s club presented a petition for action to the city council. On October 26th of that same year, May Ivan Wood appointed John Hagen as chairman of a committee to investigate financing construction of a pool.

A pool for the community was not a totally new idea. In 1955, Mayor Virgil Storm had appointed a committee to investigate the costs of building a pool since the city had ceased swimming at Wyman Lake. However, initial concepts of an outdoor pool turned into a year-round facility when it was realized that funds were available for such a project. In May of 1962, a committee was appointed by Mayor Ivan Wood to supervise the new project. On September 26, 1965, the Sullivan Civic Center was proudly dedicated. Included in the event’s entertainment were the Chanute Air Force Base Concert Band and a demonstration by founding members of the University of Illinois Swim Team.

One role of the first director, Chuck Smith, was to install programs at the new facility. At the time, there was an apparent need to get older children involved in developmentally beneficial activities year round. Thus, the birth of the Sullivan Competitive Swim Team. The First National Bank of Sullivan, the SBPW and the Jaycees helped form and support the program. The Sullivan High School Industrial Arts Club built the starting blocks. Doug Shimp, a volunteering parent, coached the team for its first four years. His coaching techniques came from personal experience, books and observation at swim meets.

Director Smith set up the first swim meet for March 5, at the Civic Center for the Sullivan team to watch and foster community interest. This meet was to be the seventh annual Central Illinois Girls Swimming Club Championship, consisting of teams from Bloomington, Champaign, Danville, Decatur, Pekin, Peoria and the winning team from Springfield. Two hundred to two hundred and fifty girls competed, among which was the 1964 Olympic swimmer, Lynn Alsup from Bloomington.

The original membership of the team was around twenty. Most of the swimmers were under the age of twelve with the majority of the swimmers between six and eight years of age. For awhile a six and under group was created to try and stir interest and build depth. For the first couple of years the team mainly competed at summer meets. Coach Shimp recalled “ It seemed to take a couple of years to get a number of swimmers of any caliber.” Recalling the first meet against Decatur, Former Coach Shimp claims “they came and swamped us.” During the summer, the team practiced three mornings a week with meets on Saturdays. Swimmers were given a free pass to the Civic Center Pool so that they may practice on their own. There were no dues. A former swimmer distinctly remembers the turquoise suits.

Whatever headway the program had made came to a halt on September 8th, 1969, after a University of Illinois wood technologist declared the roof unsafe. Because of Lawsuits and repair work, the Civic Center was closed until 1:00 p.m. on June 1, 1974.

Steve Ludwig the current director reorganized and coached the “Blue Dolphins” in 1974. (Blue Dolphins now replaces the words “swim team” in newspaper articles) A team of twenty to twenty-five swam one meet against St. Elmo and held two to three inter squad meets. These were confidence builders, as everyone received a ribbon.

In September 1976, the Civic Center was closed again for major pool repair. In October Bill Highland became the new director. At the completion of the pool renovations, the Civic Center once again opened its doors in March of 1977. There was not a team again until 1978. Kathy Titus reorganized the Blue Dolphins as part of her college studies in Physical Education. Dennis Schlitter assisted her. The following year, Mary Jo Baron assisted then took over coaching responsibilities until late fall of 1980. The team became AAU affiliated that year and swam their first AAU meet in Decatur during the fall.

Karen Highland, a former member of the Kankakee Y Swim Team and Southern Illinois University’s varsity team, coached from December 1980 until August of 1982. She was assisted by Cynthia Highland for one year. One of Karen’s goals was for a swimmer to achieve Junior Olympic time standards. Heather Highland and Jason Drury both participated in the nine to ten year old age groups at the 1982 Junior Olympic Short Course Meet in Palatine, Illinois.

The Parent’s Board, formed in 1981, became more active and helped to lighten the coaches burdens by forming committees to assist with registration for meets, fund-raising etc. Adapting team colors to navy blue and gold, the team members purchased suits.

In the fall of 1982, Brian Tydd, a former SIU swimmer and qualifier for the 1980 Olympic Time Trials was employed as coach. Brian led the way as several team members completed 50 laps during USS (formerly AAU) sponsored a swim-a-thon that earned $2,000.00 for the team. Eric Spencer assisted Brian in the summer of 1983, as the team participated in the East Central Illinois Swim Conference.

Thirty swimmers joined the Blue Dolphins in the fall of 1983. All were USS members and only two were over twelve years of age. Dorell Hawley was employed as coach in September of 1983 and Brian Tydd, delayed due to his full time job, returned in November. The Lincolnland Conference accepted the Blue Dolphins as a member for the winter conference in 1983.

