Vice President of News

Jim Rossow is vice president of news at The News-Gazette. His email is jrossow@news-gazette.com.

TOTM STM Eastland pool

The pool at Eastland Suites in Urbana.

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Without a school pool, St. Thomas More’s swim team hits the road for every practice and meet.

Starting Sept. 9, that means working out at — of all places — a popular Urbana hotel.

The sprawling Cunningham Avenue campus that is Eastland Suites Hotel & Conference Center includes 127 rooms in 11 buildings. It also has an impressive pool that is big enough to accommodate the five-member team from Champaign’s north side.

“It’s got everything you need,” Eastland Suites assistant general manager Tamala Griffin said. “Probably not diving, though.”

Ranging from 3 to 5 feet deep, Eastland’s trapezoid-shaped pool is wider (four lanes) and longer (50-59 feet) than most hotel layouts. Nearby locker rooms and fitness areas — plus stacks of hotel towels — make it even more attractive to the workout crowd (it already hosts water-aerobics classes and makes monthly pool memberships available to the public).

“It’s going to be a little different,” St. Thomas More coach Angie Deptula said, “but we’ve embraced the idea.”

Really, they have.

“We’re a little nervous because it’s shorter than we’re used to,” she said. “But shorter means we’ll get to work on more turns and breakouts off the wall.”

The Sabers are currently prepping outdoors at Indian Acres in Champaign. The move indoors will take weather out of the equation; it even requires room keys to gain access to the pool.

“We’re just relieved we have somewhere to go,” Deptula said, “and happy someone will have us.”