Monday, September 28, 2009
"I read about the swimming banquet in the Winged M and I would love to participate. I have a long past with the MAC swimming program. I was in swim lessons until I was 5 years old. Then, I joined the club program on Becky Roth's squad. I swam for Debbie Roth, Brandon Draws, and Alex Nikitin in pre-senior squad. I competed in State, and Regional Championships for the MAC club. I ended my MAC club swim career when I was 15 years old.
Currently, I'm the Assistant Coach for Lincoln High School's Swim Team, as well as the Assistant Coach for
Lakeridge High School's Water Polo Team, and the Head Age Group Coach for Iron Mountain Water Polo Club. I'm also currently on the Decathlon Committee at the MAC. Please feel free to contact me in any regards. Thanks!"
A response from Jon Waldum III
What years did you swim with MAC?
Who was your coach/coaches?: Mr. Simpson, Mike Hastings & Ray Conlon
What were your most memorable swimming accomplishments?: As a boy, I recall being able to travel to the Santa Clara Invitational with my mates and that my Mom was there for me. As a preteen, I recall the Long Course Junior Olympics, swimming the 200 meter butterfly, leading way ahead and setting the record with my Dad there watching. As high school freshmen, I struggled to swim a pool length but with my friends support and perseverance I started my way back. As a senior in high school; at the PIL Championship held that year at the MAC, swimming the 100 yd butterfly came from behind to break the event record swimming against an old adversary. In college, swimming intramurals at a school where I knew no one, I set a record for the 200 yd. IM; which for the next four years provided my name at the entrance to that facility; which always made me feel at home.
Now, I still enjoy swimming from time to time but most recently I've enjoyed giving back, to the community where I reside, by volunteering on the swim team just like all of parents I fondly remember.
Would you like to share an anecdotes or memory of your swimming experience at The MAC?: My family and I would be remiss if I didn't thank all of those who were there for me in times of need. That the camaraderie and athleticism make me want to come back to the MAC every day. To quote a MAC member and athletic icon -Larry Paulus -"How sweet it is"
What years did you swim with MAC? 1988-2002, then masters 2003-2007.
Who was your coach/coaches?: Becky Roth, Debbie Roth, Chris Doyle, Alex Nikitin and Skip Runkle
What were your most memorable swimming accomplishments?: My first Junior National cut at Washington Open in 1998.
Would you like to share an anecdotes or memory of your swimming experience at The MAC?: Relays in Chris's group and the winners received office supplies (Swizzle stick relays). Alex's many lectures (including "why we shouldn't give blood during taper" & "the squandered talent" speech to my brother, Ruben, and I). I also achieved the quickest time for getting kicked out of practice (Greg Nichols, co-record holder). Skip's pink shirt.
My wife Nancy also swam for Alex and Skip from 1998 to 2001.
Michelle Watts (Donahue)
What years did you swim with MAC?
Who was your coach/coaches?: Trond Williams & Skip Runkle.
What were your most memorable swimming accomplishments?: Placing 3rd at the 1984 US Olympic Trials was my most memorable.
Would you like to share an anecdotes or memory of your swimming experience at The MAC?:
I enjoyed all my time swimming at the MAC. Of course, I remember the timed 3000's and 20 x 50 on the minute. But the things I remember the most are from the swim meets. Like when the rental agency only had a shuttle van available for us at Nationals- what they use to shuttle people to and from rental car agencies to the airport. We would stop at bus stops, Skip would crank open the door and people would start to get on and then get confused. Or when Skip, Alex Stiles, Matt & Mark Rankin filled a manilla envelope up with shaving cream, sealed it, stuck it under our hotel room door and then knocked. Right as Erin King got close to the door, they stomped on it from the hallway and it exploded all over her. I still laugh about these things.
Member Name: Troy Drawz
: 1984-1986 & 1990: USS, 2004-present: Masters
Who was your coach/coaches?: Skip Runkle, Gary Leach, Stephanie Turner, Alex Nikitin
What were your most memorable swimming accomplishments?: 1990 US Short Course National Championships
Member Name: Jeffrey Grubb
What years did you swim with MAC?
: 1960 to 65
Who was your coach/coaches?: Olive Mucha
What years did you swim with MAC?
: Rebecca Obletz started swimming competitively with the MAC masters 1997 and currently still practices with the masters
Who was your coach/coaches?: Sean Taylor, Alex Nikitin, Stephanie Turner, Dennis Baker
What were your most memorable swimming accomplishments?: being recognized at the YMCA Nationals in Fort Lauderdale for the outstanding participant award for sportsmanship and subsequently being honored in the Swimming Hall of Fame for this honor.
