Throw 1,000 kids and their anxious parents into tight accommodations and things can get crazy if someone isn't always providing direction. Bill Close has instituted that calm for so long as the director of the City Swim Meet no one can remember exactly when he started.
Turns out last year was the end, though, as Close retired after more than 40 years following Sycamore Hills' fifth win in a row. Close will be recognized before Sunday's finals of the 52nd annual meet at South Side's Brown Natatorium.
``His impact is not only on the city swim meet, but the summer swim clubs in general,'' said Parks and Recreation Department Director of Leisure Services Perry Ehresman. ``He's really been the guiding light of the meet, the organizations and the rules and is the main reason that the swim meet is as successful as it is and involves over 1,000 kids per year. That's because of his leadership.''
Jason and Yardley Glassley will officially take over as meet directors on Sunday, though they worked closely with Close last year.
Close, 66, said he got the job during a meeting with former meet director Mike Lee and Ehresman sometime during the early 1970s. During the middle-1990s, he retired from coaching Avalon and concentrated on running the meet.
``I'm totally retired and I've got some health issues and my grandkids,'' Close said. ``I'm just pretty much enjoying myself at this point. It just got too time-consuming.''
One of Close's biggest accomplishments was using computers to keep track of the events, records and competitors. For nearly three decades as the meet was held at McMillen Park, volunteers had to write the results by hand and then type them out, sometimes on wet paper because of rain.
His career started as a high school junior at the Huntington YMCA where he coached gymnastics and eventually took on diving and swimming. He became a physical education teacher with Fort Wayne Community Schools and then the Avalon Pool director and coach as a summer job. Now he helps run the Three Rivers Aquatic Club.
``I enjoyed it and I'm going to miss the people, but not enough to come back,'' he joked. ``You know how that duck looks so serene on top of the water, but underneath he's pumping for all he's worth? That's what it was like for me.''
Everyone bought the serene part, though, and knew who was in control.
Swim meet results coming
The News-Sentinel will run complete statistics from the City Swim Meet finals posted Sunday evening at www.news-sentinel.com, naming the top eight finishers in each event.