In late June of 1985, Sarah Knobloch was hired as head coach. The team membership was about twenty at the time. Over the next two years, the Sullivan Blue Dolphins sent several swimmers to the state championship meets with much success. Ten year old Seth Dunscomb was the 1986, 50 and 100 yard freestyle state champion at the Junior Olympic Championship, which was held in Glen Elyn, Illinois. In September of 1987, Coach Scott Way was hired to replace resigning Coach Sarah Knobloch.

In April 1989, Sarah Knobloch was again asked to coach the Sullivan blue Dolphins. She remained head coach, building the team to fifty swimmers, until March 1994. A few of her assistant coaches were Heather Highland, Trenton Guyot, Holly Highland and Tracy Johnson. Michelle Snelson was hired as head coach for the summer season of 1994 and coached until March 1996. Tracy Johnson coached the summer of 1996.

In the fall of 1996, Khristopher Scarcliff became the head coach. The numbers had seriously dwindled over the summer but he managed to recruit enough to set the team with thirty-three swimmers for the season. Shortly after the season began, the board recruited Khris’s wife, Meredith, as the assistant coach. They spent the first season restructuring and building the team’s moral. The summer team was projected to have at least fifty swimmers thanks to our swimmers and parents’ recruiting efforts. The word was out..., Sullivan Blue Dolphins were once again on the rise.

In the fall of 1997, Shane Bennett became Head Coach. Shane was a student at Eastern Illinois University. He coached the team until the fall of 1998. It was during this time that the Sullivan Civic Center Pool was once again closed for repairs. Serious concerns regarding the roof structure threatened to shut the pool permanently. Fortunately, after a two year construction period, it was re-opened in the fall of 2000. The newly remodeled facility once again offers the Sullivan Blue Dolphins a beautiful pool to call home.

Coach Jennifer Brumleve from Effingham was hired as Head Swim Coach for the 2001 summer program. Coach Brumleve was a recent graduate from Illinois State University where she earned a degree in Special Education. She was hired by the Mattoon School District for the 2001-2002 school year. Jennifer participated in competitive swimming for over ten years and coached the Effingham Swim Team.

Coach Josh Evans was hired as the 2001-2002 Fall/Winter Head coach. Josh graduated from Southern Illinois University with a degree in Agricultural Education. Josh swam competitively for 13 years and coached the Mt. Olive YMCE Swim Club.

Josh Kercheval was hired as the new 2002 Summer Season Coach. Josh started his swimming career under Coach Knobloch. During his time as a Sullivan blue Dolphin, Josh achieved many awards, including several inclusions at USS Junior Olympic Championships. During High School Josh qualified for the Illinois State Swim Meet. Josh has had a very successful college career swimming for Eastern Illinois University. This was Josh’s first job as a swim coach, but with such a successful background, he was able to give back to the team that gave him his start.

The Dolphins once again found themselves looking for a coach for the 2002/2003 Fall Winter Program. Many parents in the community were requesting that we once again hold practice immediately after school. Our conflict in the past had been that many of our coaches were students or held day jobs and had to travel from surrounding areas. Keeping this request in mind, Rene Lozzi, a senior at Sullivan High School, was hired as Co-head coach along with another former Dolphin, Jena Atchison.

Rene swam competitively for over eleven years as a member of the Sullivan Blue Dolphins. She swam with the Mattoon Sammy Seals when the Sullivan Civic Center was closed for repairs. During that time, Rene qualified for both the Junior Olympics, as well as the YMCA State Championships. Rene was a member of the Sullivan High School Swim Team, swimming at the High School Sectionals for three years. The goal set for the 2002/2003 season was recruitment, which was very successful.

Co- Head Coach Jena Atchison, is a graduate of Northern Illinois University. Jena began swimming with the Sullivan Blue Dolphins at an early age. To this date she holds a Blue Dolphin record for her backstroke. Jena has two of her three sons following her lead and swimming for the Blue Dolphins, with the third waiting to be old enough.

The 2003/2004 season continued under the direction of Renee and Jena. The team membership was up to 35 swimmers and the two coaches recruited Jena’s brother, Jason Drury, to help out at practices and coach at several swim meets that Rene was unable to attend.

Jason is another successful Blue Dolphin. While swimming the years of 1977 to 1986 he was a Junior Olympic qualifier and placed fifth in the backstroke. He achieved Short Course and Long Course high point trophies. Jason also holds several Sullivan Blue Dolphin records. He used his swimming background in the Navy to become one of only two rescue swimmers on board the USS Constellation. He has one son swimming on the team and one daughter in training.

The coaching staff also included two very talented high school swimmers, Anna Stadler and Heather Gromley. They both assisted the young swimmers with technique when they were available after school.

