Looking Back with Fondness -- March 8, 2001
By Jim Lutz
WHILE cleaning out a closest in my "new" digs recently I came across numerous copies of SWIMMING WORLD. Some issues dated back to the late 1960’s when digital stopwatches were nothing more than a vision and a dream.
Names like Rothhammer and Schollander graced the pages and in some cases, actually endorsed some of the products advertised. Thankfully, they were no longer competing so their amateur status was never in
In the March, 1979 issue that I happened to open, a young Canadian name Graham Smith was pictured en route to breaking a 200 meter IM world record at the
previous summer’s World Championships. His picture and feature were nice segues to the feature on the college championships later in the month, which reported how Smith and his Cal teammates had their sights set on winning the title.
A reprinted feature from the New York Times, told of a troubled Olympic gold medalist named Matt Vogel (100 fly, 1976) and his struggles to handle the instant and
daunting "celebrity" Olympians receive whether or not they care to live the life of the Rich and Famous.
There was another story on Tennessee’s Ray Bussard and his coonskin-capped Men of Orange, also known as the "fastest humans afloat." In a rebellious culture, Bussard proved that structure and discipline were not only needed, they were desired by many.
A lean, young coach, Rick Curl, stood proudly among his age groupers who had bettered two national records and tied a third. The school system taught us "the three R’s". Rick's kids were described as "the five R's": Rambunctious Racers Reap Record Riches.
Further down the page, Nashville Aquatic Club’s Tracy Caulkins, 16, struck a second national record in the 15-18 age group with a still-competitive 4:41.72 for the 500-yard freestyle.
Ads for isokinetic swim benches and mini-gyms filled the pages as the latest in dry land training devices. Arena displayed its nylon button short using a model with Big Hair and three-striped athletic socks that extended to the knee. The watertight wristwatch dropped into a four-ounce glass of water was a sign of things to come: For only $69 you, too, could purchase this state-of-the-art timing device and that was accurate to the hundredth of a second.
Then there was a training session swim aficionados would die for: Mark Schubert and the denizens of his Mission Viejo "Animal Lane" were playing host to the top Russians and their legendary coach, Igor Koshkin.
College dual meets caught the eye and the interests of many as SMU halted Indiana’s streak at 140 dual meets, a streak that extending back almost 13 years, with a
nail-biting 60 – 53 victory. SEC and Pac-10 rivals battled for bragging rights in an inter-conference battle between UCLA and Tennessee. The outcome gave new Bruin boss, Ron Ballatore, hopes for the future as Super-Soph, Brian Goodell posted three nation-leading times to lead the BRuins over the defending NCAA
The departure of Frank Comfort to North Carolina did not diminish the hopes of Johns Hopkins and its coach, Tim Welsh, to defeat the Lord of Kenyon who were in pursuit of their third-straight Division III NCAA crown. Can you imagine a team thinking it actually could win three straight titles? Little did we know what was about to happen in the coming decades.
Title IX was getting proper credit as Arizona State ranked #1 among the natiopn's women's team. Munich triple gold medalist, Melissa Belote, led the charge of Ron Johnson’s Sun Devils.
High school records fell at various state champion-ships from Central California to Connecticut and in many parts in between. Tracy Caulkins and Kim Linehan
scorched the competition at the Emory Invitational on the girls' side while a little sprinter named Steve Lundquist bettered the 50 free record set by Dave
Edgar and snatched the 100 fly title as well.
John Naber received the Trophy of the International Committee for Fair Play and Jerry Frentos was making a name for himself in the IM events at the Cincinnati
Parkway Swim Club’s Tom Jager proudly displayed his high point trophy for the 13 –14 age group and Bob Steele displayed his winning smile to entice young swimmers to SIU's summer camp.
The flying foursome of John Ebuna, John Newton, Andy Coan and Bruce Rindahl posed for a picture that would later grace the walls of the Student Aquatic Center on the University of Tennessee campus after they set an American record of 1:21.62 in the 200 yard freestyle relay in a dual meet against North Carolina.
A bearded coach Bob Thomas and Archie Harris, provided excellent instruction at their camps, aided by Doc Counsilman, Jack Nelson and a new Longhorn
named Eddie Reese.
After setting five American records at the 1978 AAU Short Course championships (a feat not achieved by even the great Mark Spitz), Tracy Caulkins became the 10th swimmer to receive the Sullivan Award as the nation’s most outstanding amateur athlete. Tracy was presented with the award by the previous year’s winner, John Naber.
After closing the back cover, I fondly remembered the excitement I felt when MY copy of SWIMMING WORLD arrived each month. I can’t but wonder how many others were inspired by that wonderful publication to make the sport of swimming a major part of their life, either as an athlete or a coach.
The sport has changed in the past two decades, and SWIMMING WORLD has even received a facelift or two along the way, but the foundations of both the magazine and the sport remain rock-solid.
Have a great life. I know I will
Jim Lutz is Head Swimming Coach at Michigan State University.
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