Sunday, July 27, 2008

Hall of Fame

We are delighted to induct into the MCSL Hall of Fame as our inaugural class the following individuals:

League Founders:
Bill Assmus--Merlands Club
Forest Gustafson--Kenmont
Frank Martin--General Aquatics
John O’Neal--Merlands Club
Stan Tinkham--Northern Virginia Aquatic Club
Peggy Whilden--Cedarbrook

Iona Brown--Long Branch
Ron Camp--West Hillandale
Joe Fratantoni--Potomac Woods
Peg Hincke--Potomac Woods
Judy MacArthur--Aspen Hill
Cal Moon--Whetstone
Carol Nickel--County Glen
Don Swedenborg--Old Farm
Ray Weil--Flower Valley

Bill Bullough--Glenwood, Merlands, Oakview
Burt Hall--Montgomery Square
Al Murray--Robin Hood
Paul Phillips--Seven Locks
Peggy Whilden--Cedarbrook

Mike Barrowman--Montgomery Square
Clay Britt--Montgomery Square
Kelly Davies--Ashton
Jude (DeSando) Lozupone--Manor Woods
Dave Goch--Whetstone
Patty Marks--Oakview
Pam Minthorn--Darnestown
Susan (O’Brien) Williams--Wildwood Manor
Mike Plitman--Wheaton Haven
Alan Stevens--Wildwood Manor
Rick Stringer--Cedarbrook
Dan Veatch--Montgomery Square

Congratulations and thank you to all our inductees.

Hall of Fame--introduction

When I was MCSL vice president, I started counting on my fingers and realized I'd be president when the league celebrated its 50th season. This made me a little nervous, and as soon as I stepped into the president's role, I started fussing at the MCSL Executive Board, asking them what we could do to celebrate our half century mark. Robbye Fox, our secretary, said her husband had come up with a great idea--well, he stole a great idea from Georgetown Prep: Why didn't we have a virtual Hall of Fame?

I want to publicly thank Pam Ambrose, Bill Bullough, and Greg Fox for their hard work on this endeavor, and thank as well everyone who sent in a nomination. The Hall of Fame has been a work in progress, evolving as we felt our way, and it will continue to evolve. We are inducting a limited number of people this year--their names will be announced this morning at the Individual All Star meet and on this blog after the meet. Over the winter, we’ll design a Hall of Fame web page that will list short biographies of each individual and then we will present their awards during next season.

The selection of this first class of inductees was very difficult. First we went through the names of all the people nominated by coaches, team reps, and others. Here are two of the qualities we are looking for:

1. Far-reaching impact. Inductees should have distinguished themselves beyond their home pools. Many people nominated truly wonderful individuals who've done very significant things for their teams. These folks would be excellent candidates for a hall of fame at their pool--and we think that would be a great thing for teams to start. But to be inducted into the MCSL Hall of Fame, an individual should have contributed at the league level or been recognized for their achievements beyond the MCSL.

2. Significant, long-term impact. An individual should have had a significant effect for some extended period of time. We looked at the breadth and depth of a person's contributions.

We want to recognize those nominated individuals who met many of the qualities for induction into the Hall of Fame. They have made significant contributions to the league and may well be inducted in future years. And we hope you will all nominate many more individuals--parents, coaches, and swimmers--who have contributed significantly to the league’s development and the quality of its swimming. At this time we aren’t--with one notable exception--inducting people who are still actively involved in the league.

So, without further ado, here are the wonderful and talented folks who were selected to be Hall of Fame nominees. Many of these individuals will become inductees down the road, and we invite you all to send further descriptions of their achievements to Pam Ambrose, our Hall of Fame chairperson. (And, of course, we invite everyone to send Pam testimonials supporting new candidates as well.)

2008 MCSL Hall of Fame Nominees

Frank Caporusso--Westleigh
Marty Cohen--Mill Creek Towne
Jim D’Ambrosia--Ashton
Jack Dickerson--Palisades
Tom Exarhakis--Garrett Park
Bill Ferguson--Flower Valley
Jim Garner--Darnestown
John Howard--Westleigh
Walter McGough--Potomac
Barbara Modine--Garrett Park
Frank Negro--Flower Hill
Bill Nolte--Calverton
Bob Palian--Wheaton Haven
Sid Plitman--Wheaton Haven
Mark Silverman--Ashton
Paul Vincent--Merrimack Park & River Falls

Pam (Mauro) Ambrose--Country Glen
Brian Camp--Aspen Hill & Robin Hood
Mark Eldridge--Potomac Woods
Kerry Ellett--Garrett Park
Joe Flaherty--Flower Valley & Manchester Farm
Dave Greene--Darnestown
Bob Jennings--Quince Orchard
Clay Miller--Connecticut Belair & Woodley Gardens

Rich Bader--Aspen Hill
Tim Bridgham--Woodley Gardens
Candy Camacho--Darnestown
Judy Colross--Cedarbrook
Beth Cuddeback--Flower Valley
Janet Ellison--Ashton
Sharon Flaherty--Flower Valley
Susan Habermas--Damascus
Donald Hall--Whetstone
Jonathon Lee--Country Glen
Steve Lopez--Oakview
Scott Meredith--Carderock Springs
Sue Nealis--Cedarbrook
Eileen O’Brien--Wildwood Manor
Cheryl Patteson--Calverton
Michael Raab--Tilden Woods
Bill White--Cedarbrook
Grace Whiteis--Regency Estates
Karla Wilson--Aspen Hill

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Ladies and gentlemen

I give you the 1965 Glenwood Tigers. I'm the lovely young lady sitting in the front row with the Glenwood jacket and hair band, fourth from the right. I'll let the other MCSL swimming folks identify themselves if they wish to--there are at least two former or current coaches in the crowd.

It's been a great season. I hope you've enjoyed this blog and the other things the league and the teams have done to mark our 50th anniversary. Tomorrow at Individual All Stars I'll announce our inaugural class of Hall of Fame inductees--and those names will be posted here afterwards and placed on a Hall of Fame web page that will be developed over the winter. That will be my last post--like many of you, I'm heading out of town, catching a plane to San Francisco for a little sightseeing and a professional conference. (I do hope I manage to get a shower between All Stars and airport.) Then it's time to catch up on all that work that didn't quite get done during the season--I'm sure that sounds familiar to many a team rep! I have book revisions I managed to get an extension on till mid-August.

If you're interested, MCSL has two boxes of documents at the Montgomery Historical Society. I hope to find time this winter to poke through the papers and maybe flesh out the skeleton league history we currently have. So if you still have questions or history bits to share, please email them to me at

Have a great August everyone--and do stop by tomorrow to read the Hall of Fame information and inductees.

Oh, and one final bit of housekeeping. I'm going to turn off the comments when I head to bed tonight--which will be early because I'm the designated donut buyer for the All Star meets. Since I'm truly going to be scrambling to get my plane tomorrow, I won't have time then--and I don't know that I'll have a chance to get on the Internet while I'm gone. Plus, there's that bit about book revisions, remember? My editor is only so understanding. But, as I mentioned above, if you still have things to share, you can send them to me--just don't expect a reply until September at the earliest!

Friday, July 25, 2008

MCSL families

I love the Manor Woods display board highlighting their multi generational families--it's pictured in the post below. (And notice it also features the 50th anniversary logo--very nice!!)

Manor Woods is not so unusual. Dave--from Glenwood, my aquatic alma mater--collected a list of over 20 families who have two generations in the MCSL, sometimes at the same pool but more often at different pools. And a few more multi generational folks have stopped by this blog. We haven't yet uncovered a three generation family, however, though there certainly could be some out there.

I find it wonderful how special MCSL has been to so many people--even those of us who weren't stellar swimmers. I know when I went house shopping, I told the real estate agent I wanted a neighborhood that had a pool with an MCSL team. I fondly remember riding my bike to Glenwood and seeing my summer friends, sitting up on the hill eating candy during swim meets (not an approved activity in our modern swim world, btw!), and feeling physically fit and more than competent in the water (I had no trouble passing my high school and college swim tests.) I wanted that experience for my kids--and I have to say, as the "baby" graduates from MCSL this weekend, I got it many times over. I even found I enjoyed--for the most part--being a summer swim parent. I walk, not bike, to the pool, but I still have my summer swim team pals--the parents of my sons' teammates.

But I think the best testament to how wonderful MCSL swimming is was left by Mark in the comments here.