Would you like to share an anecdotes or memory of your swimming experience at The MAC?: my most memorable experience with the mac swim team was when we went to the masters nationals in Honolulu. We had so much fun as a group!
Monday, September 21, 2009
We have sent out 1,000 invitations about 10% came back because of incorrect addresses or no forwarding addresses or people have dropped their MAC membership. These were just the former swimmers on the database @ MAC. We need help contacting the other 800 plus swimmers. If you have not received your invitation please contact: Lorilyn Wilson at the MAC. Her phone number is 503-517-7512. Her e-mail address is LWilson@themac.com. Members can register online at the MAC website. All other interested parties should call Lorilyn.
A list of swimmers to whom we sent invitations, a list of swimmers for whom we could not get an address or their invitation was returned and a list of simmers who are attending the event. If you know someone on the first two lists, please contact them about attending. Every swimmer from your era who attends will make the event more enjoyable for you! We also listed below those attending, those who have been sent invitations and names of former swimmers that we need addresses or an email to send an invitation, please help us make this a success for all attending. Please send these on to any of the swimmers you contact.
We look forward to seeing you in October and thank you for your help in making this a great Century Celebration.
Ann Marie Smith
Bonnie Boyd Shannon
Cynthia Von Weller
Jackson Locke Harris
Jacob Von Weller
JP and Sharie Moss
Ken & Mary Jane Eagon
Mary Claire Brenner
J. Burke Knapp
Jay Judson Thompson
Mary Jane Rieke
Peter Van Dijk
Reba Jo Nelson
Tuesday, June 9, 2009
As of now the celebration agenda is as follows:
Friday October 16:
6 pm Welcome 6 pm @ Founders-No host cocktails with complimentary hors d’oeuvres.
7:30-9 pm- No host dinner ‘special’ menu prepared for event guests.
Saturday October 17:
9-10 am and 10-11 am Tour of MAC Club
11 am MAC swim team inner squad meet: 50meter pool
6-9 pm Century of Swimming Banquet Dinner- Main Ballroom
Cost of the event is $75.00 per person.
For those needing hotel accommodations we have rooms reserved at Hotel De Luxe. Visit online: www.hoteldeluxeportland.com and also Silver Cloud www.silvercloud.com.
Itinerary may change slightly but check our website for further updates.
For further information about this event, please contact: email@example.com
We have a good response about the ‘Century of Swimming’. However, we still need more names and e-mail addresses or mailing addresses. Please contact us!
Former swimmers that we have heard form include: Karen (Fredrickson) Emerson, Sharr Stark, Althes (Morden) Sabia, Melissa (Brennan) Springer, Mark Bernett, Mike Miller, Matt Rankin, Joe Santry, Al Irwin, John Dakin, Judy Belford, Marni (Bethell) Williams, Ron Van deHey, Lynn (Hargreaves) Gotcher and Sally Lovett .
We need more information and people from the MAC's 40’s, 50’s and 60’s. Please help us get the information out. Renew your acquaintances, see friends from years ago and help us make the ‘Century of Swimming’ an evening of fun. We have begun the second century of MAC Swimming- proud and confident with a strong tradition of swimming excellence.
Thursday, April 23, 2009
Lauren, how did you start your swimming career?
With swimming lessons at MAC when she was 5 years old, which she didn’t really take a liking to. Because she was always around the water whether a lake, river or ocean her parents insisted. At the age of 7 or 8 she was asked to join the swim team because of her steady progress through the lesson program. Her first coach was Becky Macklem.
Lauren, did you have any interest in any other sport/activities?
Skiing, ballet and gymnastics but her height got in the way and her coordination was lacking in sports with hand-eye coordination and body awareness.
Once on the team, who were your coaches?
Becky Macklem started her out in a pre-competitive program. Debbie Barnes was her next coach in the age group program. At 12, Lauren swam with the Senior Team with Skip Runkle. Lauren did remember that Debbie was the first coach to recognize her potential in swimming and what she might do in the future. In her first swim meet at the Sandy Pool she broke the pool record in the 25 yd. Butterfly. Skip was impressed with her body type, long and lean-for any swimmer- ideal. As she got older she grew into her body and the earlier characteristics of coordination faded away in the water.
How many National titles?
Lauren kind of hesitated but did admit 5 –3 in the 200m free and 2 in the 100m free.
Tell me a little bit about your college swimming…
Lauren swam for Stanford 3 years red shirting her sophomore year due to a back injury, in her 5th year she swam at Texas and returned to Stanford to graduate. Along the way she helped Stanford win the NCAA’s Women’s team title in 1998. She did mention that her best placing was swimming at Texas with a 5th place finish in the 200 yd free.
Fondest memories of swimming?
