Press Release courtesy of Missy Ketchum.
The latest accolade for International Swimming Hall of Fame coach Randy Reese is perhaps the most personal of them all: a battalion of Reese’s former swimmers from Episcopal High School and the University of Florida have contributed funds to name Episcopal’s 50-M pool in his honor. They will gather with Randy and his family on Saturday, September 30, at 5:30 p.m. at the pool for a dedication ceremony, followed by a dinner.
Randy Reese was just 24 years old when he accepted the head coaching position at Jacksonville Episcopal High School in Jacksonville, Florida. The school had just created its swimming program and Reese was charged with building the team.
Within five years, Reese had built a juggernaut swimming program whose men’s team was named best in the nation by Swimming World magazine. His swimmers at Episcopal earned All-American and national champion status; they qualified for the Olympic trials and accepted bronze, silver, and gold medals on the podiums at the Olympic Games; they swam at some of the best collegiate swimming programs in the country.
Those chlorine-haired teenagers are in their fifties now, yet the bond between them and their devotion to Reese remains. Last fall, as Episcopal endeavored to renovate its 50M swimming facility as part of a capital campaign, a group of Reese’s former swimmers launched a fund-raising initiative to name Episcopal’s pool for their former coach. Olympic bronze medalist Bill Forrester and former World Record holder Scott Spann penned an initial letter which read, “As we reflect on our lives as Randy Reese alumni, despite our collective ups and downs, many of our principles and values are a direct result of his influence on our lives.” Contributions came in steadily, from former swimmers on both coasts and everywhere in between.
As Reese left Episcopal to lead the swimming program at the University of Florida, outreach to those he’d coached there resulted in more contributions in Reese’s honor. He led the University of Florida to Southeastern Conference championships and NCAA titles and Reese was named SEC Coach of the Year ten times.
Olympic gold medalist Nancy Hogshead, who swam for Reese at Episcopal and trained with Reese at the University of Florida, said, “As accomplished as his swimmers were, Randy has been as accomplished as a coach. It seems impossible that he coached Episcopal High School to a national championship at just 24 years old, then coaching at the University of Florida for so many years with so many championships.”
Gold medalist Tracy Caulkins, who swam for Randy at the University of Florida, said, “I don’t think coaches get the recognition that they deserve, and I was so pleased to hear of Episcopal’s efforts to name the new pool for Randy. He has influenced my swimming career and life as well as so many other swimmers across Florida and the world! My husband, Mark, and I are happy to support these efforts and to be coming to the dedication. It will be great to see Randy and many teammates and friends.”
Additional quote from Nancy: “For most of us, Randy played a big part in developing who were are now. I started swimming on the Randy Reese Swim Team shortly after turning 11, and he had already convinced 40 kids to set their sights on national prominence; to get up at 4:45am for two hours in the water before school, lifting weights and running during school, and another two hours after school. We were the beneficiaries of his progressive training ideas; ask any of us about “bands,” “baskets,” “wheelies,” swimming up the Ichetucknee Springs, snorkels, and more. We were so proud of how hard we worked, and it set a benchmark for our personal and professional lives.”
Additional quote from Tracy: “Randy Reese has had a significant influence on my success as a swimmer. I was fortunate to finish my career with Randy at the University of Florida, and was able to realize my dream of representing my country at the Olympics. I knew that Randy and his program was the best place for me. We had a great team and Randy is a great coach who prepared us well.”\