Manor Woods 50th Anniversary Celebration Party

Back in the winter and spring, the MCSL board began encouraging teams to plan their own celebrations to mark the league's 50th anniversary, as it's probably a safe bet to say most swimmers--current and former--feel more connected to their pool than to the league. Manor Woods held such a party. Team rep Jean Crabtree reports on the festivities:

Manor Woods 50th Anniversary Celebration Party
Friday, July 11, 2008

Every Friday following afternoon practice, Manor Woods has a spirit activity at 5 pm and pasta dinner at 6 pm. On this particular day, we continued the festivities with a 50s party from 7-8. We had a DJ playing music, dancing, a limbo contest with the kids, and a show. The actors in the show are part of a long-standing group at MW called the CoffeeMates. They are dads who are willing to make fools of themselves so that others might be entertained.

Here is the story behind this show.
Cool greaser guys ride around the pool on motorcycles (i.e. small bikes with motorcycle sound effects), flexing their muscles and generally trying to impress each other and the attending ladies.

Weird nerdy guy comes by and gets thrown into the pool. Greaser guys challenge each other to a race. They leap into the pool, taking their time with various strokes, still looking to impress.

The ladies are NOT impressed, so they encourage one of their own to outshine the guys. She takes off her poodle skirt, dives in, laps the guys who then try to figure out what just happened to them. Beat by a girl!
The kids were treated to their favorite line dances Cotton Eye Joe and the Cha Cha Slide, and were joined by parents and the non-team pool members that happened to be there at the time. We also featured a display board that showcased the multi generational families on our team and a Gazette article from 1994 about the 25th anniversary of the pool. It was viewed with great interest. And we discovered at least one more family that should be added. Everyone had a great time!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

A few old rules

Lisa mentioned place judges here. I swam during the time place judges were used, but I don't remember them--too bad, as it sounds as if they were quite the amusing spectacle.

If I am understanding the rule correctly, each judge was assigned a place--1st, 2nd, 3rd, or 4th. They stood on the sides at the finish end and decided which swimmer had come in "their" place. Once a judge made his decision, he would go to that lane. And here's the fun part--they held ping pong paddles or badminton rackets (people have reported both) with the place they were judging displayed. It's a wonder parents didn't start whacking each other when the race was close. One of my informants thought place judging was stopped at least partly because parents couldn't always be impartial when their children were involved.

Mary P. remembers that the place judges trumped the watches' times, so the race winner might have a slower time than the second place finisher. Bill R. remembers in his last all-star (championship meet) at Rockville Municipal Swim Center in 1970, the 50 fly was very close--only 1-2 tenths separated 1st through 4th. The 2nd, 3rd, and 4th place judges all came to his lane. It was then up to the referee and sweep judge to sort out. He ended up 4th.

Here are a few more of the many changes that have happened over the years:

1. The season used to start later. In 1971, the first meet was held on July 3; divisionals was August 7; and the All Star meets were August 14 and 15.

2. Back when I swam, you had to hang up your goggles--except we didn't have goggles--after you were 17. The 15-17 events weren't changed to 15-18 until 1975.

3. Up until about 1967, kids who swam on winter swim teams were not allowed to swim in the MCSL.

I wonder how things will have changed by the league's 60th season?

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Where have they gone?

A commenter asked a couple times--or two commenters asked once each--what happened to Merlands. That's a good question. We don't track teams after they leave the league. Maybe all of you out there in blogland can help us fill in the details on our former members. Here are the teams that have bowed out of MCSL and the year they last competed:

1. Merlands (1964)
2. Cinnamon Woods (1990)
3. Hungerford-Stoneridge (1990)
4. Carter Hill (1991)
5. Park Forest (1993)
6. Wheaton Haven (1996)
7. Pleasantview (2002)
8. Aspen Hill (2004)

There have also been Montgomery Village teams such as Northgate and Stedwick that have stopped competing, but the swimmers from those teams just move over to another Village pool--the Village is a special case.

Of the 8 pools I've listed, I think only 3 still exist--Cinnamon Woods, Carter Hill, and Pleasantview. (At least I hope these 3 are still around.) The others were sold to developers and have houses instead of water on their property. Costs are high for community pools and many have struggled to make ends meet. Park Forest had an added challenge--a fire destroyed a good part of its property.

Back to Merlands. Here's what happened, according to my informant, Bill Bullough: "To the best of my recollection (and my recollections are somewhat foggy these days) I was coaching at Merlands the day it was closed. The land was privately owned by an old [gentleman] who acquired the property through connections he had in the Truman administration. The club [Board of Directors] members had a lease with an option to buy. At the end of the lease the [gentleman] did not want to exercise the option because the land was worth so much. To break the option he tried to prove the property had not been kept up by showing pictures of the pool in March etc. He got an injunction to close the club until the trial. The county sheriffs came to the pool unannounced while I was coaching and sent everybody home and locked it up. It was just before the Divisionals and we had a good team, but no pool. Daleview was nice enough to allow us to practice there after their own practice. The coach that year was Jack Graham, who is the currently principal of Good Counsel!

"[The gentleman] had the trial delayed over several years and moved to Denton MD where he knew the judge. I use to go to the hearings. The members without a club, and assessments to pay the lawyer, finally gave up. The property reverted back to [the gentleman] who sold it to a developer who built the Foxhall community between Glenmont and Aspen Hill."

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Fashion parade

Lisa from Woodley Gardens suggested I publish some of the divisional t-shirt designs. You can see why she made the suggestion--here are two designs (yes, they gave people a choice) from Division C. The front of the shirt had the 50th anniversary logo. These are pretty impressive, huh?

Since my son swam in Division G this summer, I happen to have a Div. G t-shirt in the house. Here's that division's divisional shirt:

If anyone else would like to email me a jpeg of your division's shirt, I'll be happy to post it.

Monday, July 21, 2008

End-of-season banquet

Are any kid sports banquets as elaborate as the summer swim team's? My kids played basketball, baseball, and soccer, and about the most we ever did was go out to a fast food eatery. But the swim team end-of-season event includes speeches, awards of all sorts, and a slide show. (One year we had a play complete with scenery, but that was admittedly a bit over the top.) We even had a banquet in the Old Days. I remember at least one or two occasions where Glenwood celebrated a season well swum at that famous Wheaton former eatery, Anchor Inn.

Last night our team banquet was particularly poignant, since it was my last. Some of it I won't miss--the predictable lack of air conditioning at the school, the somewhat less than elegant ambiance, the very hard benches. But the slide show is always a highlight, and I'd been anticipating this year's with both dread and delight, particularly the portion that celebrates the graduating seniors. (An aside here--back when I did the slide show, it was indeed composed of slides. Technology has come to all aspects of swimming, and now the season retrospective is produced on a computer.)

Since I'm the mother of our only graduating senior and had provided some of the slides, I had an inkling of the content and had wisely brought along some tissues. Watching my baby grow up before my eyes in the few minutes of the senior tribute evoked quite the pangs of nostalgia. (And who were those old people standing next to him in that one shot? Surely not his parents!)

What other team can our kids join at age 5 or 6 and stay on, year after year, until they're 18? What other team can all the kids in a family join at the same time--boys and girls, young and old. (One year I was the mom of an entire graduated freestyle relay team.)

I think I'll like getting my Saturday mornings back, but I know I'll miss the fun and excitement of summer swimming--lathering that sunscreen on, seeing my sons swim, watching the little 8 & unders attempt the butterfly, chatting with parents I see only in the summers, but whom I have seen summer after summer for over a decade.

I won't be leaving MCSL swimming--I have another year as president and we usually don't kick the past presidents off the board immediately. But I also suspect I'll be strolling over to Rockshire from time to time to watch a home meet and see my summer pals.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Moving up or down divisions

Yesterday I talked about how teams place in their divisions based on their win/loss records and their performance at the two divisional meets. You might assume that the division winners would move up a division next season.

You'd be wrong. They might move up one or two or several divisions--or they might stay where they are. It is even theoretically possible that the division winner could move down. How could that be? Simple. A team's division assignment isn't based on this year's meets--it's based on this year's times.

What does this mean? It means our automation gurus create a virtual team for each MCSL team using the median times from the 5 dual meets. They then have a computerized swim-off, pitting each virtual team against all the other teams in the league. Those with the most wins end up in "A" division. Those with the fewest wins--or brand new teams--end up in our lowest division. (Right now, "O" division.)

If you study the division assignments in our handbook very carefully--yes, you are a geek!--you'll see that, particularly in the middle of the league, sometimes a team with fewer points is in a higher division than a team with more points. It's wins that count here, with points only being used to break ties.

While there is a significant difference between Division A and Division O, there is not so much difference between Divisions D, E, and F, for example. So it wouldn't be surprising for teams to bounce a couple divisions up or down from year to year.

How do we get the times for this computerized swim off? It's easy now--you can just upload the file. But in the Old Days before the league was computerized, the rep--or some poor soul--had to write down all the times for every meet. (Below you can see--if your monitor is good and my camera skills don't prove completely terrible--a copy of the "MCSL Swimoff Worksheet" from 1990. The top two pictures are close ups of the third. This version had 5 pages and didn't capture the first heat of the double heat freestyle events.) Someone then entered the averages into a computer for the swim off...I think.

