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Biography

Bill Tingley: A Swimmer for All Seasons

1998 Ransom Arthrur award winner

Meg Smath | October 19, 2002

Bill Tingley was featured in the 2006 March April issue of USMS Swimmer Magazine in "Team Effort, A Family of Tingleys Boosts Kentuckey Masters." At the 1998 USMS Short Course Nationals, President Nancy Ridout announced that Bill Tingley had won the 1998 Ransom Arthur Award. This award is presented annually to the person who has done the most to further the objectives of U.S. Masters swimming, and is named for Captain Ransom J. Arthur, M.D., the founder of Masters swimming.

Bill is eminently qualified for this award, having been associated with USMS since 1976, when he began swimming Masters for his health and well-being. He formed the Lexington (Kentucky) Masters club in 1978, and coached several swimmers to Top Ten rankings. Those of you who know Bill as "Mr. Lakeside" may be surprised that his first Masters experience was with a team other than Lakeside, but it's true. His first win as a Masters swimmer came at the Canton, Ohio, Long Course Nationals in 1981, in the 50-meter backstroke.

Bill is a TV news photographer by profession. That's how he came to be living in Lexington instead of his native Louisville. He went home to Louisville in 1981 for a job at one of the Louisville TV stations. He also became the coach of Lakeside Masters at that time. His Lexington swimmers took his departure with good grace, and presented him with commemorative T-shirts reading "Traitor," "Traitor's Wife," and "Traitor's Son"! To this day the Lexington club, now known as Wildcat Masters, regards Bill as its founding father.

1981 was an important year in the "Bill Tingley Story" in one other important way: that was the year the Kentucky Local Masters Swimming Committee was formed. Bill was elected its first chairman, a position he has held all but two years since then. He got his mother in on the act too: Joanne Tingley is the LMSC's long-time registrar, and also currently serves as secretary. The LMSC under his leadership has grown to ten clubs located throughout the state. It's a club-oriented LMSC—each club is self-governed and is represented on the LMSC according to how many registered swimmers it has.

Bill attended his first Masters national convention in 1982 in Memphis, and hasn't missed one since. He served as Heartland Zone (now known as the Great Lakes Zone) chairman from 1983 to 1984. In 1985 he was appointed chairman of the ad hoc Convention Committee, and in 1987 the committee was made a standing committee. Bill continued in this position for eight more years, developing a smooth and efficient convention format. It was his idea to set up the seating during House of Delegates meetings in the "classroom" style, which greatly improved the meeting's efficiency. Bill was appointed chairman of the Officials Committee in 1997.

So those are Bill's credentials in a nutshell. But what of his early years? How did he get to be so involved in swimming that some people swear he has chlorine instead of blood?

It all started In Louisville, Kentucky, at Lakeside Swim Club in 1957, with his first swimming lessons at the age of seven. He was accepted on Lakeside's powerhouse AAU team in 1958 at the age of eight, with the provision that he get some additional advanced swimming lessons from his coach, Jack Wann. Bill's brother Jack joined the AAU team in 1959, when he was eight.

Bill made his first big splash in 1962 at age twelve, at a short course meet at Plantation Swim Club in Louisville, when he won the 100-yard backstroke. This earned him a Lakeside warm-up (the club provided them in those days), and made him eligible to go on his first team trip.

Bill grew taller and stronger, as boys that age are apt to do, and his strokes improved too. By age fourteen he had reached a height of just over six feet and had developed as a middle distance and distance freestyler and a backstroker. Bill's brother Jack was (and still is) an outstanding freestyler, which prompted the Lakeside coach to add the 14 and under 400-meter freestyle event to the Ohio Valley Championships in 1964, which Bill won. This event persists in the OVC, the oldest swim meet in the United States continuously held at the same pool (first held in 1928).

As a member of the Atherton High School swim team from 1966 to 1969, Bill earned high school All-America honors in the 100 backstroke in 1968. He lettered all three years, and was captain his senior year, specializing in middle distance freestyle and backstroke.

During these years, Bill and Jack were highly competitive, especially in the open 200 freestyle. At one meet in Indianapolis, the two boys were in lanes three and four in the finals. This time Jack touched Bill out by two-tenths of a second.

Bill made his first national cut in 1965, at age 15, and attended his first AAU nationals in Maumee, Ohio. He was back again in 1966 in Lincoln, Neb., and in 1967 in Oak Park, Ill. He swam in the 1969 nationals at hometown Plantation Club, wearing a hand brace because he had a broken hand from hitting the wall during a backstroke turn. He had to get special permission to wear the brace. At the 1970 nationals in Los Angeles, he earned a world ranking in the 100-meter backstroke. His brother Jack also swam at that meet. But the 1971 nationals in Houston were the most special for the Tingley family, because Bill, Jack, and their sister Mary all swam there. Bill was representing Southern Illinois University, Jack represented Pasadena Junior College, and Mary represented dear old Lakeside.

Bill earned a swimming scholarship to Southern Illinois University, swimming under coach Ray Essick. While at SIU he earned NCAA All-America honors in 1970 in the 100-yard backstroke and 400 medley relay. He was a 1971 All-American in the 100- yard backstroke, 400-yard medley relay, and 800-yard free relay. And in 1972 he was again an All-American, in the 400-yard medley relay and the 800-yard free relay. He swam in the NCAA championships all three years. In 1982, he was inducted into the SIU Swimming Hall of Fame.

This diversity was demonstrated in 1991 when Bill engineered two very big events in Kentucky: the USAS convention in Louisville and the USMS Long Course Championships in Elizabethtown. Both these events ran smoothly, and Bill succeeded at nationals both as a swimmer and as a coach: Lakeside won the large division championship.

Over the years, Bill has worked with the Awards and Recognition Committee for its famous Ransom Arthur Award presentation at the USAS convention banquet. Let's just say that this presentation brings the banquet some much-needed comic relief. Bill has set up the sound and slide equipment (right up his alley with his audio-visual background) and helped build the sets required for the presentation skits.

Besides serving on the USMS Officials and Convention Committees, Bill has also been a member of the Finance, Coaches, International, and ad hoc Computer Committees.

Bill is also involved in USS. He was a member of the board of the Kentucky LSC from 1988 to 1997, and is currently certified as a USS national championship meet official. He has also been a certified high school official since 1994.

His interest in age group swimming comes naturally, as one of his sons, Michael, swims at the national level, and the other, Chris, swims at the junior national level.

His Lakeside Masters team has averaged 90 swimmers, ranging in age from 19 to 86, and each year his swimmers have achieved at least one Top Ten and All-American ranking. Bill's sister, Mary Tingley Graves, is the assistant coach of Lakeside Masters, an accomplished Masters swimmer herself, and assistant manager of Lakeside Swim Club. Jack Tingley is also a member of the Lakeside team. He was world ranked in 1971 in the 400-, 800-, and 1500-meter freestyles, and in 1974 set the American record in the 1650 free at the NCAA championships in Cincinnati. He won the 1650 at the NCAAs in 1975 and was chosen a member of the World University Games team. At those Games, in Moscow, Russia, he won the 1500-, and 800-meter freestyles.

Bill has earned accolades for all aspects of swimming: as an athlete, as an administrator, and as a coach. He was the 1989 USMS Coach of the Year. As of now, he is the only person to have won both the Coach of the Year Award and the Ransom Arthur Award. Truly a Man for All Swimming Seasons.

Information compiled by Joanne Tingley, Jack Tingley, Mary Tingley Graves.

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