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PPS Middle School Championships

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At the first part of the meet, an invite letter was delivered to coaches and guardians.

Letter to call participants to the new All-City Aquatics All-Star Team

Coach Mark Rauterkus

Head Boys Varsity Coach at PPS Obama
Executive Director, SKWIM USA

108 South 12th Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15203-1226

412-298-3432 = cell

January 24, 2018

Delivery to participants and spectators at PPS Middle School Championships

Dear Swimmers, Guardians and Coaches:

Three cheers to you for completing the middle-school season and competing in today’s championships. Hopefully, you choose to continue swimming, as we’d love to see you at 11:30 am on Saturday at PPS Oliver High School on the Northside.

You are invited to sign-up for a brand-new,

All-City, Aquatics All-Star Team!

First meeting and swim clinic is this Saturday, January 27, 2018, from 11:30 to 1 pm on the Northside at PPS Oliver High School, 2323 Brighton Road, 15212.

Second meeting and clinic is next Saturday, February 3, 2018, from 11:30 to 1 pm at PPS Oliver.

If interested, call, text or email.

Or, sign-up in advance at

We are seeking 25 or more middle-school athletes, boys and girls, of any swimming ability, for this low/no cost program. It is a labor of love from the coach(es). We hope to organize the swimmers, guardians and boosters for an All-Star experience with specialized practices, coaching, training, and lots of play and competitions. We’ll swim, exercise, use technology tools. We’ll also learn, practice and play water polo and SKWIM, a water-disk game. We stress sportsmanship, teamwork, and conditioning with help of digital badges. Playing well with others happens with in-house meets and game-days — if we get your support and your participation.

Expect more information at the first clinics. Other practice opportunities in other city neighborhoods are possible too. Call with questions. See

Boost your fitness, swim knowledge, circle-of-friends, swim speed and aquatic game-play so that you can become a future lifeguard and a stronger varsity athlete, in any sport.

Thanks for the consideration.

Coach Mark Rauterkus

Back of letter

Click image to see larger view.

New Executive Director of SKWIM USA, a 501(c)(3)

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Click for larger image

Press Release:

Attention aquatic enthusiasts, professionals, associations and organizations:

The Board of Directors at SKWIM International are very pleased and excited to announce the appointment of Pittsburgh aquatics coach Mark Rauterkus as 2018 SKWIM USA Executive Director.

Coach Mark’s duties will include SKWIM Certification and #playskwim education with U.S. aquatic facilities and local communities, partnerships with USA aquatic sports associations and organizations, and educational sponsorships with key commercial entities.

In addition to building SKWIM programming throughout the Pittsburgh community, Mark is a veteran youth and collegiate swim and water polo coach, and currently holds leadership positions with Obama Academy Aquatics, Summer Dreamers Aquatic Camps, the Pittsburgh Project, Saturday Swim School, Pittsburgh Citiparks Aquatic Safety Education and several summer water-sport events in the greater Pittsburgh area. Coach Rauterkus is a beloved aquatic ambassador on the central east coast, and proven to be invaluable in building SKWIM community and goodwill.

Mark is a sought-after aquatics expert/speaker and currently presenting at the Pacific Swim Coaches Clinic in Napa, CA, January 6th 2018.

Mark continues his duties as swim coach at Obama Academy of Pittsburgh Public Schools, The Ellis School, as well as The Pittsburgh Project’s summer camp.

Please join us in wishing Mark the best of success in the coming year!

Coach Kevin I. McCarthy

Coach Mark Rauterkus becomes Executive Director of nonprofit, SKWIM USA.

Alterntive URL,

SKWIM Press Release Rauterkus 010618r


Polar Bear Plunge in Pittsburgh

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Coach Mark Rauterkus at the edge of the Mon River on the morning of January 1.

Coach Mark Rauterkus at the edge of the Mon River on the morning of January 1.

Mark and Grant

Dad and son, Mark and Grant with the river in the background and a foggy view of Station Square.

Fur coats welcome

Bring your fur coat and fur swim suits too.

Social event. Reunite with friends.

These are my peeps!

Kids can do it. Guardians as well.

Kids can do it. Guardians as well.

Lots of folks on the Mon Wharf.

They all can't be wrong. It is a blast.

Jumping into the river.1

Jumping into the Mon. Go feet first.

U-Turn in the cold water

It is a plunge and a quick u-turn. Never swim alone.

Warm glow after

Ian is a rock star. Bring your friends.

