The pool is tucked away in south Columbia, hard to find without concise directions. 

Behind Scooter’s Coffee off Grindstone Parkway in the 3000 block of Chinaberry Drive is the newly refurbished Macher Aquatic & Fitness Center, which houses some of Columbia’s best swimmers of all ages for training.

Before former Missouri swimmers Micah Slaton and Nick Alexander competed at the U.S. Olympic Trials, they prepped and coached at Macher. 

One of the center’s prized pupils is 11-year-old Jack Campbell, a Columbia swimmer who ranks No. 4 in the country at his age in the 200-meter butterfly in long-course races. 

Long-course races are 50 meters for one pool length, while short-course races are 50 meters for a full lap. 

Campbell’s time of 2 minutes, 35.70 seconds was good enough to be No. 2 in America earlier this summer. 

“It feels great, honestly. It was a really good time and I’m happy with it,” Campbell said. “There’s a lot of people in this nation that probably swim the 200 fly. It’s a very big accomplishment.”

More:Who was the best athlete on Mizzou’s campus in 2020-21?

Macher Aquatic & Fitness and its competitive club team, Team Triumph, are spearheaded by Jack’s father, Bobby Campbell.

The elder Campbell saw Jack’s interest and had the resources and connections to give an athletic home to his son and plenty of other interested swimmers.

A pool fit for an Olympian

Bobby Campbell saw a need for an Olympic regulation pool in Columbia. 

“There is a need. There’s the Mizzou rec center, which is a great place. If you don’t want to go on campus, and swim on campus, there are not a lot of good options for training or swimming,” Bobby Campbell said. “We have a master swim here. There were no options for 50-meter, and this is a 50-meter pool.

“If you’re a swimmer and you really want to train, you can go the (Activity & Recreation Center). And I’ve been to the ARC a lot of times and I have a lot of fond memories. But it’s not the perfect place to train. There’s no blocks.”

To be fair, the goal of the ARC, located in the 1700 block of West Ash Street with three 25-yard lanes, isn’t to train Olympic Trials-quality swimmers.

“I knew that from being a coach and training my own son,” Campbell said. “If you’re a guy with your own son, or a coach training a kid, this is open. If you’re a coach and you have kids you’re training, come train them here. If you’re a kid and want a place to swim laps, you join the team and swim laps here at the pool and train. We’ve really created a place that people can chase their dreams that Columbia doesn’t really have.”

Jack Campbell, 11, practices his dive before swimming the 200-meter butterfly on Thursday at the Macher Aquatic & Fitness Center.

Campbell recognizes that the City of Columbia has had conversations of building a big swim center that could draw such events as the MSHSAA Swimming & Diving Championships to Columbia. But that’s still in a preliminary phase.

The pool at Macher, Olympus, has five 50-meter lanes with five detachable bulkheads, which allow each individual lane to be converted to 25 yards or 25 meters.

Olympus also has five competition blocks, a diving board, changing rooms and showers.

For the winter season, Olympus is fitted with a heater for members to train year-round.

Campbell remodeled the pool last spring, after owning it for years, to open as last summer started, still amid the pandemic.

More:Which 10 Missouri athletes qualified for the Tokyo Olympics in 2021?

“It’s really nice because he gave me this,” Jack Campbell said of his father putting the time into renovating the pool. “I’m really thankful for it. I’m always thankful for it.”

MU swimmers used the pool at Macher before the renovation, dubbing it the “The Meat Factory” because the old lane lines were broken and sharp. Alexander said there are still members of the current Tiger roster with scars from running into them.

Bobby Campbell poses for a photo at the Macher Aquatic & Fitness Center he remodeled.

That’s far from a problem now — with Jack Campbell attempting to swim at least 4,000 yards a day, equal to about 40 Olympic-length laps.

Working toward a college swim team, and beyond

Being an elite swimmer in your age group doesn’t come easy.

“Jack works extremely hard. He started swimming when he was 2 years old. It was something that just happened,” Bobby Campbell said. “It’s a privilege working with a kid who works as hard as he does and tries as hard as he does.

“I just hope I can be a good dad and a good coach and help him reach his dreams, whether it’s swimming or whatever else be there for him.”

Jack Campbell needs shave less than two seconds off his 200-meter butterfly time to regain his No. 2 status. The top position will be a bit more of a challenge, as the best time among 11-year-olds is 2 minutes, 28.24 seconds.

Bobby Campbell believes his son can get that No. 1 spot by the end of the season. And Jack doesn’t turn 12 until December.

Earlier:Mizzou swimming alum Nick Alexander ready for the Olympic Trials after the pandemic

Jack’s hobbies extend beyond the pool, including art, recently learning about Paul Klee and Pablo Picasso. 

In the water, he hopes the time he’s putting in now will lead to bigger things. 

“I hope I can go to the Olympics and go to college to swim,” Jack Campbell said.

Contact Eric Blum at eblum@columbiatribune.com. Follow @ByEricBlum on Twitter.

[ad_2]
Originally Appeared Here