Sead Niksic, 11th grade, Obama Academy student, won the 100 backstroke in WPIAL Championships, class AA, today (3/3/17) at Pitt’s Trees Hall, in a record time of 51.29. He won the event by a four-second margin. This was his first WPIAL title in the backstroke.
Last year, Sead was the first student from any Pittsburgh Public Schools in any sport to get a gold-medal in an individual WPIAL event when he won the 100 yard fly as a sophomore. In the 2017 100 fly, Sead went faster then the WPIAL record, but finished in second place.
This year, Obama swimmers can boast to have the city’s first WPIAL record breaker in an individual event in any sport. The boys swim team at Obama claimed the first city WPIAL section title in any sport back in 2013, the first year some city teams were able to compete in the WPIAL, PIAA District 7, rather than District 8, often called “The City League.”
Sead will swim the 100 fly and the 100 back in the 2017 PIAA Class AA Championships in two weeks at Bucknell University. This year Sead will be joined at states by his sister, Amila Niksic, an Obama Academy freshman, as she finished second in the 100 backstroke, improving by more than four seconds and moving to the silver medal from the 10th-place seed. Her time was 1:00.81.
A third Obama swimmer, Noah Jamison, 10th grader, did not qualify with an automatic entry to the PIAA Meet, but his podium finishes in both the 200 IM and the 500 free (also a school record), might be fast enough to earn an at-large entry to the PIAA Championships.
Noah dropped from 5:09.42 seed time (11th) to 4:54.01, and to a possible PIAA invite. At-large invites to PIAA are a couple days away. In 2016, as a freshman, Noah’s time in the 500 free in 2016 was 5:12.92. In 2017, Noah’s time in the 500 free beat the school record that was established by Erik Rauterkus more than four years ago. Erik is the oldest son of Obama’s Coach, Mark Rauterkus. Erik competed at the PIAA meet four consecutive years and then went on to swim at Swarthmore College and is due to graduate college in May, 2017.
Niksic, Jamison, David Donehue, 11, Sci-Tech, and Krishnan Alagar, 11, home-schooled, made up the squad’s 200 medley relay and set a new school record. The four also got points in the 400 free and put Obama’s boys team into the top 10 among AA teams.
This year marks the the 9th consecutive year that at least one swimmer from Pittsburgh Public Schools qualified to compete in the PIAA Championships under the direction of Coach Mark Rauterkus — formerly Schenley and presently Obama. Rauterkus also leads the Swim & Water Polo activities with PPS Summer Dreamers and after-school water polo programs at Westinghouse, Arsenal, Allegheny and Obama.
View a collection of swim races from this year’s championships at Swim.CLOH.org.
Replace running Saturday morning in 12-degree temperatures on January 7, 2016, by going to to Oliver High School pool (Brighton Rd.upper Northside) for a stroke clinic and swim work out from 9:00-11:30. Or come to swim!
Sponsored by Mark Rauterkus, man of many swim events! Mark sponsors many water polo teams and swimming events in the Pittsburgh area. A donation to his efforts would be nice, but otherwise my time is complimentary for YOU!
I will complete a Coaches’ Eye individual video analysis of your swimming stroke, and I will provide tips to increase your balance, streamline and body position. There will also be time for a New Year’s swim workout!! If you spread the word, just have them email me. Waiver’s will be on site.
Please RSVP, reply to me, or text me, if you are interested so that Mark and I know who to expect. If you have a time in mind, we will be going on about 15 min, increments starting at 9:15, 9:30,9:45,10:00,10:15 so indicate a time in your RSVP. Group Swim will start about 10:45. This schedule is flexible, subject to change depending on everything! I will confirm with you, contact me before Saturday.
See you Saturday?
Deb Sagan, M.Ed. Level 2 TI Coach
Oliver High School: 9:00-11:30 am, Brighton Avenue above the Northside. Tip: Park in the lot near the loading dock. The pool is close to the gym and then down the stairs.
Practices began in the fall and video shows various ability levels. In the first days, a few of the swimmers could swim in deep water. By the end of the semester, every student could swim a length of the pool.
These highlights focused upon freestyle swimming and ignored the water polo and SKWIM game play. The intra-squad game play was a valued element of the educational experience. Sadly, opportunities for competition with other school-based teams and water polo clubs did not materialize as planned. More than five “game days” were cancelled. Some swimmers did go to North Allegheny for a clinic and game play on a Sunday afternoon.
Background music was recorded from some parade sounds this fall while on a trip to New Orleans.
