Illness and Controversy at the Club State Championship Swim Meet


Irene Lee

Athletes warm up for the club state championship swim meet. The environment is tense.

Irene Lee

From March 3-5, 2023, Wisconsin’s best young swimmers attended the club state championship swim meet for kids ages 11 through 14. Swimmers qualified from around the state based off of previous times in meets during the season, with many swimmers training since the beginning of September. 

The competition was held at the Pleasant Prairie RecPlex Sports Complex in Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin. During the meet, participants and fans alike were met with many irritations of the skin and eyes.

As the competition went on, many coaches and swimmers began to feel unwell. The source was unclear, but everyone inside the building was affected. The coaches developed red, burning, itchy eyes, and, in attempts to subdue the symptoms, got eye drops and occasionally closed their eyes to rest. Additionally, the swimmers developed itchy skin and non-stop coughing, and some began vomiting. 

Due to the unclear cause of the symptoms, coaches advised their teams to stay away from the pool whenever they were not swimming. Some athletes had to go home because they got sick or they were not able to breathe properly due to the pool air. 

After the meet, parents and coaches from many different teams emailed their complaints and concerns to the event organizers after the tournament. Many were concerned about the harmful environment RecPlex exposed their children to. Parents were extremely concerned since some children were still coughing and vomiting even hours after they had been near the pool. 

Emily Scargill “On Saturday night I could literally only get about three hours of sleep, and my mom said that she had debated taking me to the hospital,” said Emily Scargill, a swimmer at the state championship meet. “It ruined my potential because I had my best event on Sunday and I added time in it. I just think it was a big disappointment and I could have had more potential.

Days after the State championship meet, the coaches and families worked to figure out what went wrong. Van Donkersgoed, one of the Wisconsin Swimming head directors, sent a long email in efforts to calm people down and stop complaints from coming in. 

In the email, Wisconsin Swimming stated, “Prior to the meet, Wisconsin Swimming did request the coaches to remind their athletes to NOT urinate in the pool and to rinse off as much as possible. This is a best practice the Wisconsin Swimming strongly advocates for all its athletes.” 

It was later discovered that the air circulation fans were not working during the meet, and the RecPlex team had been aware of this for a week before the championship but chose not to address the situation. 

“I thought it was very frustrating that they blamed it on the swimmers when they had two fans out and they knew about it prior to the meet,” swimmer Kennedy Johnson said. 

With a state championship meet being something athletes train for months, many felt it was not fair for their season to end on such a sour note. Swimmers spent what felt like endless hours month after month in the pool and weight room only to have their season end in a wreck.

Swimmers around the state were let down by the poor decision of the RecPlex team. While the cause of medical issues is now known, swimmers are still asking themselves why RecPlex decided not to act.