Great teammates, then she went on to mention Brady Childs, Chris and Scott Sinai, Lindsey Haffner. Rewards such as- making Junior Nationals as a 14 year old and winning 3 Jr. Nat. titles. Hard work does pay off!
8-10-12X 50’s all out on 1minute. Fastest average, endurance and give it your all. Lauren also mentioned kick sets, being an outstanding kicker she likes to work with stretch bands around her ankles while she kicks. Another set she mentioned was long course, 3x200 broken at the 100 on 5minutes-fast.
After graduation-what developed?
After graduation, Lauren retired form the sport in 2002 but because of her interest and experience she returned to the sport in 2005. She headed into coaching at Lincoln H.S. and Hillsboro Heat club coaching. She could understand and appreciate what was going on with swimmers both in and out of the water. The more she coached the more she missed the sport and taking an active roll in her own life. She had more to give and had to prove it to her self. She was at home in the water and couldn’t get it out of her system, at least not yet.
What would pass along to younger swimmers?
Listen to your coaches because they can tell where you’ve been and where you’re headed. As long as you are commit to the sport, the long practices, the meets, etc. they will always believe in you! Stick with it! If you are injured, work thru it. Experience failure because it can only help you grow stronger. Look beyond the surface-for the swimmer and the sport there is a lot more than meets the eye.
Tuesday, March 3, 2009
Arthur Roland Cavill (nicknamed 'Tums', because as a child he chewed his thumbs), the fourth son of the Cavill family, was born on the night of his father's second attempt on the Channel. At the age of 18, he won the 500 and 1000 yards (457 and 914 meters) amateur championships of New South Wales; at 20 was awarded a Royal Humane Society medal for saving a man’s life in Sydney Harbor; and at 21 was the professional 220 yards (200 meters) champion of Australia. Arthur Cavill later improved the Australian crawl. His whole family was involved in swimming. They participated in swimming as well as coaching. Apparently, Cavill actually saw Alick Wickham training. He realised what a great style is was and started using it himself. He later stopped using the Trudgen kick, and began to use the flutter kick (the legs 'flutter' up and down from the hips).
'Tums' went to the United States in 1901 to "make his fortune", and like his brother Charles, swam the Golden Gate. He coached many great swimmers, and introduced the Australian crawl to Americans. He died in 1914, frozen to death, after swimming across Seattle Harbor in cold weather.
Jack Cody 1913-1948
Cody's career at the Multnomah Athletic Club in Portland, Oregon, began and ended with champions. Cody's divers and swimmers helped make Multnomah world famous as an athletic club. Soon after he came to the club in 1913, he coached Constance Meyer to national recognition as a diver. A few years later, two MAC divers were competing in the 1920 Olympic Games, Thelma Payne placing third and Louis "Hap" Kuehn winning the gold medal in men's fancy diving. Though many other Cody-trained swimmers and divers scored in local and regional events in the next 20 years, Cody's greatest fame developed in the 10 years from 1939 through 1949 when a speedy troupe of girls wearing the winged "M" became known as the "Cody Kids". Read full story...
Phil Hansel 1949-1956
Jim Campbell 1956-1958
Jack Pobochenko 1959-1960
Walt Schlueter 1960-1962
Taken from International Swimming Hall Of Fame
FOR THE RECORD: U.S. Olympic and Pan American coach. He produced swimmers on every Olympic team from 1948 through 1972; His swimmers have established 15 World Records, 51 American and Sr. National Records, 35 National AAU Championships. His teams won two U.S. AAU National Team Championships with Chicago Town Club in 1950 and the Multnomah Athletic Club in 1961.
Walt Schlueter was an innovator, a perfectionist, an eminently successful coach. He is particularly noted for developing the perfect stroke of Don Schollander and Marilyn Ramenofsky. He was originator of the rhythm method of teaching pace and the race pace/short rest/ broken swim method of training. Elected as U.S. Olympic and Pan American diving coach, he was also Pan American swim coach as well as U.S. coach at several international swimming competitions. He is best known as a coach of coaches, a stroke specialist originating dozens of stroke drills. His swimmers have competed for the US. in 36 international competitions.
Olive Mucha 1962-1968
At the 1936 Games in Berlin, Olive McKean Mucha won a bronze medal as a member of the USA's 400-meter freestyle relay and swam to a fifth-place finish in the 100-meter freestyle. She won five national championships in the 100-yard and 100-meter freestyle from 1934 to 1936 and also held American records for the 400-meter and 400-yard freestyle relay from 1935 to 1937.
Olive swam for the Washington Athletic Club in Seattle from 1930 to 1936. Olive was inducted into the Pacific Northwest Swimming Hall of Fame last July 30th.