Calling all open water swimmers, coaches, varsity swimmers interested in open water swimming, and triathletes, of course. We are going to do our first SEMINAR at the Saturday Swim School and devote a three-hour session to skills and insights associated with open water swimming.
This is the first time we’ve been able to a introduce a new partnership with Joella. Not only is she a great triathlete, but she is a coach and director of a youth triathlon team that aims to expand with activities in the city of Pittsburgh.
In the summer of 2016, a few of the city kids were able to join in with the open water swims hosted at Moraine State Park. A former Schenley and Obama swimmer, Jonnah, was also able to race in the sprint triathlon in September too. Next year, we want to be going north for open water swims and triathlons by the van and bus loads. But, it starts now, here, on November 5. We need to gain the knowledge, insights, and confidence of how it works to swim in the open.
Space is limited to 20 people. Sign up now with an email.
As a bonus, stick around after the session ends at 1 pm to learn and play Underwater Hockey to 1:45 pm. So, if you have a mask, snorkel and fins, bring them.
As a triple bonus, show up at 8 am to play the aquatic game of SKIWM. That happens from 8 am to 10.
I am Mark Rauterkus, Mark@Rauterkus.com, of Pittsburgh’s South Side. I coach for the district and was on the PPS Athletic Reform Task Force, inactive for more than five years. My sons graduated from PPS and are in college.
I speak at public hearings and attend many community and government meetings around town often, generally as an advocate for system-wide issues. Today, is different. I have a specific request for the superintendent and/or school board members. This request does benefit dozens, if not hundreds, of students in the future.
I’m here because the chain-of-command from school athletic director, principal and district athletic office are not inclined to make these changes themselves. The mechanism for making changes to our athletic landscape from within the system are still absent. Furthermore, the desire to reconvene district-wide athletic reform is absent among certain key employees. Perhaps sports reform and an evolution of opportunities is going to change in the months to come with the new board and superintendent. Time will tell. I have high hopes.
I do receive a “river of support” from various people within PPS. Sadly, significant, often predictable and inexplicable obstructions appear. We’ve learned how to navigate around a few of them in the last decade. But, in my view, we still have oceans full of challenges regarding after-school, sports, wellness and the issues that revolve around the leading of quality programs for our students.
Present fall snapshot
Presently, I’m coaching Swim & Water Polo to 100+ city-kids, both boys and girls, generally in co-ed settings. Most of these kids are in the middle-school grades.
30 at the charter school,
20 at Arsenal,
20 at Obama,
20, so far, at the Saturday Swim School held at Oliver Citiwide High School.
More are welcome and expected on Saturdays. See the hand-out.
Plus, about 30 are gearing up for the varsity teams.
Recent summer’s snapshot
We had 50 students in Swim & Water Polo at Pittsburgh Public Schools’ Summer Dreamers Academy in 2016. Sadly we got stuck at Carmalt without a pool and needed to take bus rides every day to Brashear High School. We have successfully coached 200 Summer Dreamers in 2015, (and nearly that many in prior summers). We should be trending to serve more than 500 kids every summer at Swim & Water Polo within Summer Dreamers, in my humble opinion.
Another 90 kids, grades 1 to 9, played Swim & Water Polo as part of their summer camp experience thanks to the support of The Pittsburgh Project on Pittsburgh’s Northside.
My coaching is a labor of love for very little money that reaches lots of kids for many days. We are teaching kids how to swim and then we pull out the water disks and balls and build teams and push them into experiences as aquatic athletes.
Here and There
Plenty of this occurs with volunteer efforts, but some funding considerations are necessary. This year a $2,500 discrepancy surfaced with the Summer Dreamers contract because PPS staff shortages necessitated my hire of additional coaches. That’s a sizable chunk of money in this endeavor. This is an issue for another day, sorta.
This fall, I’m at five different pools, off and on, and I’m only talking about OUT OF SCHOOL TIME, not in-school Physical Education.
Pittsburgh Public Schools owns and operates 14 indoor swim pools. These pools, public assets, sit idle often, especially after-school days, in the evenings, at nights, on weekends, throughout holidays and in the summers. I think only two of the 14 pools were used in very limited hours on some days this summer. My calculations claim that the capacity for training swimmers, in these outside-the-school-day opportunities should reach more than 6,000 individuals every year. We might engage 600 now.
The investments to build these pools has been made. We own them. We manage them. We have closed a few of them in recent years, such as Reizenstein, Schenley, Prospect, South, Knoxville, Gladstone. But the point to stress with these school pools is that they are cement and tile structures filled with water, and the water in those swim pools does not wear out. In my biased opinion, these swim pools are nearly indestructible, and as classrooms, the swim pools are the best learning laboratories our kids might ever encounter when it comes to teaching them lessons of personal and group excellence.
