What Is The Largest Swimming Meet in the United States?

Contributor Josh Davis is a 5-time Olympic medalist and the Manager Partner the Mutual of Omaha Breakout Swim Clinics.

Josh Davis, 3-time Olympic Gold MedalIst

Josh Davis, 3-time Olympic Gold MedalIst

This MLK weekend will mark a milestone for many in the swimming community, their first swim meet of 2013. For some it will be their first Arena sponsored Grand Prix in Austin. For others it will be their first time at the 30th Annual Southwest Ohio Swimming Officials Association (SWOSOA) High School Invitational in Cincinnatti. For some it will be there last time at the Ohio Classic. You’re probably thinking I haven’t heard of this meet in Ohio.  Well if you aren’t familiar with it, you should be.

The SWOSOA Classic is the largest swim meet in the country with over 3,000 swimmers representing over 115 schools where prelims is done in 8 different pools between Cincinnati and Dayton that encompass over 70 lanes of competition. The finals are then held at the famous St. Xavier High School/Cincinnati Marlins – Keating Swim Center.

Pat Lunsford, Ohio

Pat Lunsford, Ohio Officials Association

You’re also probably thinking this meet is a logistical and administrative nightmare, but you don’t know the Pat Lunsford, a member of the Ohio Officials Association. If you aren’t familiar with Mr. Pat Lunsford, then you should be!

Pat was the co-founder of this amazing swim meet 30 years ago and has been volunteering as a swimming official for an astounding 44 years! To put into perspective, Pat has officiated, conservatively, over 120 sessions of swimming per year for the last 44 years. And if each session is at least 3 hours long that is a total of almost 16,000 hours of volunteer time running swimming meets! And of course that doesn’t include the hours of travel, meetings and other leadership duties he has helped with. Again, I’d like to emphasize the word volunteer. At a few elite meets officials get compensated for hotel and travel but they don’t make any money. In fact Pat has easily spent, on average, $5000 each year out of his own pocket to serve as an official. Instead of paying off a vacation home Pat committed his life to swimming.

Obviously Pat has a passion for the sport of swimming.  It began when he got his first head coaching job at 17 years old.  Back then meets weren’t allowed on nights or weekends so without trained parent volunteers to officiate Pat had to coach and officiate his own meets.  A typical scenario at a swim meet would be Pat confirming the line-up of swimmers, starting the race, timing the heat already in water racing, checking for any watch mistakes, judging the strokes, then confirming the times, and on and on…  Pat coached and officiated for 17 years and then transitioned to the business world while still officiating as much as his schedule would allow.  Pat worked his way up from city meets to the sectionals, then districts, and then when he worked the Ohio State meet he thought he had reached the epitome of officiating.

About that time a young Jay Fitzgerald was the coach at Cincinnati Marlins, and he came up to Pat and said, “That was one of the best starting jobs I’ve ever seen.  You should get involved with USA Swimming.”  One of Pat’s officiating mentors, the great George Schafer, overheard and said, “You should think about it because Jay never gives compliments like that.”

So, just like in Ohio, Pat got involved with USA Swimming as an official on all levels.  Pat has done everything from stroke and turn, to starter to head referee at every meet you can think of; high school, YMCA, Masters, Nationals, and all the international meets.

Pat really did the reach the ultimate in officiating when he was chosen as stroke and turn judge at the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games and then was a starter for the 2004 Athens Games. Now that FINA has a mandatory retirement age of 65 for officials at international meets, Pat has committed the last several years to identify and train up the next generation of elite officials. Although his officiating skills and eagle eye has not diminished he has a passion for making sure the next officials provide a professional environment for the swimmers to be their best.

Pat not only became an excellent official, he was also a leader of officials.  Always striving to make things better, Pat got involved with shaping policy and finding common sense solutions.  One of the problems that has been plaguing the swim community for decades is the different rules for respective swimming organizations. So Pat founded the “Our Kids Initiative” which started the drive to get FINA, NCAA, YMCA, High School, and USA Swimming to have consistent rules. If you ever thought, “How great is is that all these different leagues are talking and agreeing on stroke and turn rules for the benefit of our kids.” Well the reason is because of Pat.