And in the Old, Old Days before personal computers were around? Then I think we did "time in water"--adding up all the swim times. The teams with the fastest swims--and so the lowest number--were in "A." But anyone with more information--please feel free to correct me!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Division Champions

During Relay All Stars, I'll be presenting enormous trophies to the teams that finish first, second, and third in each division. How do we decide who gets these awards? Rule 14 explains all, but in case you don't have your handbook handy, here's how it's done.

Teams get points for dual meet wins and for their placement in the two divisional meets (relay carnival and the division championship). The total of those points determines where they finish in their division.

Teams get 6 points for each dual meet win, and no points for losses. If the final dual meet score is a tie, the 6 points are split--each team gets 3 points. So a team that wins all 5 dual meets ends up with 30 points.

In a normal six team division, the team that wins the division relay carnival gets 10 points. Second place gets 8 points--and on down in 2 point steps to sixth place--zero points. The point scale for the division championship (divisionals) goes from 20 to zero in 4 point steps.

Are you still with me?

Sometimes there's one really strong team in a division. It wins all its dual meets (5 x 6 = 30 points), comes in first at relay carnival (10 points), and wins divisionals (20 points) for a season total of 60 points. No surprises there.

But sometimes calculating the division champion is more interesting. As an example, let's look at G division, since I have a swimmer there. If I did the math correctly--a big if--Old Georgetown and Tallyho both won four meets, so they each have 24 dual meet points. Old Georgetown won relays (10 points) and Tallyho placed second (8 points), so going into divisionals OG has 34 points and TH has 32. Very close.

Who will win Division G? If Old Georgetown wins divisionals, then it wins the division. But if OG comes in second at divisionals (16 points) and TH comes in first (20 points), Tallyho wins the division: TH (20 + 32 = 52) to OG (16 + 34 = 50).

And we can't rule out the come-from-behind possibilities. For example, if Robin Hood, the current third place team, has stellar swims and OG and TH don't--or if a few of key OG and TH swimmers are sick or out of town--and RH wins divisionals with TH third and OG fourth, then RH (24 + 20 = 44) and TH (32 + 12 = 44) tie for first in the division and OG ends up with third (34 + 8 = 42).

If you win your division, does that mean you'll be in a higher division next season? No--but that will be tomorrow's blog topic.

Friday, July 18, 2008

All Star scratches

It's time to look at the All Star seedings--both for Relay All Stars and for Individual All Stars--and send in your scratches. You can find the details about scratching here. Scratches for Individual All Stars are due by 6pm on Sunday, July 20.

With regard to Relay All Stars, please note that swim ups are not permitted (see Rule 16e), so if all your 13-14s have left town, you'll need to scratch that 13-14 medley.

Please get your scratches in promptly so that events can be seeded properly and the next swimmers down the list or the alternate relay teams can plan to be on deck!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Winding down

Our 50th season is beginning to come to an end. My team had its "B" relay carnival last night. This Saturday is divisionals, the last meet where our swimmers really compete as teams. The end-of-season banquet is right around the corner. After Sunday, only the kids going to Relay or Individual All Stars will still be coming to practice, and by the following Sunday, many pools will be deserted.

I'll be keeping the blog open until July 27th. I have a few topics I'm still planning to cover, but it you have a question you've been dying to ask, now's the time to ask it. I can't guarantee answers--I'm still working on that place judging question Lisa asked here (though I have gotten some input on that)--but I'll do my best.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Psyche ups and cheers and other spirited events

Early in my career as a team rep, I was fortunate to hire a young woman who was a wonderful coach. She was also a frustrated theater director, I think. She created the most amazing psyche ups before our swim meets. One of her most ambitious projects was staging a mini Star Wars complete with light sabers, Chewbacca, Princess Leia, and a host of 8 & under Yodas. Her psyche ups amused the parents, delighted the little kids, and caught the imagination and the enthusiasm of the older swimmers.

Most psyche ups aren't so elaborate. The only one I can remember from my days as a swimmer was pretty lame. (Sorry, Bill B.) Of course, I was a rather introverted teen at the time, so perhaps everyone else was wildly enthusiastic about getting in the pool and kicking down the length on our backs...growling--or making whatever noises tigers make. (We were the Glenwood tigers...)

Anyone out there in blogland have a favorite psyche up, cheer, or other spirited activity from your MCSL days to share?

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

MCSL mascots--a varied bunch

As promised, here's the list of MCSL mascots from most popular to the more unique.

Dolphins (12)--B, DA, FH, MCF, NWB, OG, PO, RF, SO, TW, UC, WHI
Alligators/Gators (6)--A, CB, EG, FR, GM, PGL
Sharks/Sharx (6)--EW, FM, NCC, RS, SL, SB
Barracudas/Cudas (5)--BE, CS, NGV, WL, NMC
Marlins (4)--CLM, MB, MCT, QV
Tigers (4)--G, TN, TF, WW
Seahawks (3)--C, FO, MS
Stingrays/Rays (3)--CCR, DF, RV
Piranhas (2)--PLT, PL
Otters (2)--OM, QO
Whales (2)--P, W
Waves (2)--WWD, WG

And now the mascots that represent only one MCSL team: Chargers (CA), Sun Devils (CG), Feet (D), Demons (DT), Frogs (FV), Lady Bugs (GP), Torpedoes (GER), Hurricanes (HA), Hellcats (H), Nessies (IF), Jellyfish (JC), Kangaroos (KM), Tsunami (K), Kingfish (KL), Screamin' Geese (KFM), Lasers (LM), Lionfish (LLD), Penguins (LF), Water Wizards (LB), Terrapins (MW), Maniacs (MM), Indians (MO), Anacondas (NH), Neptunes (NO), Octopi (O), Eagles (OF), Porpoises (PA), Devils (PW), Arrows (RH), Sailfish (RE), Fins (RC), Serpents (SG), Foxes (TH), Tarpon (TA), Ducks (TB), Thunder (WTL), Wahoos (WCF), and Wombats (WM).

Monday, July 14, 2008

And the answers are...

Did you guess "C. Dolphin" as the most popular MCSL mascot? If you did, you are correct! Twelve teams call themselves the dolphins. (I included the MCF blue dolphins in this group.) Here's the number of teams that have one of the other four aquatic critter mascots: alligator/gators--6 teams; barracudas/cudas--5; sharks--6 (including NCC's more creative spelling, sharx); and stingrays/rays--3.

How about the non-mascot? Did you pick out koalas as the cuddly animal no MCSL team has yet to adopt? Give yourself a star if you did. The other animals...or body parts...all have an MCSL team: the Old Farm eagles, the Daleview feet, the Garrett Park lady bugs, and the Wildwood Manor wombats.

Tomorrow I'll give you my complete list of mascots--and please correct me if I got yours wrong!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Test your MCSL mascot IQ

Think you know your MCSL mascots? See if you can answer these two questions correctly:

1. Which creature is the mascot of the most MCSL teams?
A. Alligator/Gator
B. Barracuda/Cuda
C. Dolphin
D. Shark
E. Stingray/Ray

2. Which of the these is NOT an MCSL mascot?
A. Eagles
B. Feet
C. Lady Bugs
D. Koalas
E. Wombats

Tune in tomorrow for the answers!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

The new millenium

Time to finish up my list of when teams entered the MCSL. Another nine teams joined the league in the 21st century. Not all were brand new teams, however; a number came to the MCSL after competing in the Gaithersburg Germantown Swim League.

Manchester Farm

Potomac Glen

Norbeck Grove

King Farm
Washingtonian Woods


Clopper's Mill




Friday, July 11, 2008

More about times and stopwatches

When I last mentioned stopwatches here, I said the league moved to recording hundredths around 1981. I was really guessing at that, relying on the records we've published in our handbook. Former swimmer and longtime coach Brian Camp emailed me to tell me he remembered getting times at the 1975 All Stars in hundredths using touch pads--and the pads gave him faster times than some of the timers did! He believes this was the first All Stars to go to hundredths. In 1976, his first year coaching , he remembers the big fat digital Cronus watches that he thinks went to the hundredths. (He does remember the AA batteries didn't last very long.) Rob, a former swimmer and coach and current swim dad, brought one of the old stopwatches to Long Course--this one only recorded to tenths. (And no, I didn't take a picture of it, and you can bet I'm kicking myself for not thinking to do so! My excuse is I was selling programs at the time.)

