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by Dorothy Donnelly

July 19, 2000

Long distance leadership

As the president of USMS, I think one of my favorite responsibilities is to recognize the athletic and service accomplishments our members. And my greatest pleasure is to recognize the winner of the USMS Ransom J. Arthur Award, our highest award.

Captain Ransom J. Arthur was the founding father of United States Masters Swimming. His perspective of fitness to promote the health of adults was revolutionary. He created a stage upon which adults could gather, compete, and support each other in the lifelong pursuit of training and fitness goals. It seems so basic now. It was not in 1970, when 46 athletes gathered in Amarillo, Texas, for the first Short Course National Championship. Ransom had a passion and a vision. We are the culmination of that vision, and the torchbearers of his passion.

Each year USMS recognizes one of our members who embodies the dedication and passion required to carry on Ransom Arthur’s vision. Our 2006 recipient is no exception; she has been instrumental in the development of Masters swimming at all levels. These contributions include being an active member and volunteer in USMS since 1972. In her 34 years of service to USMS, she has been instrumental in team activities, encouraging participation, as well as directing events. She has promoted improved physical fitness and health in adults through her vocation as a physical educator and her volunteerism with numerous swim clubs and park districts. She most definitely leads by example in demonstrating the benefits of her life-long commitment to swimming. She is a tremendous athlete and avid competitor, as demonstrated by 20 times being named a USMS All-American, with over 150 top ten performances.

This year’s recipient, Sally Dillon, is an exhaustive worker who has served at club, LMSC and national levels. While serving as our secretary for four years, Sally underwent severe personal trials and did not miss a beat. She was always there and could always be counted upon. Sally served as chair of the Officials Committee from 1990 to 1993 and as chair of the Long Distance Committee from 1994 to 2001, where she brought a new level of professionalism and leadership to a committee that is now the premier long distance/open water group in all of swimming. Sally brought this same high level of professionalism and leadership to her position as USMS secretary from 2001 to 2005, where she standardized committee reporting and originated posting the minutes of the Executive Committee on our website in order to keep our members informed of the issues facing USMS.

Locally, Sally founded and directed the Truckee-Tahoe Swim Team Masters, the Donner Lake open water swim, the Truckee Winter SCY meet and she co-founded Sierra Nevada Masters. In addition, Sally has been a certified official since 1975, serving as a referee, starter, and stroke and turn judge at hundreds of USMS, USA-Swimming and high school meets.

I would like you to join me in a warm round of applause in recognizing the decades of leadership, passion, dedication, support and enthusiastic volunteerism bestowed upon Masters Swimming by Sally Dillon, our 2006 USMS Ransom J. Arthur Award recipient.

Presented by USMS President Rob Copeland.

The following was written by Dorothy Donnelly in September 1998, based upon Sally Dillon's own story, and updated by Sally in September 2006:

Sally Dillon is another of our volunteers who performs equally well in the local and national administrative arena and in the water. Notice the word "water" rather than "pool." In AAU age group swimming (starting at age eight) then through high school and junior college, Sally was a "drop dead sprinter," 200s and over were a disaster. In 1967 she retired from swimming for marriage and motherhood. While attending CSU Long Beach in 1972, she started swimming again. Late in the year Sally discovered Masters swimming and Long Beach Masters, was instantly hooked, and entered her first National Championships in Santa Monica.

After years of avoiding longer distances, she started giving them a try in 1978 after moving to Northern California, slowly evolving into a distance swimmer and branching out into open water events. This was a turning point in both her swimming and administrative career. Sally has been active on the local levels. She co-founded and was a board member of Sierra Nevada Masters. In Truckee, Calif., she founded the Donner Lake Swim and the Truckee Winter Meet, directing each for 15 years.

She was a board member of SPMA (Southern Pacific Masters Association) for a few years, attending National Convention in 1976 for SPMA. She represented PMS (Pacific Masters Swimming) for 11 years, from 1987-1997. She has moved further north and is now an active member of PNA (Pacific Northwest Association). On the national level, Sally served as the first Officials Committee Chair and chaired the Long Distance Committee for two terms.

Under Sally's leadership, the Long Distance Committee approved many changes in the rules, revised Part Three of the Rule Book for greater clarity and completed and published the Open Water Manual. One of Sally's leadership talents is delegation, and her working sub-committees responded with greatly enhanced programs. They approved All American Certificates distinctively for Long Distance; initiated the Long Distance All-Star team in 1995, and redefined the All Star Criteria in 1997. Sally spent countless hours assisting Carl House by resurrecting old records and identifying Long Distance All-Americans since day one for the History and Archives web project.

Attending 42 national and international events, Sally was particularly thrilled to become a world champion for the first time in Sheffield, England, winning the 800-meters free in the pool and the 5K in the pond. She has attended four other world championship meets.

In 2001 Sally was elected to serve as the USMS Secretary—a position she held for four years. She currently serves as a member of the Rules committee and the History and Archives committee. In 2006 Sally received USMS’s highest honor—the Ransom Arthur Award.

Sally and husband Glen live near their combined family of four children and six grandchildren. Living on Whidbey Island, she trains with North Whidbey Masters in Oak Harbor. She is active in the PNA, currently serving as chair for Long Distance. In 2003 Glen suffered a spinal injury in a car accident that left him paralyzed and in a wheelchair. A life-altering event for the entire family, both Glen and Sally are getting accustomed to the changes and occasionally travel to meets and “faraway places”.

On turning 60 this year, Sally has competed in eight different USMS age groups and has swum Masters for 34 full and enjoyable years! She figures if she can't beat her competition, she'll just have to outlive them—but so far, her age group seems to be growing instead of diminishing!