Some are not so lucky. Santa hat floats past.

Bye Santa.

For that extra aerobic animal fix, run from the Downtown on the Mon Wharf to the South Side.

Historic look at a Brickner

We love the Brickners. Don't know this guy.

Bravo to those who made it and took a swim!

This event is epic, and both a Pittsburgh thing as well as a world-wide experience.

Some years are way colder than others. 


Entry into Sci-Tech’s swim pool

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Building outside of school

Looking at PPS Sci-Tech from Forbes Ave in Oakland.

Pittsburgh Public Schools Sci-Tech is a city-wide magnet that serves grades 6 to 12 and is the former Frick Middle School.



The swim pool is 3-lanes wide and 25-yards long. It is located next to the gym on the bottom floor and below the cafeteria / auditorium.


Pitt's Cathedral

Pitt’s Cathedral of Learning is a focal point of the campus. Sci-Tech is about 4 blocks from this major city landmark.

Sci-Tech is in the heart of Oakland and Pitt right off of Fifth Avenue, the one-way, main street that heads to Downtown. It is across the street from Pitt’s three dorm towers, next to a church and close to where the former Childrens’ Hospital location.

The one-way driving trick: Both of the side streets on either side of Sci-Tech, Thackeray and N. Bouquet Streets, are ONE WAY in the same direction, going down the hill onto Fifth Ave. So, to drive into the parking lot, one must go around the block from above from O’Hara Street and then drive down to the school.

Bus sign and Pitt Towers

Take the bus to and from Sci Tech. Pitt dorms are across the street.


In the day, while the faculty is present, it is hard to find a spot in the parking lot. In the evenings, nights and weekends, there is plenty of free parking.

PAT (bus) Transit

Building Doors

door of Sci-Tech

Front door of Sci-Tech. Do not use this door to enter the swim pool in times when the school is NOT in session.

For a swim practice in the evening, weekends and on holidays, do not use the front door. Enter the building from the door in the parking lot that is closer to the swim pool and to the right of the tall smoke-stack.

parking lot and school doors

Sci-Tech Parking Lot. The doors to the swim pool for entry on non-school day times is to the right of the tall smoke-stack.

Use these doors to enter the Sci-Tech swim pool.

Inside and to the swim pool

After entering the basement doors off of the parking lot, finding the swim pool is easy.


The swim pool is near the gym, in the lower level.

Hallway leads to the pool. Right side door goes to the women’s lockers and left side goes to the men’s lockers.

Locker area is used only for the swim pool.

Pool is 25-yards long and three lanes wide with deep end and starting blocks and shallow end too.

The pool is a nice venue for SKWIM games and practices. Coach Picciafoco is a retired physical education teacher and long-time coach at Frick and then at Obama. The teams back in the day had a dynasty of devoted swimmers, always winning the city league and often beating the combined score from all the other schools.

The students at Sci-Tech have their own swim team for the middle-school grades, 6, 7 and 8. When the Sci-Tech students are in the high school grades ( 9, 10, 11 and 12) they join with the athletes at Obama Academy. The Obama Varsity swim teams have students from Sci-Tech, U-Prep and Obama, as well as some home-school families if they reside in the U-Prep feeder pattern.

Dr. K has been the head coach of the Sci-Tech middle school swim teams since 2015.

Without water, we have been known to still climb high.

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Thanksgiving break with Pittsburgh Public Schools means five days without swimming. Sadly, the swimmers can not get into the swim pool. And the day before the vacation begins, many were already checked out.

When without a swim pool, we often turn to joint practices or else the stairs of the Cathedral of Learning at Pitt. Climbing the steps is a great, timeless workout. Often, the swimmers at Obama go a couple of times each year.

In 2017, our goal was to hold a swim scrimmage with The Ellis School as they had class on Monday after Thanksgiving. But sadly, they didn’t get the okay from Chatham University for our squad to join them for the practice. Next year, perhaps.

Those that attended got Jetpack stickers and a Milestone Pod too.

Entering Obama Academy’s pool

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School web page:

1. Location

Pittsbugh Public Schools’ Obama Academy 6-12 is located at 515 N. Highland Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15216.

Obama is at the corner of Highland Avenue and East Liberty Boulevard at the edge of the Pittsburgh neighborhoods of Highland Park and East Liberty.

Landmarks: The school is not too far from the Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium. Obama Academy is across the street from the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and a diagonally from The Home Depot.

Go Figure

Obama Academy is where Peabody used to be. In reality, Obama used to be Schenley.  