Brian's comments had me emailing Linda, the MCSL records chair. She's researching the question. It also got me to haul out my ribbon box. Yes, I confess I have a very old Woodies box (for you non-natives, Woodies, aka Woodward & Lothrop, was a local department store that closed its doors some years ago) filled with ribbons and medals...well, mostly ribbons and mostly third places (back then, we only got ribbons for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd). Anyway, digging through the pile of over 100 ribbons, I found two that recorded the time to hundredths--one from 1967 and the other from 1964. Hmm. I suspect another trip to the Montgomery County Historical Society might be in order.

Oh, and in the same post where I first mentioned times, I said Glenwood didn't have lane targets back in the day. Apparently it wasn't the only pool with blank walls. Brian wrote that when he swam for West Hillandale in the 1960's, opposing teams sometimes marked targets on the pool walls with crayon!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

MCSL reps meeting tonight!

Don't forget the reps meeting tonight. We have lots of things to talk about, but most importantly perhaps, the reps need to vote on next year's calendar.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Long Course

I'm beat. As I write this, I'm just home from the Coaches' Invitational Long Course meet. It was HOT, but thankfully we didn't have any thunderstorms. Many thanks to Marty and our stellar competition committee as well as all the great officials on deck. There seemed to be a lot of fast swimming--the results should be up on the web site shortly.

To celebrate the League's 50th season, we had banners made for the eight charter teams still competing. We hung them up for the first half of the meet and then presented them to the teams at the break. This year's awards also celebrated our 50th--they all featured our 50th logo.

One of the highlights of the meet for me happened at the break. For a number of years, the Auer family has presented college scholarships to graduating seniors in memory of their daughter Sarah, who was killed in an car accident on her way to coach her winter team. Before the meet, I got talking to the mom of one recipient--her daughter had no idea she'd won the award, so the mom had to be a little evasive as to why she was there. All three winners seemed genuinely delighted. Here they are with the Auers.

At the end of the meet, I helped Debi sort the medals into each team's bag. I'm delighted to say I think all but one team picked up their goodies. The competition crew, efficient as always, got everything packed up and stored, ready for All Stars. Maybe I'll have recovered by then and be ready as well.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Our Olympic Trials swimmers

Here are the MCSL swimmers whom our reporter on the spot, Robbye Fox, could capture on "film." Front row, left to right--Sean (WG), Cara (RV), Colleen FV), Chris P (NO). Back row--Chris G (RF), Ryan (RF), Brady (HA), Adam (CS), Eric (TW), Mark (CS). Not pictured, Katura (RV) and Liz (RF).

Well swum, guys (and gals)--congratulations !!

Monday, July 7, 2008

The History of Coaches' Invitational Long Course

Tomorrow night is the 34th Coaches' Invitational Long Course meet. The eight fastest MCSL swimmers in each event--taking into account scratches and event limits--will be in the pool, including many of our Olympic Trials athletes who are just back from Omaha. Coaches' Invitational Long Course is an MCSL meet, but it's also sanctioned by USA Swimming, so we'll have USA Swimming certified officials on deck.

But how did this meet get started? Frankly, the answer is a little murky--at least to me. The MCSL history says the first Long Course Invitational Meet was held on August 17, 1964, at Twinbrook pool with 34 scheduled events. But if we counted from 1964, this would be the 44th meet--so what's up with that?

It wasn't until 1974 that the long course meet was sanctioned as an official MCSL event. Long time coach and early long course manager Dave Greene reports that back then the meet was completely managed by MCSL coaches--hence the Coaches' Invitational Long Course title. Charlie DeSando was one of the first meet managers; then Dave and Mark Eldridge took over. Dave writes:

"We met at Woodley Gardens Club House and, with a lot of food, drinks, etc., and many coaches, seeded the meet by hand. This was about a three hour process. The coaches ordered and labeled all of the rosette ribbons and ordered and designed the t-shirt. Shirts were first donated by Sonny Sollott Swimwear and then Aardvark. Most of the shirts in the 80s were designed by a swim parent (Carol Slothower - QO). The shirts were a big hit and motivation to qualify for the meet.

"The meet was first held in the old RMSC outdoor pool (7 lanes). It was officiated, timed, announced, and completely run by coaches. We went to PVS officials when we realized that the times were becoming very fast and swimmers were qualifying for Juniors, Seniors, and Olympic Trials. The meet needed to be sanctioned, and there needed to be USS officials starting, refereeing, and stroke and turning.

"All of the greatest MCSL Alumni have swum in this meet: Clay Britt, Mike Barrowman, Dan Veitch, Pamela Minthorn, Kelly Davies, Scott Meredith, and even NFL star Dhani Jones."

Sunday, July 6, 2008

The 90s--growth slows

Back in June, I listed the pools that joined the league up through the 1980s. I haven't forgotten about our more recent members. In the 1990s only nine pools joined the MCSL, one of which--Diamond Farms--was actually coming back to the League after a four-year hiatus.




Diamond Farms*
Lake Marion


Norbeck Hills

James Creek


Chevy Chase Recreation Association


Saturday, July 5, 2008

Goggles, lane lines, and stopwatches

When I was looking for information on those old swimsuits I talked about here, I came across this great article from USA Swimming.

I never swam a race without lane lines--can you imagine how crazy that would be? Bill Bullough tells me when he first swam at Glenwood they did have lane lines, but they didn't have lane targets (those marks on the wall at the ends of the lane) or any black lines on the bottom of the pool. Turning was a little more like bouncing off the wall.

I do remember the old kind of lane line. They were ropes with buoys. The buoys slid along the rope like beads on a string. One of the meet set up jobs was to space the buoys out so they kept the ropes afloat. You sometimes still see these kinds of ropes separating the "L" portions of pools from the competition lanes.

I also remember the old sweep hand stopwatches--as the article says, think "60 Minutes." Times were recorded only to tenths--that's why our really old records have no hundredths digit. We moved to digital watches around 1981.

And can you imagine life without swim goggles? Ouch. Though it's probably easier to manage without goggles in MCSL than in USA Swimming programs since we have outdoor pools and relatively short practices and short competitive events. But what would all our contact lens wearing kids do?

Friday, July 4, 2008

Happy Fourth of July!

Have fun--but don't be out too late. There's a swim meet in the morning!

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Swim fashion in the Old Days

Speaking of swim attire, I've been watching the Olympic Trials and marveling at the swimming, of course, but also at those fancy swim suits. Very sleek--and if I can be just a touch indelicate...well, I just hope none of those elite athletes needs a pre-race potty break.

In the Old Days, our swim suits weren't quite so fancy. They were made of nylon, if I remember correctly. Marcia mentioned in the comments here that girls used to tie their straps together with shoelaces so the straps didn't slip down over their shoulders. I vividly remember one unpleasant backstroke race where my range of motion was severely curtailed by a wayward strap. Picture a penguin trying to swim on its back.

And that thing in front she referred to? For some reason I don't understand, there was a panel down the front of the suit. It wasn't much of an issue at the pool, but it could become quite the liability at the beach. When you were tumbled around in the waves, sand worked its way up the panel, through the straps, and down to the seat, giving you a rather droopy rear appearance--not a good look. The only way to get the sand out was to take the suit off--at home, of course--and work the sand back the way it had come--up the back, through the straps, and down the front to drop out the open panel at the bottom.

I tried to find a picture of one of those suits, but, sadly, I didn't have any luck. Here's a link to Speedo's history as an alternative.

Olympic Trials update--Ryan made the finals of the 200 breaststroke! And according to Robbye's blog (If you haven't been reading her posts, you definitely should be!), Eric qualified for the World Youth Championships in Monterrey, Mexico and will be leaving for them directly from Omaha. Lots of MCSL swimmers competing today, so try to catch those prelims--and, of course, the finals.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Olympic Trials update

Ryan Hurley and Eric Friedland both made it back for the 200 breast semi-finals!! Ryan is ranked 5th and Eric just squeaked in at 16th. Tune in to USA tonight, 8-9 pm, to watch a current MCSL swimmer (Eric) and an MCSL alum (Ryan) compete with the best US breaststrokers.

Proper attire

Now that the seedings are up for the Coaches' Invitational Long Course meet, it seems an appropriate time to mention the MCSL rules regarding proper meet attire. We encourage, but do not require, swimmers at dual and divisional meets to wear their MCSL team suits and caps. Still, many kids wear gear from their winter teams, and that's okay for these smaller meets. However, it is not okay for our league invitational meets.

Remember, at Coaches' Invitational Long Course, All-Star Relays, and Individual All-Stars, swimmers cannot wear winter team suits and caps. Here's the exact language from the rule: "A swimmer shall not wear a suit or cap bearing the name, insignia, or logo of any team or pool other than the MCSL team represented by the swimmer."