In the fall of 2016, there was ONE student on the Obama golf team.
In the fall of 2016 and 2015, NONE of the Obama golfers even went to the city championships.
I was Obama’s Golf Coach
I know about golf at Obama, because, I coached that team for two seasons in 2012 and 2013.
I’m asking for the PPS Board and Superintendent to PULL the plug on Varsity GOLF at Obama and redirect the sports budget for golf to water polo at Obama. Both golf and water polo are fall sports.
Replace the golf team (and its one athlete) with water polo and gain 20 to 60 kids on teams next year. We’ll have boys and girls water polo teams at the varsity, junior varsity and middle school levels.
More than 20 middle school students, mostly girls, at Obama Academy, played water polo in the fall of 2016. The 2016-17 middle school swim teams grew in participation, in part, due to water polo too. Some of the water polo players and competitive swimmers were former players in Swim & Water Polo as part of Summer Dreamers.
Well, … we should have had middle-school water polo games in the fall of 2016, but the pool was closed for a three week period for a needed electrical inspection.
In the spring of 2016, I volunteered and taught more than 15 6th grade boys how to swim and play water polo. We had three times as many kids and as many practices with the optional, spring water polo as the Obama Middle School Swim Team did with its official winter season. These same kids are still excited as 7th graders. Our reach with water polo this year has grown to include kids in all the middle-school grades.
I think they deserve a funded and supported high school water polo team to look forward too.
We have a swim pool. We don’t have a golf course.
We have the demand for water polo. Golf has gone down the drain at Obama.
Water polo will keep our kids engaged, fit and excited about swimming. Water polo will help the swim teams and get many kids to learn to swim and one-day become lifeguards.
A modest budget is necessary to cover costs for uniforms, officials, travel, equipment and a coach. But we’re cutting golf expenses.
Build Upon Our Success in the Pool
Golf can survive
Truth be told, Pittsburgh Public Schools does not really need to eliminate golf opportunities. The solution I’m proposing does not pit one sport against another. Looking deeper, let’s make this a win-win with some level-headed reforms.
The easiest understanding is an awareness that kids and families vote with their feet. If a student wants to play golf, that student can enroll in Allderdice High School. Families depart the city school all the time due to the disparity of the athletic opportunities presented at city school when contrasted to most of the suburban schools. Allerdice is closer to the Bob O’Connor Golf Course in Schenley Park and that school has a much better tradition of golf than all the other schools in the district. Still, there is no girls golf team at Allderdice. Golf at Allderdice could use the extra players and support.
Additionally, Pittsburgh Public Schools could tinker with the sports co-op agreements among Allderdice High School, Obama Academy and Sci-Tech with golf so that students from all three schools could compete in varsity golf for Allderdice. If a CAPA student who resides within the Allderdice feeder pattern wants to play golf at Allderdice, he or she can join the team. Same with a home-schooled student. Students who go to Obama could join the Allderdice golf squad too if the co-op is formed and the letters are sent to the PIAA (Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Assocation) office.
Two way Cooperation with Water Polo and Golf
Likewise let’s leverage the co-op agreements in Water Polo as is suggested for Golf.
Co-op sports agreements should be floated so interested students at Allderdice can join Obama’s Water Polo Teams.
This happens frequently in suburban districts. One school district offers a swim team while the other school district offers a wrestling team. Then, kids from both school districts can do both sports. A majority of the swim teams in the WPIAL Class AA Section that includes Obama Academy are co-op teams. Carlynton High School has a pool and a swim team that allows the Bishop Canevin students to join. This is a regular occurrence in the scholastic sports landscape among some smaller schools. It is not ideal, but it happens.
The USO football team in Pittsburgh Public Schools includes students from U-Prep, Sci-Tech and Obama. A similar deal can happen with golf and water polo too, if creative thinking can prevail.
Obama’s water polo team could be extended to support students from:
and perhaps a few other smaller schools within and next to the city’s borders.
When we went to Ohio on past occasions, we called ourselves, Pittsburgh Combined.
Then we’ve got a best of all world’s situation, more kids with better opportunities.
Thanks for the governmental oversight.
Thanks for listening and the consideration. I look forward to hearing from you soon. My cell: 412-298-3432.
Hear Mark’s 3-minute presentation to the PPS Board:
Printed materials provided at the public hearing on October 17, 2016.
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