Another milestone this year will be when Pat celebrates 45 years of marriage with his wife Joan. But according to Pat, Joan and him almost didn’t happen. When they were dating in 1966, she complained that he was spending to much time at the pool. So she made an ultimatum that it was either her or swimming.  Pat promptly ended the date dropped her off at home. Well, thankfully, Joan reached out to Pat’s mother the next day to try and figure out this stubborn chlorine-headed man. Pat’s mom explained that a man who has a passion to serve something bigger than himself will probably make a contented happy husband. As they talked further Pat’s mom became impressed with Joan’s character. So the next day Pat’s mom insisted he call Joan and ask for a second chance. Joan agreed and the rest is history. Pat, with the support of his wife Joan, has made this sport better. Thank you Joan!

Clinicians: Simmon Burnett and Whitney Myers

Clinicians: Simon Burnett and Whitney Myers

For the past 30 years tens of thousands of athletes have raced at this meet including several Olympians from the area like Kim Rhodenbaugh, Dan Ketchum and Erin Phoenix.  The SWOSOA Classic will continue to be a breeding ground for great memories and great swimmers.

The SWOSOA Classic  weekend will conclude with a Mutual of Omaha BREAKout Swim Clinic on Monday January 21st, featuring 5 World Class Swimmers including 3 Olympians Ian Crocker, Misty Hyman and Simon Burnett and 2 home grown Cincinnati World Champions Whitney Myers and Josh Schneider.  The clinic will be from 9-1pm at the Keating Swim Center.  The event is sold out with over 175 swimmers registered to spend the day with some of the greatest swimmers ever.

Special thanks to the man who organized the clinic goes to, you guessed it, Pat Lunsford.  Pat turns 70 in March and is going to retire, but I think it’s appropriate to recognize one of the great people of our sport.  So, how do you say thank you to a man who has given so much to a sport we all love, I guess it’s just one swimmer and coach at time. If you see Pat on deck this weekend tell him thanks!   Thank you Pat for everything.

ABOUT THE CLINICIANS

Misty Hyman grew up in Phoenix, Arizona and after being diagnosed with asthma at age 5 was encouraged to try swimming.  With the help of long-time coach Bob Gillett, she mastered the underwater dolphin kick and became one of the fastest high school swimmers of all time.  Misty’s high school national records in the 100 fly and 100 back stood for almost 15 years.

In 1997 she accepted the full scholarship to Stanford and became one of the most decorated collegiate swimmers of all time becoming a 27 time All-American.  Right before her senior year Misty shocked the world by upsetting the Aussie world record holder Susie O’Neil in front of Susie’s home crowd at the Sydney 2000 Games.  Misty won the gold and set the Olympic and American record in the 200m fly and many consider it the greatest US performance of that Olympics.

Proving that she is also a great role model outside the pool, Misty turned down the money offered to her and instead finished her degree and graduated from Stanford at the top of her class.  She promptly studied in Santiago, Chili to become fluent in Spanish and then got her Masters degree in Switzerland. After helping run a successful resort in St. Croix, Virgin Islands, she returned home to Phoenix to inspire the next generation of swimmers.  Now Misty runs a successful speaking and teaching business called Mistyfly.

If you watch her race from 2000 or watch her teach now it is truly inspiring.  Misty has become one of the top Ambassadors of swimming and has been a part of the Mutual of Omaha BREAKout! Clinic Team for over 10 years.

Ian Crocker grew up in Portland, Maine where he, thankfully, at age 6, picked swimming as his first sport because he quickly found out he was terrible at all the others.  His first goal was to beat his big sister and from there he just kept steadily improving.

Amazingly, at 17 years old, in a state where there are no 50 meter pools, he qualified for the 2000 Sydney Games in the 100 meter butterfly.  Ian proceeded to win a gold medal in the those Games in the 4×100 medley relay and then 2 more times in 2004 Athens and at the 2008 Beijing Games.  One of the few humans to make 3 Olympic Games, Ian is best known as Michael Phelps’ greatest rival.  For 6 years, from 2003 to 2009, Ian held the world record in the 100m fly until Michael broke Ian’s mark in a body suit.