In a pinch, it's okay to turn your cap inside out so the non-MCSL team logo isn't visible. Turning a suit inside out is a bit more of a problem, so you might want to check your swim wardrobe now rather than on deck Tuesday.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

The DQ and the experienced swimmer

You'll probably hear outrage on your pool deck if one of your best swimmers gets DQ'd at a meet. He/she couldn't have done whatever the DQ stated, people will say, because he/she swims year round.

I mentally roll my eyes when I hear this, though I do understand. At a dual meet a few years ago, my then 13-14 swimmer got DQ'd for a one hand touch on the fly to back turn in the IM. I was flabbergasted, but I was also the starter, so I couldn't do more than make a note to ask my son after the meet. His response? Oh, yeah, it happens more times than you think.

I was watching the Olympic Trials 100 breaststroke prelims on Sunday, courtesy of, when I heard the announcer say one of the swimmers had been disqualified for a one hand touch. Yes, at the Olympic Trials. Those turn judges at the ends of the lanes and the stroke judges walking the sides aren't just there for decoration. Even good swimmers can make mistakes. They are in a bit of a hurry, after all.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Have you hugged your team rep today?

I'm writing this with my eyes propped open with toothpicks. We've just had the weekend from...well, it was a very busy weekend with a dual meet Saturday morning and Relay Carnival Sunday morning.

We are now halfway through the season--more than halfway for kids who don't go to divisionals. Chances are the team reps are feeling a little fried--at least, I always did when I had that job. They have two more dual meets and divisionals to get through plus the banquet and probably 100 other odds and ends. (I used to say I went on the rep summer diet--with all the demands on my time and the running around, I usually lost 5 or more pounds. And those were back in the days before email took over, so the phone was always ringing.)

So let's make today "Hug your team rep" Day." (Unless you are very close to your rep, it's probably best to make that a virtual hug--or, better, just a heartfelt thank you and a "what can I do to help" offer.)

And, on the Olympic Trials front, big congrats to Eric and Ryan who had great swims. Eric came in 31st; Ryan, 22nd, and both dropped time. Up today are Cara, Brady, and Chris in the 100 Back and Katura in the 400 Free. Good luck!! (For a fun MCSL-mom-on-the-scene report, be sure to check out Robbye's blog on the Hallowell website.)

Sunday, June 29, 2008

First day of Olympic Trials!

Today's the first day of the Trials and guess what? There will actually be live TV coverage! Every night from 8-9 pm you can see some of the most exciting swimming in the world. Tune into NBC tonight and next weekend (July 4-6) or USA (M-Th) to get your daily fix. You can also go to starting at 11 am Central time (noon here, I think) each day to catch the webcast of prelims. And there will also be extensive coverage on

Wondering which MCSL current or former swimmers are competing? Click here for the list. Today Eric and Ryan are swimming in the 100 Breaststroke prelims and--hopefully!--semifinals. Ryan is seeded 26th; Eric, 64th out of 84. Wish them luck!

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Who goes to Long Course?

Today is the last day for a swimmer to qualify for the Coaches Invitational Long Course meet. How do we decide who gets an invitation? If you're really curious, the relevant rule is Rule 15, on p. 57 of this year's MCSL handbook.

The eight fastest swimmers, based on the first three dual meets of this season, plus two alternates in each event will be invited to participate. But, unlike our dual meets or even individual All Stars, a swimmer can swim only TWO events at Long Course. Some swimmers qualify for only one or two events, but others are eligible by speed to swim more--but by rule, they can't.

So, how do swimmers decide which two events they will swim? A swimmer has two choices. He or she can do nothing and let the league decide, which the automation team does using computers and numbers. I won't even go there--when the computer folks start talking, I'm afraid I feel like I've been transported to a foreign country. I just can't quite comprehend--but you can read it, I think, in the rule.

Or, if the swimmer cares which two strokes he/she competes in, he/she can scratch the events he/she doesn't want to swim. Here's an example provided by our Chief Automation Guru: Alice Allstar has 4th place in back, 5th place in free and 10th place in fly. Because her competitors submitted scratches (or were scratched during seeding) for 2nd, 4th, 5th , 6th and 8th in fly (they know what its like to do a 50 LC fly!), Alice has moved up to 5th place in fly. Because her 5th place seed is a lower ratio to the record time than free, she is seeded into back and fly. So--and this is me again--if she really doesn't want to swim fly, she should scratch out of it by the deadline, and then she'll only be seeded in back and free.

There is a deadline to scratch individual events--the automation team gets very...tired if they have to reseed events over and over and we want to have time for all the eligible swimmers to find out they are scheduled to swim. (We really, really hate empty lanes, especially at these invitational meets.) This year the deadline is tomorrow, June 29.

Here's how to scratch, also straight from the Chief Automation Guru:

1. Scratches should by sent by a designated team contact (team coach or team rep) to with "Long Course scratch" in the subject line.

2. Scratches must include:
The name of the swimmer.
The name and abbreviation of the team.
A contact e-mail and phone.
A valid return e-mail address.
The stroke (s) that the swimmer does not wish to swim.

3. Scratches that are hypothetical, involve “what-if” scenarios, are contingent, or are improperly submitted (e.g. “I want to swim back only”) will not be accepted, nor will we notify the senders. Please refer to the handbook (pages 57-58) regarding the seeding process. If it is important that your swimmer swims a particular stroke, they should scratch out of other strokes – it is common for higher level scratches and seeds to move swimmers several places, and likely into other strokes, especially in this meet.

4. Once the seedings are posted, they are final--a swimmer may only scratch out of the meet, not out of individual strokes.

Friday, June 27, 2008

And the mystery swimmer is...

Michael Raab!

Michael joined the Tilden Woods dolphins when he was only six years old and graduated when he was 18--that means (if I counted on my fingers correctly) he swam for TW for thirteen summers! He also swam for Walter Johnson high school, the University of Virginia, and RMSC (Rockville-Montgomery Swim Club). He has international swimming experience, too, representing the United States at the 2003 Pan American Games, the 2004 SCM [short course meters] World Champs, and the 2005 LCM [long course meters] World Champs. Mike also had a very exciting swim at the 2004 U.S. Olympic Trials, and since many MCSL swimmers are heading out to Omaha now, this seemed like a good time to catch up with him.

Sally MacKenzie--Hi, Michael! Thanks so much for stopping by. First, for those who may not know, what’s your favorite stroke?

Michael Raab--Butterfly, of course.

SM--I see you’ve had a few MCSL records, even at one point the Long Course 15-18 200 free record, but you still hold the MCSL Long Course 15-18 100 fly record--56.51. And you’re on the list of MCSL Olympic qualifiers. Are you hopping a plane to Omaha soon?

MR, laughing--No. I only swim once or twice a week now to stay in shape (no mornings!). I have no plans to compete again but would love to spend some more time coaching/teaching swimming.

SM--So what are you doing to keep busy?

MR--I work as an equity analyst at an asset management firm in Arlington, Virginia called Sands Capital Management. I also still play some guitar, but only around the house--the band members have all gone their separate ways, though it was fun while it lasted.

SM--Well, I’ll tell you my then-teenaged son liked your band’s CD, though I have to admit, it wasn’t quite my thing. But tell us what you liked best about MCSL swimming.

MR--MCSL swimming offers a unique experience where six year old boys and girls can compete on the same team as 18 year olds from their neighborhood. The result is an environment that promotes sportsmanship, competition, friendship, and a sense of community. Tilden Woods and MSCL swimming have provided me with many of my best memories - not just in swimming.

SM--What are some of those memories?

MR--Feeling the support from the Tilden Woods community whenever I traveled to an international or national meet. For MCSL specifically, my best memory is really just any given Saturday morning in the summer at a meet. I still watch as many as I can.

SM--Great! Now, give us your secret--how did you psych yourself up for all those record-breaking swims?

MR--It didn't take much to get myself excited for a race if I set goals ahead of time. The main challenge was making sure I was excited and not nervous.

SM--Hmm, okay. But what about practice? How about telling us what your worst practice ever was.

MR--It wasn’t a TW practice--it was at UVA. I had to stay after regular practice on a Friday morning and do five 300s butterfly sets at race pace by myself.

SM--Ouch! I can’t even imagine doing one 300 fly without dying--okay, I can barely manage a 25 fly. Why did you have to undergo this torture?

MR-- In all honesty, I had to stay after for "punishment." This was a common thing for me in college. I would say I had to stay after practice for extra sets at least once every few weeks. However, I later learned that it was a plan by my coach to help build confidence and challenge me. And yes, the five 300s were all out. My coach stood on the deck and clocked me on every one.

SM--I’m exhausted just thinking about it! What would you say was your best or worst race?

MR--My best MSCL race and memory is when I won the 50 freestyle Coaches Long Course race as an 8 year old. It was my first time diving off the blocks and swimming in a long course pool. My best and worst race in my career was the 200 fly at the 2004 Olympic Trials when I got third.