Olive Mucha coached MAC swimmers from 1962 to 1968.
Ted Simpson 1968-1969
Mike Hastings 1969-1972
Mike Burton 1972-1973
Michael Jay "Mike" "Mr. Machine" was severely injured at the age of 12 when struck by a truck while riding a bicycle. Mike recovered sufficiently to become one of the greatest distance freestylers ever. He set seven world and 16 U.S. records, won 10 AAU titles, and while at UCLA he was five times an NCAA champion. Burton was the first man to break 16 minutes for the 1,650y free and the first to swim 800m under 8:30. He was also the first to follow the now standard training regimen of mega-mileage. The first man to win two Olympic 1,500m freestyle titles, between those championships, he needed further surgery on his knee, a residual of his old injury.
Mickey Fleskas 1973-1976
Trond Williams 1976-1981
Skip Runkle 1981-2008
Skip Runkle coached at the Multnomah Athletic Club for twenty seven years. This is the longest tenure out of any MAC Head Swim Coach in history of the Club. He had tremendous success, leading the team to four top 10 finishes at Senior National Championships. Under Skip's guidance, thirteen MAC’s swimmers have represented the USA in international competition and won 8 individual national championship titles.
In 1998, Skip received the American Swimming Coaches Association’s Silver Achievement Award, given to coaches who had experienced 15 years of placing swimmers in championship finals of the National Championships. Skip is one of 12 coaches in the country who have achieved this award of coaching excellence.
Skip has been on the coaching staff for the USA National Team on 13 occasions, most recently as the Head Women’s Coach for the USA at the 1998 Goodwill Games. Team USA won the gold medal in the team competition. Skip has been the recipient of the "Ohio Coach of the Year" award two times and the "Oregon Coach of the Year" award three times. He has been actively involved with USA Swimming, both at the local and national level.
Coach Runkle now works with swimmers of Mount Hood Aquatics in Gresham, OR.
Thursday, February 19, 2009
As with so many great swimming coaches, Jack Cody began as a diver and his first successes were as a coach of divers.
Cody's career at the Multnomah Athletic Club in Portland, Oregon, began and ended with champions. Cody's divers and swimmers helped make Multnomah world famous as an athletic club. Soon after he came to the club in 1913, he coached Constance Meyer to national recognition as a diver. A few years later, two MAC divers were competing in the 1920 Olympic Games, Thelma Payne placing third and Louis "Hap" Kuehn winning the gold medal in men's fancy diving. Though many other Cody-trained swimmers and divers scored in local and regional events in the next 20 years, Cody's greatest fame developed in the 10 years from 1939 through 1949 when a speedy troupe of girls wearing the winged "M" became known as the "Cody Kids".
Beginning with national AAU Senior Championships in 1939, when Nancy Merki, then 13 years of age, won her first of three high-point titles, the Cody Kids were in the nation's sports headlines for 10 years. Nancy, Brenda Helser, Suzanne Zimmerman, Joyce Macrae and Mary Anne Hansen were the nucleus of a team that won national team titles three times, 42 individual championships, and 16 relay championship, many of these setting American records. This was an era before the increase in national championship events, before age-group and Junior Olympic programs.
A reflection of the Cody talent for coaching might be seen in his swimmers' versatility. Nancy Merki, for example, swam and won at every distance from sprint to mile and every stroke. An editorial in the Portland's Oregonian at the time Cody retired as MAC coach pointed to his "rare blend of requisite qualities -- plus that rather mystical something else -- which makes a good swimming coach."
After retiring from the Multnomah Athletic Club in 1949, Jack moved to Los Angeles where he continued some teaching and coaching for several years. He died on April 11, 1963, at the age of 78. Editorial comment in the Oregon Journal after his death observed that "Cody and his Kids made Oregon swimming conscious in a day when there were no high school or grade school swimming teams."
Greatest tribute is evident at the Multnomah Athletic Club where thousands of successful adults still identify themselves as "Cody Kids" because they learned to swim in Cody classes, though far from becoming competitive swimmers themselves.
MACRAE SMITH COMPANY : PHILADELPHIA COPYRIGHT, 1952, AL J. STUMP
Library of Congress catalog card member: 52-6766
THE GREATEST WOMAN SWIMMER OF ALL TIME? SOME MAY SAY that she was Gertie Ederle, who whipped the English Channel, or her counterpart of 1951, Florence Chadwick. On the basis 75 of wrecking pool records at sprint distances, many coaches would vote for Helene Madison, the first o her sex to hit one minute flat for 100 yards. Or Ann Curtis, the strapping Olympic champion who virtually swam herself out of competition in 1948.
