Thursday, May 6, 2004

2 locals to enter Swimming Hall of Fame

Wales honored for administrative efforts; ex-Marlin Kenney successful coach

By Colleen Kane
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Cincinnati attorney Ross Wales won numerous awards in his competitive swimming days, including a bronze medal at the 1968 Olympic Games and a silver medal at the 1967 Pan American Games in the 100-meter butterfly.

But this weekend, he will be honored for his contributions to swimming outside of the pool.

Wales, who was also an influential administrator for the sport of swimming, is one of eight inductees entering the International Swimming Hall of Fame this weekend in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. He joins current Stanford swim coach Skip Kenney, a former Cincinnati Marlins coach, as this year's honorees with local connections. Former Olympians Lenore Kight Wingard and Yoshi Oyakawa are the only other Cincinnatians to have been inducted.

"It's probably the highest of any awards I've received," Wales said. "I spent a lot of years trying to be a good administrator for the benefit of the athletes and the sport, so it's nice to be honored."

Wales was the first president of United States Swimming (1978-84) and helped supervise its break from the Amateur Athletic Union in 1979.

"There was a new organization to create (with USS), and I was the president there at a crucial time," Wales said.

Wales was also the vice president and secretary of FINA, swimming's international governing body, and an executive board member of the United States Olympic Committee. On a local level, he is known as the father of Dod and Craig Wales, St. Xavier graduates who went on to swim collegiately at Stanford and Princeton, respectively.

Kenney, one of the most successful coaches in college history with seven national championships and 20 NCAA top-three finishes in the last 22 years, accelerated his coaching career in Cincinnati. He was hired by Gary Hall Sr. and Charles Keating as the coach of the Marlins from 1977-79, only his second head coaching job. His third job sent him to Stanford.

Since he has moved there, Kenney has recruited and coached several Cincinnati-area swimmers, including Joe Hudepohl, current junior Jayme Cramer and future freshman Pete Carothers. It's something he attributes to Midwest values and a solid St. X program. He has even coached two Waleses - Ross when Kenney was an assistant in Long Beach, Calif., in the early 1970s, and Dod during his career at Stanford. Ross and Dod Wales are the only father-son duo to have won an NCAA championship in the same event, the 100 butterfly.

"(The award) means that I've been fortunate as heck to have a lot of good athletes to coach," Kenney said. "No coach is successful without great athletes. Sometimes you have to pinch yourself to believe its real. It's sort of been like a storybook."

Despite his team's runner-up showing at this year's NCAA Championships, Kenney doesn't get much of a break this offseason, even for the awards ceremony. He's "unbelievably busy" trying to get 24 swimmers ready for the Olympic Trials.

On the opposite end, the Wales family has retired from swimming after decades in the sport. Ross Wales gave up his position with FINA after the 2000 Sydney Olympics, and Craig and Dod quit swimming not long after their collegiate careers ended.

"As with anything you enjoy, you miss some parts, and other parts you don't," Wales said. "You don't miss getting up at 5:30 in the morning. You don't miss being tired all the time from training. But you miss going to the competitions ... and you miss all of the friends."

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