SM--Why was the Olympic Trials 200 fly your best and worst race?

MR-- It was my best swim because it was what I believe to be my greatest swimming accomplishment--just missing the Olympics by finishing third to Tom Malchow by .3 seconds. It was my worst because I didn't make my goal. The only thing that still bothers me is that it wasn't my best time. I was off my best by about .3 seconds.

SM--Wow. Still, an amazing, amazing accomplishment. And now another crop of MCSL swimmers are heading off for the Trials, including one of your fellow Tilden Woodsians, Eric Friedland. You want to encourage them with your favorite Tilden Woods cheer?

MR--Sure. My favorite cheer is definitely "Ah Bey" (if that's how you spell it). It's a Tilden Woods classic. It’s great because there are basically five words: Ah Bey . . . Hey. Who's going to win? . . . Tilden Woods! Then you have a splash party in the pool.

SM--Thanks for stopping by the blog, Michael. If any readers have questions for Michael, put them in the comment section and Michael will try to look in during the day and answer them.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Cue the Jaws music!

Can you name this swimmer? Here are three hints:

1. He used to play guitar in a band.
2. He swam in the MCSL from 1989 to 2001 and still holds an MCSL record.
3. He missed going to the Olympics by .3 second.

Tune in tomorrow to find out the mystery swimmer's identity.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The 80s--the League is still growing

The 80s saw 17 more teams join MCSL. Cinnamon Woods and Carter Hill barely made it through the decade, however. Diamond Farms didn't--it dropped out in 1988, but came back into the League in the 90s.

Cinnamon Woods (1990)
East Gate
Rock Creek
Shady Grove Village

Diamond Farms (1988)

Carter Hill (1991)
Long Branch





Flower Hill

Plantations II
Upper County

Waters Landing

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The 70s--more teams join the fun

Growth slowed after the 60s, but the league continued to expand. Eighteen new teams joined the MCSL in the 1970s, most in newly-developed areas of the county. Dates in parentheses are the last year a team competed.


1971--no new teams

New Mark Commons
Olney Mill
Stedwick (2003--most swimmers went to Whetstone)

Country Glen

North Creek
River Falls
Watkins Mill (merged with Stedwick)

1975--no new teams


Northgate (1999--most swimmers went to North Creek)

Quail Valley

Quince Orchard

Monday, June 23, 2008

The 60s--explosive growth

The 1960s saw the biggest growth in the new league. Thirty-seven pools joined the original 10 charter members--the six from 1958 and the four from 1959. Here they are by year of entry (according to the history I have--if anyone has more information, please send it to me!). If there is a date in parenthesis following a pool's name, that is the last year the team participated in the MCSL. As you can see, most of these early teams are still competing.

Old Georgetown

North Chevy Chase
Park Forest (1993)
Twin Farms


West Hillandale
Wildwood Manor
Woodley Gardens

Northwest Branch
Pleasant View (2002)

Forest Knolls
Hungerford-Stoneridge (1990)
North Bethesda (now Seven Locks)
Old Farm
Tilden Woods

Aspen Hill (2004)
Franklin Knolls

Carderock Springs
Montgomery Square
Regency Estates

Kemp Mill
Mill Creek
Potomac Woods
Robin Hood

Flower Valley
Little Falls
Manor Woods
Montgomery Village (became various Village teams)

Stay tuned for the 70s.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Relay All Stars--wild cards

So your relay team came in second at relay carnival...might you still go to All Stars? This year, if you are in divisions A through H, the answer is no. If you are in divisions I through O, the answer is maybe. Why?

We swim Relay All Stars in two sections, appropriately labeled Section I and Section II. (Roman numerals are so much classier, don't you think?) If we had an even number of divisions, the sections would be equal, but since we have an odd number (15), one section has 8 divisions and the other has 7. This year Section I has 8 divisions; next year Section II will. Division H, being smack in the middle, is the division that bounces back and forth between Section I and Section II.

Why do you care about this? Because we swim Relay All Stars in an 8 lane pool. If you are in Section I this year, you have 8 divisions, so all the lanes are filled. But if you're in Section II, you have only 7 divisions. One lane is empty. Since we hate empty lanes, we fill it with a "wild card" team--the team in Section II that has the second fastest time in that event for the entire section.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Who qualifies for Relay All Stars?

Tomorrow, some divisions will have their relay carnivals.

At the April MCSL meeting, the reps decide together when their division will hold its relay meet. They choose a date--and a rain date--within the relay carnival window (this year from June 22 to July 6). So while some teams will swim June 22, others will swim June 29--and other divisions may have chosen a different date.

Our first relay carnivals were held in 1969. The meet is quite fun, but also somewhat crazy--it's called a carnival for a reason. Page 77 of this year's handbook lists the events--they are all relays. Some events are by sex and age; others mix age groups, and others mix boys and girls. The relay teams that come in first in most--but not all--events will swim at Relay All Stars on July 26.

Which relay carnival winners aren't guaranteed a trip to All Stars? The winners of relay events #1 and #2 (boys and girls Graduated 175M Freestyle relay) and events #8 and#9 (boys and girls Open Age 200M Medley relay). Why? Because these relays, unlike the others, are swum at each dual meet and at the division championship meet (divisionals). So in these events, the relay team with the fastest time for the season is the one that goes to All Stars.

Friday, June 20, 2008

False starts revisited

A reader informs me swimmers got one "free" false start in regular meets and two at Long Course--meaning that the second false start in most meets and the third false start at Long Course resulted in a disqualification. He remembers quite a few meets where "swimmers intentionally false started to put pressure on faster swimmers to hold up their start on the second start." He also recalls that "many of the older boys used to try and beat the starter by guessing. It was a good plan given you got another opportunity. US Swimming then went to DQ ing swimmers for intentionally false starting and then eventually went to the one false start and you were gone."

Anyone else have memories to share? Please feel free to leave them in the comment section. Or email them to me through the MCSL website and I can do a post on them. Questions are welcome, too.

I'd love to hear from readers, especially other MCSL veterans!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

...and false starts

Nowadays, swimmers are disqualified if they start early. Barring extenuating circumstances, there are no second chances. But this wasn't always the case in the MCSL.

My memory here is a little fuzzy, but I think in the very Old Days, each swimmer got two "freebies"--two false starts that were forgiven. If you false started, everyone was recalled and you tried again. You weren't disqualified until you left early for the third one event. You can imagine how long it would take if each of six swimmers false started his or her two "free" times--those meets would still be going on. So the rule was changed to charge the false start to the entire field instead of the individual swimmer. The field got two "freebies," that is, the first and second person in the event to false start were forgiven--but the third one was disqualified. This inspired some older swimmers to play mind games, trying to get their competitors to false start and get disqualified. Or a swimmer might false start to, in effect, nail everyone to the "blocks."

My memory might be fuzzy on the details of the rule, but I clearly remember the false start rope. I got to hold one end of it at a B meet once when I wasn't swimming. We stood at about the flags, one person on either side of the pool, the rope stretched over the water--and yes, we dropped the rope in the pool when anyone false started, catching the swimmers before they got away. It was a wonder no one got hurt.

Now there are no recalls for false starts. The swimmers swim their race--and any who left early are informed when they finish that they have been disqualified.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008


Back in the Old Days--and not so Old Days--each event at a swim meet was started with a pistol. That's right, someone said, "Take your mark," and then--BANG--shot off a pistol. (Using blanks, of course.) The timers were supposed to start their watches when they saw the smoke from the gun, since light travels faster than sound.

One of the first things I did when I became our team's "A" rep back in 1991 was purchase one of those newfangled starting machines. Yes, the Colorado (the brand we purchased) was expensive, but to me it was well worth the money. I am not a fan of guns in any form and I'd heard tales--apocryphal or not--of young swimmers crying and parents becoming deaf in one ear from firing off the pistol. I figured my chances of keeping the 8 and unders on the team and of recruiting their parents to become starters would be much better if we put away the gun.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

...and Turns

Stroke rules aren't the only technical parts of swimming that change over time--sometimes turn rules change as well. The biggest turn change I can think of came while I was team rep, so I consider it a relatively recent development.

Back in the Old Days, backstrokers had to touch every wall while on their backs. We could do flip turns, but only after we touched the wall on our backs. In 1991 that changed--and the new turn caused a bit of a flutter on deck that first summer.

Backstrokers could now turn to their stomachs when coming into the wall before they touched and execute what was basically a freestyle flip. They still needed to be on their backs at the finish of the race and, unlike in high school swimming, at the transition turn from backstroke to breaststroke in the IM.

