The Whitefish and Columbia Falls school district boards have both approved creating a joint swim team for their two high schools.
Organizers will apply this month to the Montana High School Association for final approval.
The two teams will practice together at The Wave, but compete separately. Surveys from both schools show more than 50 students are interested in the program.
The team will need to raise $14,000 to $17,000 annually to operate.
Under state rules, the teams can share the same coach, as well as travel and practice together, but they can’t compete as a single team. Schools with combined programs that compete separately are common in swimming — Missoula and Kalispell schools do just that.
Columbia Falls will employ the coach and oversee the team funds. Under the agreement, both schools’ athletic directors will be involved in hiring coaches. The swim season runs from mid-November to mid-February.
In 2012 a group of swimming supporters from both towns approached both school districts asking to create a cooperative swim team. While both districts approved the proposal, the team ran into problems with state athletic rules because the team was projected to field too many swimmers to compete as a Class A team.
The team has already begun fundraising and has raised $2,000 in donations.
For more information, contact Mike Nelson — c/o CF-WF High School Swim Team, 500 12th Ave. W., Columbia Falls, MT 59912 — or by cell phone at (405) 871-2489.