It was a token of appreciation for 31 years of service to WISC for Dudley, 81, including 20 years as president from 1980 to 2000.
The chair sat empty all day at Willow Run High School, and that’s how it will stay. If Dudley’s at a swim meet, the last pace you’ll find him is relaxing with his feet up.
(Find latest results from swimming and diving competitions here).
“When we had the meets at outdoor clubs he would haul all the timing systems and touch pads,” WISC presidentÂ Carol ClydeÂ said. “We finally told John he didn’t have to do that anymore.”
When the championships moved indoors five years ago, Dudley no longer had to haul around equipment due to pre-installed systems at area high school pools.
That’s about the only duty they could take from Dudley, 81, who still does timing for all the races, helps put together heat and results sheets for all four days of competition.
An Ypsilanti resident who helped found the Willow Run Swim Club in 1975, Dudley’s free time during the WISC meets is limited to the occasional 30-second breaks between heats.
“It’s something that I really appreciate for all the years I’ve been in this. It was a total surprise,” said Dudley of the honor, before running to the next race.
Though maybe the most recognizable, Dudley is but one of many individuals whose service to WISC is measured in decades. Hume and his wife, Francine, have been involved with WISC for 31 years.
Saline graduateÂ Jake EngelmeierÂ and former Huron swimmerÂ Betsey ClydeÂ (Carol’s daughter), who swam in WISC when they couldn’t touch in the shallow end, now work as coaches.
“The decade of the 70’s, was the big growth,” said meet officialÂ Tom Richards, who has worked with WISC in many capacities since then. “It started out as a very small meet, maybe four team, less than 500 kids.”
Seventeen clubs and 1,550 swimmers and divers are at the 2010 event, according to Clyde. Olympians have raced in past WISC championships, and state champions from the area’s many high school state swimming powerhouses faced off Monday.
But it’s not just the upper echelon of talent that makes WISC a highlight for people in the local swimming and diving scene.
“The 13-to-17 year olds, that’s when you’re going to see the good times, but there’s nothing like watching eight-and-unders their first time get a heat-winner ribbon,” said Clyde. “We have state champions in the pool but we also have kids four years old swimming for the first time.”
Fifty years ago, WISC began as an effort to have all clubs in the area compete against one another in an outdoor meet. Though the diving is still held at outdoor pools around the area, five years ago the swimming portion was switched to indoor venue to planning around the weather.
“We’re afraid of weather,” said Willow Run High School coachÂ Von AckerÂ who has helped with WISC in one way or another since 1969. “Because it’s such a huge event now, we can’t just say, ok we’ll do it the next day. So we scramble to find an indoor pool when there’s bad weather, so it’s just evolved into just moving it indoors.”
Though the races are inside, WISC is still very much an outdoor event. Teams camp in the summer sun on the Willow Run High School lawn.
Clyde estimated that the individual clubs running concessions can sometimes make as much as $1,000 dollars a day, normally used to pay coaches or get swimmers in their final year of eligibility parting gifts.
T-shirt sales and entry fees cover pool rental fees and janitorial services. In other words, no one gets rich off of WISC, at least in the pocket book.
“I think the thing that’s significant is that it’s always been all things for all kids, beginners all the way to the top,” Richards said. “You’ve got everything: competition, learning, teamwork, volunteerism, camaraderie and an all-around great atmosphere.”