College employee Laura Johnston has been named the Coordinator of the RLC Aquatics Center, and she is taking on her new duties with enthusiasm.

“People in the community need to know that they can come in and take advantage of and use this great facility,” Johnston said of the $2.6 million Aquatics Center, which features a six-lane, 75-foot pool. The center also features access for the physically challenged, a therapy pool and whirlpool, and shower and locker rooms.

Johnston has worked at the Aquatics Center since it opened its doors in 1998, and most recently served as Assistant Coordinator before assuming her current duties. She also leads several classes at the facility and also served as Head Women’s Volleyball Coach for a time.

A certified lifeguard since the age of 15, Johnston is well-suited to the tasks ahead of her. She has worked at various aquatics facilities and has taught swim lessons in several states.

In January this year, Johnston was selected by the River to River Running Club as its Female Athlete of the Year. Johnston said she has been a competitive runner her entire life, even running a few marathons in high school. However, in the last three years, she has “gotten serious again,” she said. She earned multiple first-place finishes last year, and most recently was the overall female winner at the Herrinfesta 10K Run.

Johnston lives in Benton with her husband Don and daughter Cheyenna.

The general public is welcome to use the Aquatics Center during open hours, and the facility, including the adjoining lobby, patio and gymnasium, are available for rent for private parties, birthday parties, reunions, social and church functions and other events.

People can purchase memberships or can pay a $5 fee to come and swim during open hours, which are 6:30 to 9 a.m., noon to 4 p.m. and 6 to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday and noon to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

The Aquatics Center also hosts swim lessons for ages four and up, and also has a parent-infant swim lesson program for children ages six months to four years.

Everyone is invited to sign up for any number of credit classes offered at the Aquatics Center, such as:

• Water Aerobics – A course in aerobics using the water as resistance to reduce the stress of weight on the joints.

• Aquatic Aerobic Fitness – Improve muscle tone, lower body fat and increase cardiovascular efficiency with this individualized workout.

• Prenatal Aquatics – A structured water aerobics class with exercises designed and adapted to meet the needs of pregnant women.

• Arthritis Aquatics – A water exercise program designed to give people with arthritis an opportunity to do gentle activities in warm water which may result in some physical benefits, such as decreased pain and stiffness.

There is a wonderful incentive to come out and try these particular classes – the first session is free. Participants can test the waters and then decide if they would like to sign up.

Those looking for a little bit more excitement may want to sign up for Aquatic Recreational Games, new this fall. Participants will play water polo, water basketball, water volleyball, underwater hockey, water beach ball and more.

Tuition for most aquatics classes is free for those 65 and over. Also, in-district high school students can take classes such as Water Aerobics or Aquatics Recreational Games tuition-free through Rend Lake College’s dual-credit program, which allows high school students to earn college credit while in high school.

The Aquatics Center also offers Lifeguard Training for those 15 and over, as well as Lifeguard Instructor Training and Water Safety Instructor training for qualified individuals. This fall, the center will begin offering lifeguard classes through the week as well as on Sundays to allow more options for interested students.

“We really try to encourage water safety here, especially through swimming lessons,” said Johnston.

Even with a great line-up of classes and programs such as these and more, Johnston still has a mind for expansion. She said there may be scuba-diving classes held at the Aquatics Center next spring.

For more information about programs available at the Aquatics Center, swimming times or memberships, contact Johnston at (618) 437-5321, Ext. 1207, or call toll-free (in-district only) at 1-800-369-5321, Ext. 1207.

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