LAMBERTVILLE -- Members of the Stingrays swim team at the Francis Family YMCA glide through the water like the fish they are named for, but as a team, the 100 members are held back.
That's because the 25-yard pool they use at the Y here lacks an electronic timing system. The Y pool also is home to the boys and girls' swim teams at Bedford High School, which are similarly hampered. Instead of a computerized scoreboard that instantly shows the winners and their times, competitive swimming at the Y is done the old-fashioned way: by people with stopwatches.
Getting the final results can take two days, and the measurements are not as precise as those taken electronically. Electronic timers are accurate to a hundredth of a second.
Holly Scheffer, who coaches the Stingrays and co-coaches the Bedford boys, said it's a big problem. Bedford is the only high school in the Michigan High School Athletic Association Southeastern Conference without an electronic timing system, she said.
Because of this deficiency, Bedford is something of a pariah where swim meets are concerned, for both the Stingrays and high school swimmers, said LuAnn Bauer, who coaches the Bedford girls and co-coaches the boys with Ms. Scheffer.
"The other teams don't want to come here because we do it by hand," Ms. Bauer said.
This means that the number of home meets is limited and the Y is unable to host large, invitational meets.
Moreover, in relays, the split times, for each leg of the relay, can't be timed because to do so would require extra people with stop watches at either end of the pool and the times themselves would not be 100% accurate, she explained.
This can hold back swimming careers because the split times are used to qualify for state competitions.
Hopes are high, however, that enough money can be raised to afford a proper timing system, which would cost $22,000, according to Tony Hartung, a member of the Stingrays' parents committee.
"This would include the equipment and installation," he said, "and training from the company on how to use it. The timing system would be for the benefit of all three teams."
The system would include touch pads at one end of the pool for the swimmers to make contact with, a scoreboard, and software.
Mr. Hartung said the parents' group is looking for sponsors and has scheduled a Jan. 13 fund-raiser at Forestview Lanes, 2345 W. Dean Road.
The Stingrays have a six-month season and compete with Y teams across northwest Ohio from Sandusky to Bryan to Lima, he said.
Temperance resident Michele Mulder, whose daughters Sarah, 13, and Emma, 9, are Stingrays, described the need for the timing system as "desperate."
She said her girls loved competing elsewhere because when they finish their race they can look up from the water and see their times on the scoreboard along with their name and lane.
"Their grandparents like it too," she said.