Initially, we followed--as we usually do--the USA Swimming rule exactly. However, over time we decided this wasn't working for MCSL. In USA Swimming, the backstroke turn must be a "continuous" turning action--the one pull (single arm or simultaneous double arm) must be part of the turn. If swimmers roll over on their stomachs too far from the wall for one pull to get them close enough to flip, they're out of luck.

The MCSL season is short. Many children are new to swimming and, perhaps just as importantly, many stroke and turn judges officiate at just a couple of meets a year. Judging whether a turn is "continuous" or not is sometimes a very sophisticated call and, frankly, we were getting some questionable disqualifications. We were also hearing many stroke and turn judges weren't comfortable judging the backstroke turn.

In 2002, to make the turn easier for both our stroke and turn judges and our swimmers, the League changed the rule to delete the need for continuity. Now if swimmers turn over too soon, they can still only take one pull, but they can glide or just kick into the wall--and the stroke and turn judges don't have to have philosophical discussions of what "continuous" means.

Swimmers still need to finish the race on their backs--and touch on their backs at the back to breast transition turn in the IM.

Monday, June 16, 2008


Strokes evolve over time and occasionally, usually once USA Swimming has adopted a change, MCSL has to revise its stroke rules.

I didn't usually swim breaststroke back in the Old Days. From my limited observations, swimmers were either natural breaststrokers--if a swimmer naturally stands with feet turned slightly out, forming a sort of "V" with his/her feet, that swimmer might just be a breaststroker--or they weren't. The natural breaststrokers swam breaststroke and maybe IM; the non-breaststrokers swam everything else.

Anyway, on the rare occasion that I got stuck swimming breaststroke, I would try the trick some breaststroker on our team must have taught me--I'd go to the ladies' room, grab a bunch of paper towels, and stuff them in my swim cap before I reported to the clerk of course.

Why in the world would I do such a bizarre thing? Because the rule for breaststroke used to be that the head could never be submerged. The higher--the "larger"--the head, the less chance water would rush over it. It wasn't until 1988 that the breaststroke rule was changed to specify that the head must break the surface during each stroke cycle instead of being above the water throughout.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Happy Fathers' Day

Happy Fathers' Day to our our MCSL dads!!

Saturday, June 14, 2008

First dual meet

Yay! By now--Saturday afternoon--everyone should have completed the first dual meet of the season and maybe even gotten home from the post meet eatery. The weather cooperated--no thunderstorms--and hopefully everyone swam fast or, barring that, at least had fun.

One meet management tip that occurred to me at our meet--I think it's a better idea for the clerk to take the relay cards when the swimmers report. Send the swimmers to the lanes and the cards to the automation table. This is not a big issue for events 3 and 4, the Open Medley, since the swimmers and timers are at the same end of the pool. But now for events 49 and 50, the swimmers are 25 meters away from the the timers, so if no one thinks to carry the cards to the other end, they get left on pool chairs or the pool deck. The automation table needs the cards to enter the swimmers' names--the timers can write their times on the lane/timer sheet for that event. Plus, sending the card directly to automation cuts down on the number of wet, chewed relay cards.

We revised the Meet Management book--the green book--to recommend this. It is an especially good practice for relay carnival.

Friday, June 13, 2008

The scratch meeting

No, it's not a poison ivy fest--it's the meeting of the referee, coaches, and team reps 10 to 15 minutes before the meet begins to substitute for missing swimmers.

The basic rule is a team may only substitute for three swimmers after the entries are exchanged around noon on Friday. If four swimmers are missing, the fourth's lanes just go empty. This is why it is so important to enter only kids who intend to come to the meet. If Johnny is away at camp and you enter him anyway because you don't realize he's gone, you've got an immediate hole to fill. If Joan goes to the doctor Friday afternoon with a terrible case of swimmer's ear, Susie falls and breaks her arm Friday night, and Billy starts throwing up in the wee hours of Saturday morning, you've got big problems. You can "scratch" and substitute for three of those swimmers, but not all four.

You can only substitute for three swimmers in the line up, but you can use multiple swimmers to fill the empty slots. For example, if Susie is entered in the individual medley, freestyle, backstroke, and fly, you can put Mary in Susie's IM and free lane, Cathy in Susie's backstroke lane, and Heather in Susie's fly. If Mary, Cathy, or Heather are already entered in the meet, they have to stay in the events they are in--so if Cathy's entered in free and fly, she has to stay in those events and just add the back. If Cathy is already in free, breast, and fly, she can't go into Susie's lane in back, because she can't swim all four strokes--if you don't have another swimmer available, Susie's backstroke lane goes empty. Mary, Cathy, and Heather don't have to be in the meet already, but they do need to be on the team roster.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Meet entries

By now, at least in a perfect world, all our swimmers have been timed so the coaches can do their entries for our first "A" meet this Saturday. It's easy--you just enter the three fastest kids (six for the 12 & under freestyle events) in each event and you're done, right? Not exactly.

One swimmer cannot swim all four strokes, even if he/she has one of the three fastest times in those events. The coach needs to decide which event that swimmer has to come out of. For example, suppose Susie is the fastest 8 & under girl in free, back, and fly, but only third fastest in breast. Easy decision--you take her out of breast. But what if there are no other legal 8 & under breaststrokers and Susie isn't that much faster than the number two freestyler? And maybe the coach has been working on breaststroke this week and thinks Susie is really ready to go faster. Hmm. Not so easy a decision.

And a swimmer can't compete if he or she isn't at the meet. When I was our team rep many years ago, the team was a regular inhabitant of K or L division. I used to tell our coach that the team who would win the first meet was the team that could get more of its swimmers to show up--the team with the fewest empty lanes. Lower division teams aren't in the lower part of the alphabet because they have slow swimmers; they're often there because they don't have many swimmers. And there's often a big time difference between their fastest swimmers and the rest of the age group. In "A" division, if the third fastest 9-10 boy backstroker is away at camp one Saturday, there may be two or three possible substitutes who are only hundredths or tenths of a second slower. In L division, your next backstroker could be many seconds slower--if you even have a next backstroker.

Suffice it to say, doing the meet line up is a science--but it's also an art.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Meeting tomorrow

Tomorrow is the last MCSL reps meeting before the season starts.

Things are crazy for the team reps now. They may still be dealing with late registrations; they've just had time trials; they may be having a B meet. But it's important to make the time to get to the meeting--if for no other reason than this is when the reps get the meet paperwork. They'll need those cover sheets and relay cards come Saturday.

Tomorrow we also have a meeting for coaches to cover MCSL issues including safety and good sportsmanship. And new meet managers will get the chance to go through the meet management guidance (green book) and ask questions.

Tomorrow is also the last day to nominate people for our virtual Hall of Fame--so if you've been delaying, it's time to get in gear and email off your submission.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

All Star Times

First, what All Star times are NOT--they are not qualifying times. Parents and swimmers familiar with USA Swimming know about qualifying times--those are times a swimmer tries to achieve to go to a particular meet. For example, if a 10-year-old boy swims the 100 Fly in 1:35.19 or faster in a short course yard pool or in 1:47.59 or faster in a long course meter pool, he has achieved the qualifying time in that event for the 2008 PVS 14 and Under Junior Olympic Championship meet. (Those qualifying times are listed here.) As long as he wants to go to the meet, his team enters him and he swims.

All Star times don't work that way. They are NOMINATING, not qualifying, times. If a 10-year-old boy swims an 18.70 during one of our "A" meets (including divisionals), he has achieved an All Star time in the 9-10 25 meter fly and should be very happy. He is one fast kid. However, unless he is one of the sixteen fastest boys in that event--after all the scratches and other variables are taken into account--he probably won't be swimming in All Stars.

Unlike USA Swimming championship meets, All Stars has only two heats, so only sixteen kids can get in the water. Our automation team sets All Star times based on what our fastest times have been historically. They pick times that should give us enough swimmers to fill the lanes at the meet. Every so often they adjust the times, making them faster if the old All Star times were producing too many nominated swimmers or, occasionally, making them slower if not enough names were popping up.

This is a year that many of the times were adjusted downward--our kids are just getting too fast!

Monday, June 9, 2008

All Stars

If you read this year's MCSL handbook carefully, you'll find the results for the 50th Individual All-Star swim meet. That's right--the 50th All-Star meet has already been swum. But this is our 50th season now--so what's up with that?

The First Annual Maryland Metropolitan Area Community Pool Meet, held at Connecticut-Belair pool in 1958, counts as the first "All-Star" meet, even though it was swum before the league was officially established. It wasn't until 1962 that the meet was renamed All Stars.

I mentioned earlier that there is an inconsistency is some versions of the 50th anniversary logo. The first version that appears on the meet management and officials' handbooks has the league establishment date as 1958. That was corrected to 1959 on our league handbook and other publications. But it really is a little ambiguous. However, since we celebrated our 40th anniversary in 1998, we're celebrating our 50th in 2008.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

And in the second year...or is it the first year?

