Battle Ground, Prairie will combine to form new high school swim programs

Battle Ground Public Schools is debuting a new high school swim program for students at both Prairie and Battle Ground high schools. The girls and boys teams will practice at the Clark County Family YMCA in Vancouver under the leadership of Dan Kirkland, an experienced swim coach and Masters competitive swimmer. 

Battle Ground Public Schools has a new agreement with the YMCA to let swimmers from both high schools practice on weeknights in the lap pool at the facility near NE Gher Road and State Route 500. Athletes from both schools will practice together under one coach, but will compete in their school’s Greater St. Helens league: 4A for Battle Ground and 3A for Prairie.

A girls team is forming now and will compete in the fall. Athletes must be cleared in the ASB office at their high school before girls’ team practices begin Aug. 24. An informational meeting will be held prior to the start of the girls season; information will be available on the high school websites. A boys team will compete in the winter. Students from both high schools swam competitively in previous years, but they did so as a cooperative team with Camas, which required them to travel to the neighboring town in the wee hours of the morning. 

“We are excited that we can bring our swimmers closer to home and support them with a coach of Kirkland’s caliber,” Prairie athletic director aAndy Schoonover said. “We look forward to seeing the programs grow.” 

The district has tapped Kirkland, a retired U.S. Air Force and Continental Airlines pilot, to coach the girls and boys swim teams. Kirkland said he has high expectations for the program and is looking forward to working with students who are interested in competitive swimming. Kirkland has coached both men’s and women’s NCAA swim teams for the Air Force Academy, as well as youth recreational swim teams and his daughter’s high school swim team. 

For the last seven years Kirkland has been swimming as a U.S. Masters swimmer, setting national and world records among elite Masters swimmers in his age group. In 2014 he was named U.S. Masters male swimmer of the year in his age group. In college he swam for the University of Idaho, was a swim team captain and conference champion. 

Kirkland has a bachelor’s degree in education from the University of Idaho and a master’s degree in education systems management from Chapman College.

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