By Hugh Porter, NCS Referee – Retired
Hurricane Bertha made landfall on July 12, 1996 as a category 2 storm between Wrightsville Beach and Topsail Beach.
For eastern NC swimmers, the last chance to qualify for the JO’s was that weekend in Sanford .
Bertha’s outer bands reached Sanford and meet conditions were horrible. We would have postponed it if at all possible. For insurance against lightning one of the San Lee Swim Club parents held an open line to the airport weather station all weekend. The weather was raw and while the athletes had some shelter in the warm-up pool, the officials and the parents were miserable. Coaches too but of course they never complain about anything — except officiating.
Starting was a nightmare! The Starter and I worked diligently to have fair starts. When we had a lull in the winds, we would step up the athletes and send them off as quickly as possible. Still, we had swimmers blown off the blocks. No false start!
Finally the 1500 was completed. I reviewed the results with Dennis Mc Daniels, and headed for the car.
As I passed the results board, I saw a young athlete perusing the 10-Under results. A good hot shower was what I was really wanted but I stopped.
“Did you have a good weekend,” I asked.
The young lad flashed me a big smile and said, “Yes! “My Father and Sister are safe in Wilmington and I came within one hundredth of a second of qualifying for the JOs in two events. My fastest times ever.”
One hundredth of a second shy of qualifying in not one but two events. It would have been so easy to blame the weather. But he was happy. He had done his best.
I often think of this young man. He probably now has sons and daughters who are swimmers. I know he has taught them what is important in life. First is love of family. Second to always do your best and be satisfied because you can do no more.
This swimmer is my unknown hero. I know that he does not stand alone but represents what our sport is about. Fifteen years ago we retired to western North Carolina and I was too remote to participate in the program (we don’t have a pool in Polk County.) I miss being around such athletes.