Since it is Senior Champs week, I thought I would bring back a great story that actually happened! A great friend of mine, still, Brian Donahue, and I planned something that has never been done to my knowledge in a Championship Meet! Imagine if this went on today! Brian and I will be on deck this weekend in Ft. Pierce at the Senior Champs, come say hi and tell us you read it–See you there! Let us know what you think of the story underneath in the comments.
In US Swimming there are rules and regulations…everything is by the book, right? Not so fast.
The night was the finals of the Senior Region Meet (the old Junior Olympics for Seniors) at the old Sharidan Aquatic Club in Longwood, Florida. This was a very crowded warehouse enclosing a very fast 50-meter pool! There was no deck space to speak of; people were on top of people. So, when we started to line up for relays…we could only find two of the four swimmers!
Two of our fellow swimmers maybe had to leave early. (Or perhaps they never really showed up…I can’t remember, I’m old you know.) Anyway, the time was getting close to the end of the meet and you know what was coming…Relays!
The Blue Dolfins always loved relays because we held numerous National Records in them; we always seemed to do our personal best times, and we always beat the competition by nearly a pool length! (No, I am not exaggerating.)
So as the end of the meet was drawing near and teammate Brian Donahue (his kids swim for Greater Tampa now) and I were sitting there trying to figure out how we were going to get two more relay swimmers to join our relay. Everyone else was being used on other relays. (There was no way we were going to scratch because we really wanted the points for our team. We were definitely doing the 400 Free Relay—that relay was one of our best!)
We looked around the 50 meter warehouse and could not find anybody to swim with us. Then we saw one of the best sights we could ever see…Eddie Rose. (Charlie Rose’s father. Yes, the Blue Dolfins’ current head coach had a dad officiating lanes 6, 7 & 8 at the starting end.)
Brian and I looked at each other with excitement and came up with what seemed at the time like the most awesome idea. A two man relay!
What? Not legal! Well, we did it anyway. I know, you guys think I am an angel. Well, I don’t think of it as breaking the rules, rather think of me as taking the initiative to get the job done!
To prepare, we needed to throw the officials off guard a little, so we got a couple suits, a couple different caps and laughed like crazy! To think we were actually going to try this at a championship meet!
So, the individual events were over…the relays were ready to start. Brian and I were all ready, extra caps and suits behind the bleachers, hidden…only a couple of our friends knew and in between their fits of laughter, they were anxious to see if we could pull it off.
Eddie Rose (Charlie’s dad), standing right next to our block, said, “Hey JooAaauuueer!” as he use to call me, had absolutely no idea…yet. I was swimming the first leg and took off the blocks like a wild man, going as hard as I could, wide open. We wanted to win! However, in hindsight, I should have been thinking about the fact that I had to get back on the block in less than 50 seconds to do it all again, and add a cap, and add a suit….oops, I better hurry up and get out of the pool!
Brian took off the same way, as hard as he could…we must have thought that getting our pulse up well over 200 and then doing it again 50 seconds later wasn’t a real big deal at the time.
So, I quickly ran around the bleachers, laughing while I slid on an additional suit and cap. I must admit, I had trouble focusing and doing anything right the first go around, as I was in extreme oxygen debt, and Brian was turning on the 3rd wall. …Oh geez, I had to get up on the blocks and I was still behind the bleachers! So, I ran to the blocks, yes, absolutely completely out of air, laughing, not taking any oxygen in. I get up, Mr. Rose looks at me and does a double-take; he looks at me with those golf ball sized eyes he was so good at doing. Would he rat me out? Disqualify us? Here was the moment of truth! He pauses a moment and then puts his hand on the side of his face to block out the sight of me…From that point, on I knew we were good.
I entered the water laughing—we were in probably 3rd at the time—air going out and not in. I was going as hard as I could with no oxygen. How long did that last? I don’t know, probably 20 feet?
We went from 3rd to 6th—FAST! You can imagine the massive pain and the size of the African elephant sitting on my chest…but somehow I am still laughing. In the meantime Brian is doing his thing behind the bleachers, adding a cap and suit! I am sure he saw me just falling off pace and into pieces, which made probably cracked him up even further.
So, I touch the wall, and Brian takes off. Same thing; we fall immediately to 8th place. Brian was laughing, choking on water, and going through the same pain and enjoyment that I did. I couldn’t get out of the pool very easy either, I probably looked funny doing it. …The pool had an extra 1’ ½” coping from the water that felt like I was hanging on a cliff! Oh man it hurt! But, to this day the image of Mr. Rose laughing lives in my mind and brings me a big smile.
Brian, my partner in this swimming crime, was just finishing. He didn’t look good either. “We scored,” I wheezed out at him triumphantly. “Yes!” he coughed.
So, who says you always have to play by the book? Who says meets aren’t fun? To this day, the 2-man, 400 Free Relay, was probably the only 2-man relay that has ever scored in a championship meet.