Even though the summer has been going strong for a month now, the Altus High School boys’ and girls’ swim teams refuse to let their summer vacation keep them from the pool.
Through Coach Linda Wiginton’s “stay-in-shape” program, roughly 25 swimmers have shown up, including some of her former swimmers and some of the athletes that will be on her team next year. The primary focus of this program is keeping the swimmers active during the summer months so that nothing is lost by the time the season starts up again when school begins. In addition to training, Wiginton also aims to make sure her swimmers are having a good time.
There is something to be said for Wiginton’s swimming program. In her 35 years, she won has claimed three state championships — 2010, 2015, 2016 — and earned the runner-up titles in 2011 and 2014. The first time for the State of Oklahoma to have a regional format versus qualifying times in swimming was in 2014. Since then, her boys’ swim team has won the West Regional Championship for three consecutive years and back-to-back state championships in 2015-16. Her teams have won 15 invitationals and 28 conference meets. In fact, in the last 31 years, she has only lost three times.
Wiginton knows this will be a rebuilding year for her boys’ swim team. She has lost 10 seniors to graduation and Hadden Thompson through his father receiving orders to California, but is expecting about 25 boys and 25 girls to sign up for the swim team. She points to the boys’ team’s lack of depth as a possible reason for some struggle this coming season, but she believes they will still do very well.
The girls’ team, however, is expected to have a lot of depth and their main goal this season is to finally bring a girls’ state swimming championship home to Altus this year. Wiginton said that last year, her girls were still relatively young and that three-quarters of the girls she took to state had never been before. This year, most of them will have competed in that environment and matured as swimmers. She is expecting really good things from this team.
“They will do well,” Wiginton said. “We’ve got the talent, it’s just putting it together. I really think we’ll do well and they’re all very excited. The seniors would love to win state and graduate knowing they’ve accomplished something not a lot of people have.”
Wiginton, along with Lady Bulldog Basketball Assistant Coach Janice Hardwick, is a top eight finalist for the 2016 National High School Athletic Coaches Association Coach of the Year Award, but Wiginton’s dedication to both her athletes and the children taking part in her annual summer swimmer lessons, is keeping her from Louisville, Kentucky.
“Honestly, my main concern after I really thought about it was being gone from swimming lessons and our kids here,” she said. “They’ll call my name whether I’m there or not and hopefully send me a plaque. Last year was a really good year for me personally and our swim team, and hopefully next year is just as good.”
Wiginton says her biggest honor this past year was having the city pool named after her by the City of Altus and Altus Public Schools. She said she has spent a lot of hours at the complex for the last 35 years and it is such a blessing and honor to be a part of that. The new name of the facility will be the Linda Wiginton Aquatic Complex.
Wiginton’s dedication to her kids has spanned three decades. She has built lasting friendships with her athletes, having started coaching the bulk of them for the most part since her athletes were in the seventh- or eighth-grade. When asked how long she planned to continue, she was unsure.
“I don’t know, as long as it’s good and my health is good, we’ll see what happens,” Wiginton said. “I’d like to win a girls’ state championship. Maybe I’ll hang it up right after I do that.”
Reach Ryan Lewis at 580-482-1221, ext. 2076.