But for all-around ability and a magnificent example of sheer courage against odds here is a vote for Nancy Merki Lees.
If Hollywood screened the story of Nancy Merki, it would have its fade-in shot ready made. The scenario would call for her to be seated, a tousle-haired youngster of fourteen, on the White House porch in Washington, sipping tea with Franklin D. Roosevelt. The President has called her clear across the country from Oregon as his special guest
"They tell me, Nancy," the late F.D.R. would say, "that you are our youngest swimming champion in history. Yet you and I have had the same illness. Tell me how you did it."
The Merki answer might sound overdramatic by its very simplicity. But it would be exactly what she told the crippled President on a day in 1939. "Well I guess I just kept trying, Mr. President."
In real life, the answer was so well-received by Roosevelt that it became the rallying cry at his Warm Springs, Georgia, foundation for poliomyelitis victims. Nancy Merki "just kept trying" against the stiffest handicap to beset any sports figure, and out of her battle came such personal rewards as the White House invitation to tell the nation her story through the March of Dimes and as fine a pair of legs as ever graced a female athlete.
If the Hollywood version should sound like the All-America girl story, a Jack Armstrong twist in a two-piece suit, then so much the better for celluloid veracity. Through the 1940's, Nancy Merki was just that in the eyes of the Amateur Athletic Union All-American seven times.
Yet not much earlier than that, Nancy couldn't take a sponge bath without assistance.
The swimmer who wasn't given much chance even to walk is now appraised by aquatic experts as the most versatile and durable swimmer of her sex ever produced in the United States. She won more important championships than Madison; she stayed at the top longer than Curtis. She could do more things in the water than any mermaid on record, so fabulously versatile that her coach, Jack Cody, never knew from meet to meet where she would pick up her first-place points.
"The only thing she couldn't do was dive," says Cody. "And if she'd concentrated on that, Nancy would have been the sensation of the springboard. It just wasn't in her to be second- rate."
Supporting Cody's contention is a record covering a ten-year span, which at the same time unbuttons the theory that women athletes are vacillating, temperamental, fuzzyheaded creatures with the competitive urge of a goldfish. Merki started tearing records apart in 1938 at the unheard-of age of thirteen. When she first hit the tank, a skinny 95-pounder, the big stars nationally were Eleanor Holm, Lenore Sight Wingard, Katie Rawls, Marjorie Gestring, Esther Williams, Ruth Jump, and Ann Hardin. All had long faded from the headlines by 1948 when Merki's tireless crawl was still close to unbeatable.
The onetime polio-crippled Portlander was American champion and record holder in the most demanding event of all, the 300-yard individual medley, which combines all three types of water locomotion: backstroke, breast stroke, and free style. She set national records at all the standard metric free- style distances, from 200 to 1500 meters, and put a 400-meter long-course mark on the books that still hasn't been touched. She won fifteen indoor and outdoor individual American titles and at one time or another splashed her way to nine senior A.A.U. records.
A moppet of thirteen, she made mature swimmers seem slow in her first national meet at Des Moines as she set 400- and 800-meter marks and placed a phenomenal second in the mile, to boot. That day Nancy Merki became the youngest high-point winner at a national swimming meet in history.
In 1946, Denmark held the women's 400-yard relay world record, and U.S. coaches despaired of ever coming close to it. Yet with Nancy anchoring the celebrated "Cody Kids" quartet, a full second was cut from it, and our local talent realized for the first time that it could compete on equal terms with the best in Europe.
Advocates of water therapy for polio will never get a better ad than that.
Jack Cody, a sun-blackened little man with forty years of coaching champions behind him, first laid eyes on Nancy in 1935. He had been a specialist at producing divers and had several Olympic Games winners to his credit, including Hap Kuehn and Norman Ross. With no warning, Cody found him- self placed in charge of a frail ten-year-old who for some time had been partially paralyzed. To Cody, at the Multnomah Athletic Club in Portland, her heartsick parents made the plea that he "try to do something for her the doctors give us very little hope."
The disease had settled in the child's hips, constricting movement, and had already somewhat shriveled the right leg. "Shell have to wear iron braces and maybe get around on crutches as the polio progresses," medical men said. Modern treatment for polio was unthought-of in the Thirties; there was nothing in the books that could help Nancy, She couldn't swim; in fact, she was terrified of the water, Cody is a man of infinite patience with a deep conviction that the healing powers of swimming have long been under- estimated. But he was no physician, and the paralysis had been creeping upward since Nancy was eight. All he could do was coax her to hang onto the rim of the athletic club tank and try to kick her legs. "I wouldn't know what the odds were
against her," says Cody. "Yet, as weak and tiny as she was, she had heart. There was an urge to get well that kept her in the water for hours at a time, just trying to master the trick of fluttering her legs"
It was close to a year before Nancy was able to suck in a chestful of air and paddle a length of the tank. Constant mas- sage seemed to help. Her strength grew by painfully slow degrees. Now Nancy could swim two laps. Now three. Now she was watching the healthy kids and picking up the elements of a crawl. And a year later, Nancy was begging Cody to let her enter an indoor event for girls under twelve.
