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Orange County Register (California)
Keith Nighswonger stood on Sunny Hills High's pool deck and marveled at his new facility.
"You deserve it, Coach," a passer-by said.
"I think we all do," the school's aquatics keystone responded.
Without a home for nearly two years during construction of the $5.5 million facility, Sunny Hills' water polo and swim programs have their haven back.
"Standing here, it's like looking at the Grand Canyon, isn't it?" Nighswonger asked, his new 45-meter pool glowing beneath nightfall. "We have our home again."
Fullerton Joint Union High School District unveiled Sunny Hills' aquatics facility, the district's first big-ticket project funded by the $175 million school improvement bond measure approved by voters in 2014.
"To see some of the bond money put to use in this way," Principal Allen Whitten said, "and to see Sunny Hills getting its first big new construction completed on our site, it's been a source of pride and something all of us have been able to rally around.
"Some parents have waited patiently for years for something like this."
Since April 2015, Sunny Hills' swim and water polo programs have practiced and hosted home events at the Splash! La Mirada Regional Aquatics Center 5 miles away.
The commute shortened afternoon practices and made implementing a proper weightlifting program difficult, Nighswonger said.
"A move like that could've been catastrophic," he said. "But the parents made it happen. It's pretty neat to see how excited everyone is."
USA Water Polo representatives already have expressed interest in holding a summer Junior Olympics event at the school, Nighswonger said.
Before then, a winter homecoming.
Tara James, a fourth-year water polo player and swimmer, put the excitement into words.
"When we start playing here, we want to win, James said.
"We're hell-bent on winning."
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