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Stealth Relay Meet Stokes the Rose Bowl Masters

by Michael Heather

42 people, 42 relays, 42 world records.

On January 16, 2010, the Rose Bowl Masters of Pasadena, Calif., participated in an officially sanctioned practice made up of the newly FINA-recognized relay distances: 400 M/W/Mixed Free, 400 M/W/Mixed Medley and 800 M/W/Mixed Free, all LCM. The 42 swimmers established 42 new relay records. Now, their names will always be on the list of records because FINA keeps records in a progressive list, without overwriting.

Coach Chad Durieux was alerted to the new relay records availability by an alert swimmer in December 2009, who suggested that Durieux hold a relay meet to make the records. The current world record listings were empty. Apparently no one had thought to swim the races since FINA recognized the distances in October 2009.

Durieux promoted the event via club emails and while on deck during workouts in early January. “I told my team that we could set records for the open events in every event if we were the first to swim it,” Durieux says. He made it even more attractive by linking it with another team event, the Polar Bear Club, in which participants must come to at least 19 workouts in January. Participants in the relay meet earned credit for the Polar Bear Club for participating in or helping run the meet.

The event was set up in relative secrecy in order not to attract any unwanted pre-race attention and risk the possibility of another group getting there first. Durieux told the team not to tell anyone, or they would not get a record, and it worked pretty well. Everyone on the team pitched in $10 to help pay for the officials. At 5:30 a.m. on race day, the participants and other Rose Bowl swimmers set up the timing system, placed the pads, put up chairs for timers and prepared the pool as if a regular meet were about to happen. An official was hired to be the starter and a knowledgeable volunteer agreed to be the stroke and turn judge. The latter was important, as three relays were eventually disqualified: two due to technical errors and one because of a bad relay exchange. This event had to be run by the book so there would never be any question of impropriety.

Rose Bowl Masters Stealth Relay MeetThere were enough volunteers to have two timers per lane as back-ups to the automatic timing system. Four lanes were used for the event, and heats were set so that if any relays were competing in the same age group, the slower one would go first and set the record, then the faster relay would break the record in the next heat. Everything went well. All the relays were complete by 9 a.m. and the proud participants went home, knowing they were now record holders.

Just over a month after the relay meet, Durieux found out a Danish team had had the same idea at the beginning of the year and had set their own records in some of the relays. “I think it’s bogus that it took so long to report it,” Durieux says. “You gotta report that as soon as you do it, like we did. There should be a time limit of seven days to report it, not 60.” Within eight days of their swim, Durieux turned in copies of the team members’ passports or birth certificates and the new records were added to the official FINA website.

An Australian team had also swum some of the relays about the same time as the Rose Bowl Masters, but took over a month to report it.

Still, Durieux is not dismayed. The Rose Bowl Masters did well. “The Danish got only like four … records (before us) out of the forty two we set. It’s no big deal,” Durieux says, noting that Mission Viejo Masters and a few other teams from around the world have already broken some of the records. And all of the early Danish records were broken by Rose Bowl relays.

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