"O.K., Minnow/' he told her. "I guess it won't hurt you/' Nancy did fairly well for thirty yards but weakened and had trouble finishing. Cody, therefore, couldn't have been more astonished a few weeks later when she tried again and this time won a fifty-yard sprint for girls older than herself.
"Until then I'd been thinking of her in terms of a cripple who might get well enough to live normally," the veteran coach recalls. "Now, all at once, I realized that here was a competitor who wanted to win as badly as her family wanted her to recover from the polio."
Doctors checked and were startled. The disease had been halted. But for how long?
Not much later, making magical progress, Nancy was a surprise starter in the three-mile Lake Oswego marathon. Cody figured it would be a triumph if she went a mile before he had to pull her into the official launch. But Nancy finished the grind, gamely bringing up the rear.
The next major event she entered, another marathon, Nancy gave her growing body of Oregon fans a shock by not only finishing, but winning in the good time of 1 hour, 10 minutes, and 18 seconds.
The following year, when she cracked the state 100-meter record, Cody realized that he had held a front seat at the unfolding of a miracle. The withered leg had filled out, Nancy's body rippled with long supple muscles, and she had more endurance than any other swimmer on the Multnomah team. Almost as remarkable, she had a natural aptitude for the various techniques of speed swimming and, unlike most girls, was more concerned with winning than having fun in the tank. She told Jack, "Some day I'm going to be a champ."
The 1938 National A.A.U. meet was held in Santa Barbara, California. More to slip Nancy a lollypop for her game efforts than for any other reason, Cody wangled a round-trip ticket for his "minnow." He had told her to keep an eye on the older girls and learn everything she could. What happened was that the stringy infant came up like a torpedo to finish third in the 440-yard free style and fourth in the 880.
Sports writers wouldn't believe it when Cody told them that three years earlier Nancy had been a hospital case. In 1939, the story got better. Still short of her fourteenth birthday, she went to the Des Moines Nationals and cut 13.3 seconds from Katie Rawls' 800-meter free-style record, won the 400 meters in 5:29.6, just 1.1 seconds off the American record, and placed second in the mile to the veteran Mary Ryan. That made her high-point scorer of the meet . . . and the biggest news event in swimming.
Cody's wonder girl had just started to swim. Around her he fashioned his "Cody Kids/' starring Merki, Brenda Helser, Suzy Zimmerman, Joyce Macrae, Anne Cooney, and others. They trouped to San Francisco for the 1939 Far Western Championships, and Nancy set American 400- and 200-meter freestyle marks. Then it was 1940 and Miami Beach, where Nancy won the 440. At High Point, North Carolina, in 1941, "Fancy Nancy" astonished coaches by paring 27 seconds from the American 1500-meter record and lowering the 800-meter standard. The streak continued, and between the ages of thirteen and sixteen, at Buffalo, Chicago, and Neenah, Wisconsin, she was supreme at anything from 200 to 1500 meters. She was named the country's No. 1 feminine swimmer by the A.A.U. and was the only nominee of her sex for the James E* Sullivan Memorial Award. She swept the 440-yard indoor title for three straight years, splashing her wake in the faces of such standouts as Betty Bemis, Dot Leonard, Ann Hardin, and Lenore
"This was a hard period, in a way," Nancy says, "because so many letters came in from all over this country and even from Europe. People begged me to tell them the secret of how I overcame the paralysis. It was hard just to say, 'Don't give up, and try to swim!"
Letters from foreign lands that she could not read were taken by Nancy to local consulates or language teachers. But she answered them all.
Now, when you're still only sweet sixteen and a national champion of four years' standing, the whole world is rosy. Nancy was a well girl and a pretty one, as photogenic as any in the pool. Her volume of personal publicity was tremendous. With the Cody Kids she saw the breadth and depth of the land feted at the Stork Club in New York, at the U.S. Senate by Oregon legislators; she was even the honored guest of Franklin Roosevelt. When she returned to Portland with another batch of blue ribbons, she rode up Broadway with sirens screaming and crowds cheering. The Cody Kids became national team champions and could have anything their city possessed in the way of tribute.
Came now the second-biggest blow of Nancy's life, the challenge that catches up with every champion.
