My introduction to competitive swimming goes back to the 1984 Olympics. I was lucky enough to cover those games for KMOX Radio and the Suburban Journals in Los Angeles. Swimming was outdoors at the McDonald’s complex at the University of Southern California. They literally dropped a temporary stadium onto the campus, across the street from the Coliseum. Days after the games ended, the stadium was gone forever.
Stars like Rowdy Gaines, Pablo Morales, Mary T. Meagher, Tracey Caulkins and Dana Torres established the U.S. as the greatest team in international competition in a very long time.
In 1987, the Pan American games were held in Indianapolis.
Barbara Barber of Kirkwood had four daughters in Kirkwood schools and by necessity, operated the B&B Aquatics in Des Peres to pay for all those swimming expenses. Trust me, those in the swim community know how to find B&B Aquatics in the Colonade Shopping Center.
Barber convinced me we should go watch swimming, indoors at Indiana University-Purdue’s swim complex. I was hooked on the sport forever.
Spending some 15+ hours at the 37th renewal of the state swim championships at the majestic Rec Plex in St. Peter’s this past weekend, I had a few free moments to think about the competitive aspects of the sport.
For one, all those swimmers seem like little robots, all tethered to their coaches and their teammates. They come in waves to the Olympic style pool. In warmups, literally, the lanes are clogged with hundreds of swimmers. It's no small wonder, they don’t drown each other while doing flip turns.
I learned a long time ago, coaches are really passionate about their athletes. They yell wildly from the sidelines, knowing full well, their swimmers cannot hear a word they are saying, or screaming at the top of their lungs.
I learned the talent runs deep, and in the case of female swimmers, the talent is developed often at a tender age. Many of the stars are freshmen and sophomores, who can easily outdistance upper class opponents. Kat Friese from MICDS is just a freshman, but took third place in one-meter diving in a field of 41 competitors. She knowingly snuck up on the field, but won’t be able to that anymore.
Teams can come from way back in the field and still strike gold.
Case in point, the 200 freestyle relay from St. Joseph’s Academy. Seven schools qualified for that event with lower times. St. Joe, a school without a swimming pool, and one that squeezes practices into the Chaminade facility had a foursome determined to make a difference at this meet.
Seniors Julia Herbig and Jenna Osterhold; sophomore Grace Stiegemeyer and freshman Grayson Ram beat everyone to the finish line to capture a highly unexpected title. The race was a fulfilling moment for the Angels of St. Joe. Their teammates and coach went crazy.
Barber told me she loved swimming because she said it was almost completely void of politics. As she said, the first girl to touch at the finish line wins. Those who touch first often mostly get the coveted college swim scholarships.
Good point. In other sports like volleyball, football, baseball and the like, officials like it or not, often determine the outcome of a game. A sport like figure skating, with subjective judging can be very political at best.
Not so for swimming. Touch first, and you are the winner.
The sport of swimming just grabs me. Ir's a highly charged sport. Some of the locals looked so tired from all the grind, it showed in their eyes and their emotions.
The whole purpose of the sport is to peak and win at just the right moment. I really like that about the highly competitive sport of swimming.
Here's the take on the meet by the Kansas City Star newspaper.
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