2. Building and parking

There is a modest sized parking lot at the front of the school that is generally filled to capacity on school days. In the evenings the parking lot most often has spaces for visitors to park.

Parking lot at Obama Academy at corner of Highland Ave and East Liberty Blvd.

Street parking around the school happens on East Liberty Blvd and along Highland Avenue. Avoid parking in areas needed for school buses at the end of the school days. School dismissal times extend from 2:30 to about 5:30 pm.

Visiting teams should park along Highland Ave, on the street, heading to East Liberty Blvd. If necessary, drive around the block to face in that direction for curb-side drop-offs. The school parking lot is  suited for bus traffic.

3. Front doors

View from Highland Avenue. Front door of the school is up the steps in the dark hole in the center of the building.

Ramp from parking lot to the left avoids the steps.

Visitors enter the school’s front doors that face Highland Ave. Go to the middle of the building and walk up the steps or the ramp to the left.

4. Entry

The front doors of the school remain locked nearly all the time, especially when school is in session. At the front door to the school, there is a buzzer, a bit like a door bell. Pushing the button alerts the school security office. However, this buzzer won’t be helpful if the security folks have already departed for the evening. That generally happens at 7 pm unless there is a big event such as a basketball game or musical performance. First step, try the buzzer.

Coach Mark’s cell phone, 412-298-3432. Use this to get into the pool if the door is locked. We’ll send someone out to give you entry. Call. Do not text, as the text message won’t get noticed and you’ll be standing there for some time.

5. Inside

Entry into the school, just inside the front door, comes with a walk through the medal detectors.

Past the front doors, the office is to the left. Turn right and see the Obama swag and head through those double doors to get to the pool, gym, cafeteria and auditorium.

Hallway just past the cafeteria sports the Obama Eagles decor. A few historical elements from the days as Peabody High School remain in a couple of the trophy cases.

On the right are the doors that lead into the gym.

6. Final steps

Front lobby and hallway. Auditorium and cafeteria are to the left and gym and trophy case to the right. Pool doors and snack bar / student store are straight ahead.

The pool entry doors are generally open at night and in practice times when the pool is in use. Find these doors on the right side at the end of the school’s front hallway.

Swim pool at Obama Academy is with six lanes and 25-yards long. Pool has electronic timing and end-zone seating with pillars.

7. From the pool deck, more steps to the locker areas

Off the pool deck near the shallow end backstroke flags is a door that leads to the shower and locker areas for both the boys and girls.

Steps to the locker areas. Go down and the boys do a U-trun at the first landing and the girls go straight.

8. Future

Since the move of Obama from Schenley to Reizenstein to the former Peabody building, a number of basic building modifications have been suggested. We hope that the accessibility can be improved so that the school and its pool can a better community resource and eventually comply with the ADA law passed in 1990.


The swim pool needs an accessible family changing room / rest room somewhere on the same level as the pool deck.  Presently, if anyone wants to go swimming, expect to go down and up two flights of steps to reach the pool’s showers, bathrooms and locker areas.

Restroom upgrades were made in other parts of the building in the summers of 2016 and 2017. In the summer of 2018, the school is going to be used as a site for PPS’ Summer Dreamers Academy. We want to keep the pool opened in the summer of 2018.


A proposed new entry to the swim pool could serve as a conduit for entry and exit from the street and sidewalk to not only the swim pool but also to the athletic field.

The swim pool would be well served with an entry into the pool area directly off of the front sidewalk on Highland Avenue into a new foyer and lobby that is presently only a back door to the pool. A lighted, covered, entry that goes right into the pool area would offer higher levels of safety, security and convenience.

Underwater Hockey returns to the swim pool at Pittsburgh’s Obama Academy — Rookies welcome!

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  1. Wed. Oct 18, 7:30 to 9 pm at Obama.
  2. Mon. Oct 30, 7:30 to 9 pm at Obama
  3. Mon. Nov 6, 7:30 to 9 pm at Obama
  4. Mon. Nov 20, 7:30 to 9 pm at Obama

Obama is at the corner of Highland Ave and East Liberty Blvd. Enter school’s front doors and turn right. Walk past the gym to the pool. If front door is locked, call the coach’s cell: 412-298-3432.

Bring swim suit and if you have them, fins, snorkle, mask. But, we’ve got some loaner equipment too.

Additional insights and other dates and community aquatic activities with Coach Mark Rauterkus​ can be found at the Google calendar at

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