Suddenly her speed in the water was gone. Competing in the National Indoor meet late in 1943, Nancy finished in the ruck and lost her 440 title. In the 220 free style, she was beaten again. For the first time in four years, she returned home without a U.S. championship. At Shakamak, Indiana, later in the year, she was shut out in her middle-distance specialties and, in a desperate switch to the mile, finished a bad fifth. Nancy was in more than a slump. Her career looked finished almost as suddenly as it had flowered.
"Merki has passed her peak," the word went around the swimming galleries. For the first time, she was dropped from All-America ranking.
There were no more motorcycle escorts, but only puzzled glances* Cody, progressing from worry to bafflement, couldn't find an explanation. It just didn't make sense to the coach that Nancy could be washed up at seventeen, when a swimmer's best performances should be just starting.
The gamble Cody and Nancy took beginning with the 1944 season made aquatic history. She switched over from the free style to the breast and backstroke events. It was radical, daring,
asking far too much of any athlete in high-pressure national competition. It was like converting a track sprinter to hurdling or telling a fastball pitcher to throw nothing but curves, for the
crawl is the speed stroke and it was galling to Merki to propel herself along in this new laborious way.
But she stuck it out through the winter, working seventy- five per cent on the breast stroke, where she was weakest., and the rest of the time on backstroking. By the stop watch, she was only fair.
The test came at the 1944 National Indoor meet at Oakland. Merkfs opponent in the breast stroke was Patty Aspinall of the Riviera Club, the American record holder. Pre-meet char-
ters gave Merki no better than fourth place. Sea-green pool water splashed high into the scuppers as the big field thrashed the first lap of the 220-yard finals. Paddling Patty led into the final twenty yards and then here came Merki!
Stroke and stroke, the pair came down the stretch. Judges crouched far over the edge of the tank to catch the winner. Merki by a half yard! When Cody hauled her out of the pool, he exuberantly
started to slap her back. But he stayed his hand. She was so exhausted that a tap would have knocked her fiat.
Forty minutes later, the gamest lass in a nylon suit dove in and won the killing 300-meter individual medley in just three seconds over the meet record. "There is the greatest competitor I ever saw," congratulated Coach Charley Sava of San Francisco's Crystal Plunge. Other coaches came up to express astonishment at the sight of a converted free styler and one believed finished, at that beating the country's leading butterfly and backstroke artists.
Marvelous Merki went on wrecking records for several more years. Then, having won everything in sight a dozen times, she retired from the tank to marry. Today a housewife, she can look back on the most unique career of any girl who ever dipped ten toes in a plunge.
For any man's money, Nancy Merki has to rank as the greatest gal swimmer of them all.
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
Two of the present coaches, Gary and Alex have special relationships with Ray Conlon. “This interview took me back to my high school days.” – said Gary Leach. “I attended Wilson High at the time when Ray was a teacher there (and a very good one in year book-award winner, to say the least.) I also swam on the high school team but wasn’t good enough to swim on varsity, so had to settle on the J.V. team with Mr. Carlson.”
“I met Ray when I became an assistant coach here at the MAC, back in 1994.” – said Alex Nikitin. “Ray was always very generous with his time and shared many great stories with me from the past history of our swimming program, and the Club. I always been a big fan of history, and Ray filled in many blanks. I ran many of my training ideas by him, and we had many stimulating discussions. Since then, Ray and I developed a great friendship and we are keeping in touch.”
Gary: Ray, how did you get started in competitive swimming?
I received a call from Bob Johansen, an Athletic Director for MAC in the spring of 1962. As it turned out, MAC was looking for an assistant swim coach and knew all about my successful work with Wilson High School swim team. Walt Schlueter, MAC Head Swim coach, had just announced that he was leaving the club and was heading to Arizona. I was offered his coaching position. Because of my career as a teacher, I could not commit to a full time coaching, therefore, I agreed to assist the head Coach, Olive Mucha and also work with the instructional program and the Early Bird program.
So it happened that my coaching position at the MAC always worked around my loyalty to Wilson High and his swim team. As it turned out through my tenure at the MAC, I would always be the interim coach, always filling in for a Head Coach when another coach would leave. That happened after Walt Schlueter, Olive Mucha, Mike Hastings, Mike Burton, Mickey Fleskas, Trond Williams and right before the arrival of Skip Runkle.
Gary: How long did you coach at the MAC and at Wilson high?
I started teaching at Wilson when it opened up in 1956, came to the MAC in 1962 and left coaching in 1982. (Side note: Gary Leach knew that Ray had a remarkable string of PIL District Championships for the Wilson High boys, but he couldn’t remember the exact number. Twenty-four came to his mind, but Gary thought it was 26. That‘s an impressive record.)