In 1959 four more community pools joined the original six--Bannockburn, Daleview, Wheaton Woods, and Wheaton Haven. (In 1996, Wheaton Haven's pool closed and the team merged with Kenmont.) I'm still quoting the league history:

This [1959] was the first year of the Montgomery County Swim League. These ten pools [yesterday's list and today's] were the Charter Members and Peggy Whilden was elected President on June 20, 1959. A constitution and by-laws were adopted on September 22, 1959 at a meeting held at the Merlands Club. The Second Annual Maryland Metropolitan Area Community Pool Meet scheduled thirty events."

Saturday, June 7, 2008

In the beginning

In my files, I found a history of the league. It only goes up to 1998, when we celebrated our 40th anniversary, so one of my goals is to update it. But here's what it says about the beginnings of the league:

"In the spring of 1958, Stan Tinkman, Peggy Whilden, and Frank Martin considered the possibilities of forming a swim league in Montgomery County. On July 24, 1958, six clubs met at the Bellaire Country Club to organize the League. A committee consisting of Forest Gustafson, John O'Neil, Peggy Whilden, Helene Kromer, Bill Assmus, and Frank Martin drafted a constitution. It was mailed to twenty-six community pools that showed an interest. Upon receipt of the returned constitution from interested parties, the League was created. There was informal competition sponsored by the Exchange Club of Bethesda Chevy-Chase for the year 1958 between six pools. The first annual Maryland Metropolitan Area Community Pool Meet was held at the Connecticut-Belair Pool to complete the first year."

Which were the very first six teams? Cedarbrook, Connecticut Belair, Garrett Park, Glenwood, Kensington Heights (now Kenmont), and Merlands. Five of those teams are still in the league. Merlands dropped out after the 1964 season.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Time trials

This weekend most, if not all, of our teams will hold time trials. Sadly, I'll miss our meet, the last one I'll have a kid swimming in.

Why hold time trials? First, it lets the coach determine the first "A" meet's lineup. Lots of things change over the summer--kids grow, start (or stop) winter swimming, age up into longer events, etc.--so last year's times don't always tell you how fast a kid will be this year. And, of course, if a child is new to swim team or is swimming a 50 instead of a 25, you don't have times for him or her at all. Second, it gives the swimmer a starting time that he or she can work to better over the season. Third, it gives children new to swimming--and those who may have forgotten over the winter--the experience of swimming in a meet. New swimmers learn how to report to the clerk of course, how to line up for their events, and what a starting machine sounds like. They get an introduction to the sights and sounds of competitive swimming--and they also get to check out the snack bar.

Time trials is also great for parents, giving them a chance to learn or remember what they need to do at meets. It lets them brush off their rusty timing skills or figure out where the team's coffee pot went over the winter. New meet managers and team reps get a practice run, hopefully making the first dual meet go more smoothly.

I love time trials because I get to see all my summer friends again and catch up on what they and their families have been up to since last summer. But this year our third son is graduating from college that weekend, so I'll be heading north.

Have fun, everyone! I'll be thinking of you.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Power outage

I'm beginning to feel the world--or at least the techie world--is against me. I lost power yesterday around 4 pm when the thunderstorms roared through and just got it back this morning.

Did anyone else note that yesterday was Wednesday? Let's hope the atmosphere has gotten this out of its system and will behave more politely on future Wednesdays--but thunderstorms have long been the curse of the "B" meets.

This is probably a good time to remind everyone to put safety first. We talk about weather in the "green book"--our meet management handbook that all the reps got three copies of at the last MCSL meeting. If you'll be in charge of running your team's meets and you haven't read that section, please do. We want the kids to be able to swim, but we don't want people to feel worried or uncomfortable. It's a good policy to err on the side of caution. Your pool management company representative should let you know when to suspend a meet for weather.

This is also a good time to remind everyone that there will be a meet management training session for any new "A" meet managers at our June meeting. And don't forget--coaches are supposed to come to that meeting as well.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Email woes

Yesterday I discovered the email I'd been sending from my MCSL email address wasn't getting out.

I'm not sure how long I've had this problem. It's probably been at least a week, so if you didn't get a reply to an email you sent me, I'm not ignoring you. I thought I'd answered you. There was no sign I had a problem. I was getting email and my replies were going into my sent mailbox. (Sadly, I didn't have my email preferences set to always save a copy, so much of what I wrote is gone.) I didn't get an error message.

Actually, I was getting a little annoyed. The board wasn't replying to me. I sent a very long, helpful (I thought) email to a team rep and hadn't gotten even a short thanks. Well, people are busy, I decided. Still how hard can it be to hit "reply"? Pretty hard if you never got the message.

It turned out the problem was this blog address. I'd added it to my signature line and I guess the email gods didn't like that. But email is great when it works. I'm not quite sure when the league switched over to email as our primary means of communication. I'm guessing it was in the late 90s. The 1996 handbook doesn't list email addresses for the board; the 1997 book does. I remember helping Mary, who was secretary in '98-'99, do a physical mailing. By the time I took over the secretary position in 2002, we had moved entirely to email. All the meeting notices and minutes go out over the Internet now.

Email allows the board to be more responsive--except when it doesn't. Sigh. I'm off now to try to contact everyone who thinks I owe them an email.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008


Tonight is the first of our two automation clinics--check the website for details.

It seems hard to imagine now, but meets weren't always automated. Before 1996--the year MCSL switched over completely to computers--Friday afternoons or nights meant time spent with a typewriter (or very strong hand), 5-part forms, and pink and blue cards. Here's a picture of the blank white/top copy of the dual meet score sheet and the pink copy filled out:

And two close ups:

When coaches met at the home pool on Friday afternoon, the visiting coach brought a stack of pink and blue cards--yes, pink for girls, blue for boys--and an entry sheet. The person setting up the meet would fill in the 5-part form, putting the fastest--or "A" swimmer--for the home team on the top line, the "B" swimmer below that, and the "C" swimmer last. That process was repeated for the visitor's section of the form--and then repeated for every event. Then you seeded the meet. If the visitors chose the odd lanes, then the "A" home swimmer would be in lane 4, the "B" in 2, and the "C" in 6. (Correspondingly, the visitors would be in lanes 3, 5, 1.) The lane numbers were added to the cards and the cards shuffled so they were in event order by lane.

After the event was swum, the cards went to the scoring table where the scorers would check the times, put them in order from fastest to slowest, and assign place and points. Until 1995, there was a 10 point cap on each event. As you can see from the picture above, the visitors earned 12 points, but were only awarded 10 because of the cap. In addition, the scorers circled the All Star times in red. At the bottom of every page, they added up the points for that page, added that to the total points from the previous page, and moved on. There were two scorers--one from each team--and they checked their totals as they went to be sure they agreed.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Our virtual Hall of Fame

To celebrate our 50th season, we're starting a Hall of Fame, but since we don't have any offices--no physical wall on which to display names--our Hall of Fame will have to a virtual one.

We're collecting names of people who made significant contributions or are outstanding representatives of the league. Swimmers, coaches, officials, team reps, board members, league founders--if you think someone deserves special recognition for his or her connection to MCSL, we want to hear about it. Send the name of your nominee along with a short statement telling us why you think this individual should be included in the Hall of Fame to Pam--see our website for her email address.

Don't delay. The deadline is June 12.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

First full clinic

Today was the first of our full clinics. Here you see some of the many parents who came out to recertify or to learn for the first time how to be a referee, starter, or stroke and turn judge. The morning began about 8 am at the Olney swim center with Marty, a former MCSL president and current chair of our competition committee, giving everyone an overview of MCSL officiating. Standing next to him on the stairs is Denice, the chair of the clinics committee, who organized the day's events. It was so crowded, we had to keep telling folks to move closer to the stairs side of the room so people arriving later could get through the doors.

After the general session, we broke out into job-specific groups. First, the stroke and turn judges left for their classes--very experienced judges went with Lionel; less experienced and new people went with Brian. Starters and referees stayed to hear Jim discuss topics that are important for both positions. When Jim finished, the referees went upstairs with Marty and Dave; the starters went outside with Denice.

Here's Denice running the starter clinic. She provided a very thorough discussion of everything a starter should know and even had all participants try their hand at the starting machine before receiving their "diploma"--the card we use to track who has attended which clinic.

Finally, here's Brian in the water, teaching the basic stroke and turn clinic. He started on land, going over general stroke and turn topics, assisted by Scott. But there are so many things you just have to see to understand, so he donned his goggles and, along with a current swimmer, physically illustrated some to the things you'll see in a swim meet.

Our next full service clinic, also at Olney, is June 8, followed by an evening clinic at the county's Germantown pool on June 11. Check our website for details.