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Monday, May 28, 2007

Namesnik Memorial Grand Prix 2007

Men's 400M Freestyle Relay - Matt Patton, Davis Tarwater, Peter Vanderkaay, Joe Redmon, Michael Phelps and Jon Larocque

Eric Namesnik was an American Olympian with two silver medals, the father of two and a Great Coach for the University of Michigan. He was only 35 years old when he died as a result of injuries from a car accident.
I remember being told on the morning he passed away by my friend Tim who lives in Michigan. The swimming community is smaller than one might think and great coaches are well respected by everyone. A couple of weeks later Kaitlin Sandeno and Kalyn Keller attended the Q meet in Long Beach with a jar for donations for "Snik's Kids", a memorial fund set up to help Eric's children, Austin and Madison. I was so impressed that these young swimmers and their families were putting all the change they could find as well as some checks to support this worthy cause.

As a show of respect the upcoming Grand Prix that Eric was going to be overseeing at the Canham Natatorium at U of M was renamed as the "Namesnik Memorial Grand Prix".

Right after my return from Australia and the World Champs, while I still had the travel bug, my friends Michelle from Alabama, Blair from Kentucky, Peter from Indiana, and Tim from Michigan, convinced me that it would be fun if I flew out to Michigan to attend the meet. I will admit that time spent with my friends all in one place really was fun. BUT......

Morning Finals!
Because of NBC requesting that the Swimming and Gymnastics competition for the Olympics be adjusted to accommodate the prime time schedule of North American (USA) viewing habits, the finals for swimming and gymnastics will be held in the morning. What?
So to prepare the athletes for this schedule, the Snik meet had this format.

I hated it. I thought it would be bad, but I had no idea. One downfall is the meet goes an extra day. There was a prelim on Thursday night for Friday morning finals. Friday night prelims for Saturday morning finals. And Saturday night prelims for Sunday Morning Finals. (We did get out fairly early on Sunday which was nice, and allowed for a fine home cooked meal given to us by Tim's family at their home, so that was a truly tasty upside.)

I am used to outdoor meets, which I think are louder and more exciting, but I feel the silent crowd was caused by the fact that people were still a little sleepy when finals started at 9am. And then after you already saw the fast stuff in the morning it was tough to go sit through heat after heat of prelims after running around and seeing the city or having lunch... or a nap.

I tried to pay attention to who bettered their times from prelims to finals. There were few like Michael Phelps, Katie Hoff, Davis Tarwater, Mary Descenza, Kaitlin Sandeno, Kim Vandenberg and Peter Vanderkaay, to name a few, who were able to drop times. (It was also great to see the return of Chris DeJong to competition.) In the big picture, I guess they are the people who actually need to if they intend to make the podium in Beijing.

I don't know how many other meets will have this format as we lead into this final year before the big event, but I know the Australians ran a meet with this same format on the same weekend as the Snik meet. I would love someone to check to see if the people dropping times were their more elite swimmers as well. I would also like to know if there were less significant time drops than ususal. But then again maybe the prelim times were faster due to evening prelims. It all means nothing, but it is interesting to me.

Here is the one suggestion that I have though for future meets with this format. We know that these swimmers will walk in as prepared as they can possibly be to swim the best they can. The responsibility lies with the friends, family and teammates of these swimmers to really be supportive. You are there anyway. These people are pulling themselves up on the blocks to actually race that early. We need to cheer and clap and get these people up for these races. Ask anyone and they will say that the crowd helps them get to the wall faster. Ask the Canadian men's relay that took silver in Montreal. Ask the Australian men who won that medley relay in Melbourne if they could have done that without the support of the crowd. Maybe it will take remembering that when you go to the Olympics that you are not only there to see your swimmer. You are there to see all your Nation's swimmers. You need to get behind them as you would your own child, friend, or teammate. It is up to the crowd to make a venue electric. It is up to everyone in attendance to make sure that the athletes can't tell that is it too darned early for a final when they walk out behind the block.

The Namesnik Memorial Grand Prix had everything it needed for great swimming. It had a nice venue with water the correct temperature and fast swimmers. If there was anything wrong with the meet is was the fact that the crowd either wasn't there or they weren't in the mood to make a noise.

Read more about Eric Namsnik as well as quotes from a few of the people who loved and respected him here.


  • At 5/28/2007 4:54 PM, TimTheSwimmer said…

    Thanks for joining us this year at the meet! I had a great time, and glad there was someone there when Michelle and Blair were too tired...lol.

    Interesting take on morning finals, and I just thought of something else. Maybe the big names were able to drop time for morning finals because they are the ones who are able to swim "easy" just to make it into the final, whereas others are racing just to get a place in the final. I really wish there was something to do about morning finals, but the decision seems to be made, so swimmers (and fans as well) will just have to adapt.

  • At 5/28/2007 5:07 PM, lala said…

    I don't know about that taking it easy in prelims thing Timmay, for the most part there was more than 14 hours between the prelims the night before and the finals the next day.

    Yep, Morning finals are going to happen. But it seems that this isn't causing the Olympic trials to change time format. The schedule of events for Omaha shows a traditional format.

  • At 5/30/2007 8:14 PM, Amy said…

    Good call on the need for crowd support for morning finals, lala. I know for me, it's much more difficult to be that enthused early in the morning. Maybe the venues need to make sure there is extra caffiene on hand to give the crowd that extra push!

  • At 6/01/2007 6:20 AM, shannon said…

    Thanks for your views on the morning finals, lala. It sounds like it turned out pretty much as I expected it would and that's too bad. I hope that more meets are held this way over the next year so that our swimmers can get used to it. Like you said, they have to be used to it come Summer 2008. I also agree about the crowd needing to participate more. As an early riser, I wouldn't have a problem with early morning cheerleading, but being married to someone who is not an earlier riser, I can understand how hard it would be to get anyone who would rather take it easy in the morning to be cheery. But, our swimmers are going to need it.

  • At 6/08/2007 7:27 AM, Lena said…

    I don't think I've ever posted here, but it was a long time debt from me.

    I loved your insights on the matter, lala. As the world of swimming is trying to adjust to this new development, it's very important for us, the fans, to support them. Cheer, clap, scream and show them that there's a good reason why everyone is up at that hour.

    Every sport is making changes in their formats to fit into the Olympic Games. And it's our task to show them support.

    I do hope the Olympic Trials change their format as a way of preparing for the upcoming.

    Do you think we'll see records being broken at Beijing or the time for preparing to it it's too short?

  • At 7/11/2007 11:58 PM, lala said…

    Hi Lena! Thanks for stopping by! I definately think there is time for the athletes to prepare for the Olympics. Everyone will be in the same boat, although after Worlds the bar has been raised pretty freaking high. The records set were kind of crazy. There are a cpuple people that I think can push thier records, but that was a pretty sick meet. If the Olympics got half those records it would be really amazing. Morning finals or no.


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