Alex: Ray what do you value as the most important qualities in a coach?
Good coaches always continue refining their fundamentals. They have an uncanny ability to ask questions ‘Why?” and find the right answers. Two different coaches can bring two different teams to a competition. There are two different philosophies, and their athletes are equally prepared to compete. Who will win the meet? I bet on the team that has been trained best on fundamentals. And fundamentals are developed through the quality of day-to-day work.
Gary: Who was your favorite coach to work with at the MAC?
There were many fine coaches here at the MAC over the years, and each of them brought something different to the program. However, if I had to choose one on the basis of quality workouts, ability to teach swimming technique, presence on deck it would have to be Walt Schlueter. Walt had mercurial personality, but he was also a true genius. One thing to mention about him is the fact that Don Shollander, who was swimming with Walt at the time, had a bit of a falling out and left the club to swim with George Haines in Santa Clara, CA. Several weeks later Don went on to set several American records - and Walter Schlueter never received the credit he deserved for all of the work and time spent with this young athlete.
Walt was an innovator, a perfectionist, and an eminently successful coach. He was originator of the rhythm method of teaching pace and the race pace/short rest/ broken swim method of training. He is best known as a coach of coaches, a stroke specialist originating dozens of stroke drills. “He was called a Dr’of The Stroke” Walt was also the master of efficiency, pacing and strategy.
Alex: What do you think was so special about Walt Schuster’s coaching?
I loved the way Walt Schlueter was conducting his practices here at the MAC: his workouts very efficiently organized, and always well thought out. Everything he did at the pool had its purpose. I believe that’s they way you should coach. The amazing thing was his timing, the flow, like watching all the ingredients melting down together like in a perfect recipe. All things there conformed to a single objective. It did not always look like a gold medal today, but every practice was like a set of bricks that were laid into a road towards the future result. One of my favorite Schlueter’s sets was “Turn 25” – 10 yards off the wall, flip turn, and race back into the wall, then ease up.
Gary: What was your favorite set as a coach in practice?
Every set has its purpose and I look at it as selecting the “right tool for the job”. However, if you insist, then I’d choose 10x100’s even pacing (Schlueter style-pacing skills), when to accelerate and when not to.
Gary: Ray did you have any past Olympians under your tutelage?
I worked with Carrie Steinseifer (pictured left) who later became an Olympic gold medal winner in 1984, Carolyn Woods (1964); Susie Habernigg (1980) Olympic team boycotted Moscow. I also worked on occasion with Cathy Jamison (1968 Olympian), but Olive Mucha deserves full credit for coaching Cathy while she was swimming at the MAC.)
I would like to mention a few other distinguished swimmers from the MAC that I worked with - John Kingery, Graham Colton, Ken Webb, and Matt Rankin.
Alex: did you remain close to any swimmers or coaches after you retired?
I recently received 55 Christmas cards from the athletes I coached when I got my first coaching position at Neah-A-Kah-Nee High School and the baseball team. They had won the 2-A classification but had to play the 5-A Jefferson High School team in Portland. I keep in touch with Anne Habernigg and Linda Dankin, who both achieved as H.S. All-Americans and later went on the Princeton and Law School at Harvard. Both ladies still stay in touch as does Cathy Jamison every once in a while.
Alex: What are you hobbies?
I stay busy with training of my racehorse, Bamby. I enjoy this very much.
Do you have any words of wisdom for us?
I believe in teaching swimming from competitive stroke perspectives right from the beginning, in the swim lessons. Teach specific skills as they relate to stroke mechanics rather than “kill time”.
Kids have to know their role and have an understanding of how to achieve their goals. Keep them connected to their goals, and communicate the importance of taking small steps daily towards that goal. Kids need to identify themselves with the objectives, and have to want to achieve. You can’t teach the desire to achieve, but you can teach them to “connect the dots” and those with the will to win and burning desire will make it happen.
Swimmers need energy, drive and commitment to succeed. You have to do what is necessary to get the job done and do a personal assessment of your talents. There are no short cuts, use the talent you have to the best of your ability.
Alex: Where would you like to see the MAC swim program go from here?
Collaboration is a very important word here. I would like to see more collaborative communication and effort among the coaching staff and administration of the Club. Everybody needs get on the same page and bridge their differences: athletes, their parents and coaching staff. The next step is to pull all their energy towards one goal, following the mission statement of the team, and focusing on achievements and excellence. MAC itself needs to ask the question “What’s the bottom line?” If a team has an Olympic potential swimmers, is there a mechanism to support their pursuit of excellence?”
There is no ’I’ in team.
That would sum up Ray Conlon as a coach, teacher, mentor, team player, motivator, politician, and “The Go To Guy”.