He had a legendary career at the University of Texas, having never lost a fly race all 4 years.  Ian also held the American Record in the 100 short course meter freestyle for many years.  Most impressive is while dealing with shyness and depression, Ian developed into one of the most dominant butterfly sprinters in history.

After retiring in 2009 Ian has become one of the top Olympic swim instructors in America and has a passion for inspiring swimmers to go for their dreams.  In addition to teaching young people, he balances his time playing guitar, fixing up old cars, and most importantly spending time with his new wife, Kristen and their kittens.

Born and raised in Cincinnati, Josh Schneider grew up in an athletic household.  He excelled in football and track in high school but enjoyed swimming on the side.  He even competed in the Southwest Ohio Classic 7 years ago in 2006.  A lifelong Bearcat fan, Josh surprisingly decided to try out for the University of Cincinnati swim team instead of the football team.  Josh improved rapidly since that first practice where he showed up in board shorts.  He became the Bearcats first National Champion in 2010 by winning the 50yd free in an amazing:18.8 seconds.  He held the American Record in the short course meter 50 free for 2 years and is now preparing for the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.   Although a little intimidating at 6 ‘4 and 220 pounds, Josh has become an accomplished instructor and loves inspiring young people to be their best!

Simon Burnett is a three time Olympian from England having competed in Athens 2004, Beijing 2008, and London 2012 and was a finalist in Athens and Beijing. In four World Championship competitions, Simon was a finalist seven times. The While at the University of Arizona, he medaled in 14 events, 6 of which were gold. He currently holds the U.S. Open and NCAA record in the 200 yard freestyle with a time of 1:31.20. Currently, Simon holds the British record in the 100 meter freestyle at 48.20. While at Arizona, Simon met his, now wife, Whitney Myers who is also a presenter for the BREAKout! Clinic in Cincinnati.

A 25-time First Team All-American, Whitney Myers was a four-time NCAA Champion which included the 2007 NCAA Championship in the 200 individual medley (1:54.89).  Among her many career achievements, she is a 14-time record-holder at Arizona and the 2006 Pac-10 Swimmer of the Year.  She still holds the school record for the 200-yard butterfly (1:53.75) and the 200 yard individual medley (1:54.88).  Whitney was elected captain of the Arizona women’s team as a sophomore, junior, and senior.  Academically, Whitney was a First Team Academic All-American and First Team Pac-10 All-Academic four times.   As a senior, Whitney received the Sapphire Award recognizing the top female student-athlete at the University of Arizona who has excelled in academics, personal development, and community service.  In 2007, she was named College Sportswomen of the Year by the Greater Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky Woman’s Sports Association and the Female University Student-Athlete of the Year by the Phoenix Women’s Sports Association.  Perhaps her biggest athletic accomplishment was being named NCAA Woman of the Year in 2007.  The award recognizes one woman from all senior female college athletes who has excelled in athletics, academics, leadership, and service.  She was a gold medal member of the 800 meter freestyle relay at the 2005 U.S.A. World Games team that swam in Montreal, a gold medal winner in the 200 individual medley at the 2006 Pan Pacific Games in Victoria, British Columbia, and  awarded Female Swimmer of the Pan Pacific meet.   Whitney has received two Golden Goggles Awards — one in 2006 as the winner for “Female Performance of the Year” in United States Swimming and one in 2005 as a member of the “Relay Performance of the Year.”  Upon graduation, Whitney signed a contract with Nike and swam professionally for five years retiring in 2012.  She is currently a graduate student at the University of Southern California where she is pursuing a degree as a physician assistant. She married Simon Burnett, a three time Olympian swimmer, in July, and they reside in Pasadena, California.

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About Gold Medal Mel Stewart

Gold Medal Mel Stewart

MEL STEWART Jr., aka Gold Medal Mel, won three Olympic medals at the 1992 Olympic Games. Mel's best event was the 200 butterfly. He is a former World, American, and NCAA Record holder in the 200 butterfly. As a writer/producer and sports columnist, Mel has contributed to Yahoo Sports, Universal Sports, …

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