In the summer of 2004 the team hosted for the First Annual Lakeside Swim Classic. This was the first meet to be held at the Sullivan Civic Center in several years. SBD hosted 50 swimmers from Springfield and Decatur. The meet was a great learning experience for beginning swimmers.

Jena Atchison and Jason Drury kept the team moving forward with the 2004/2005 season. The team had grown to forty-three swimmers. Anna Stadler and Heather continued to assist them at practices.

The summer of 2005 SBD held the 2nd annual Lakeside Swim Classic. The community response was larger with over forty business and organizations sponsoring the event. The local community was invited to watch meet. The team is growing and learning more from each meet.

The 2005-2006 season still has Jena Atchison and Jason Drury working hard to keep the team growing. Incorporating different work out schedules to retain older swimmers and coordinate with the school programs. The team is growing in size and looking for new innovative ideas to keep up with the changing times.

High School Students Anna Stadler and Heather Gromley are still assisting at the practices. Their help keeps the practices moving.

Summer of 2006 the Blue Dolphins have a great turn out of new swimmers for the summer season. Coach Jena Atchison continues to lead the team in a positive direction. During the summer season a new level of swimming is added called the “gold group”. The summer season served as a test pilot for a dry-land and swimming practice mixed together. It turned out to be a success and gave the advanced swimmers a refreshing look at the sport of swimming.

During the summer Assistant Coach Heather Gromley who was a huge part of the coaching staff left for college in Tampa, Florida.

The 2006-2007 season continues to have Jena Atchison and Jason Drury heading the team as co-head coaches.

Assistant Coach Anna Stadler takes on the role of working with the beginning level of swimmers the “white group”. Anna is able to work three days a week while attending college. Jim Griffin is added to the coaching staff as an assistant on Tuesday’s and Thursday’s. Jim has two children, Garrett and Sara, swimming on the team. SBD is able to get the fall practice going while still looking for one more assistant coach to help on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

The team is averaging fifty swimmers for the fall season. At this time there are four levels of swimmers from the beginning “white group” to the “blue level” to the “red level” and the “gold level”. The team as a whole continues to grow and be competitive at meets. More and more swimmers continue to achieve A times and high points at swim meets. The coaches along with the board are taking an active role in the management and structure of the team to assure a steady and continuous growth.

In October of 2006 SBD held it’s first sanctioned Illinois Swim Meet at the Civic Center.

Brittin Boyer finished off the 2006-2007 season by heading to State. She was the only SBD swimmer to qualify for the short course season.

The 2007 Summer Season Jason Drury took over as Head Coach. Jena Atchison took a needed break due to family and college. The summer long course season ended with Megan Zindel, Brittin Boyer, Kyle Drury and Dalace Ray attending the Long Course State meet in Qunicy, Illinois. More and more swimmers are starting to obtain state times for the team. Megan Zindel went on to compete for Illinois at Zones in Ohio. Zones is the next level of swimming competition with several states competing together.

The season of 2007-2008 starts off with one of the biggest groups of swimmers to date for SBD. Jason Drury is head coach of the swim team. Anna Stadler and Jim Griffin are still assisting with coaching. Nichole Suars comes on board to help coach. Tyler Moiser, a Gold Group, swimmers helps with the white group practices. Nichole is a former swimmer from California and is attending college in the area. . Late in the season with Anna and Nichole’s college schedules changing SBD had to rearrange the coaching staff mid-season. Jena Atchison came back and with the help of Troy Rogers, a former Blue Dolphin, from January on they took over coaching of the youngest team members, in the white group. Chris Salisbury came on board in January to help fill slots in the older division. Chris moved to the area from up North and is a former swimmer who swam competitively in college. Even with the coaching changes SBD had a strong finish to the season. Dalace Ray and Grant King qualified and represented SBD in Chicago and the state meet. .

The 2007-2008 season SBD finally gets a website Swim parent, Monte Johnson, gets this up and running and this really helps keep all parents current on information. It is also a great advertising tool for the team.

Summer of 2008 SBD hosted the “2008 Lakeside Swim Classic” on May 31, 2008. The meet is slowly growing and the board is hoping the purchase of timing equipment will make the meet more attractive to other teams. The team is raising money through fund-raising and the savings of Head Coach Jason Drury donating his time but it is a substantial amount of money needed for the system.

Summer of 2008 Jason Drury is still head coach and is over seeing the practices. Nichole Sauers, Anna Stadler, Chris Salisbury and Tyler Mosier are still on deck helping. Austin Raboin, a high school student and former Blue Dolphin is helping with the white and blue group practices. SBD has learned that two coaches working with these groups seems to show a faster progression in learning the techniques. The summer season is not over until the end of July but already in early June four swimmers have already qualified for the State meet. Grant King, Dalace Ray, Sam Rousser and Megan Zindel.