Heritage Guide to The Geelong College

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SWIMMING (Centenary History)

SWIMMING (Centenary History)

See Also SWIMMING (Sport)

The following text is an excerpt from the Centenary History of the Geelong College published in 1961:

Chapter seventeen

'There are no records of swimming as a competitive sport in the early history of the College, but it was always a favourite amusement, and during the years at Knowle House all the boarders were taken to the sea every morning. Though this practice ceased after the move to Newtown Hill, there was always a number of fine swimmers at the College, and every member of the Boat Club was given instruction.

In 1892, Emil Sander, one of the crack swimmers of Victoria, was a pupil at the College. His influence, combined with Norman Morrison's love for the river, led to the holding of aquatic sports at "the Willows". All the boys in the school were transported down the river in the College fleet, reinforced by boats lent by the Barwon Rowing Club. Football was played and scratch fours rowed off in the morning, while the afternoon was devoted to swimming races, in which Sander won the school championship. It was expected that the outing, which was a complete success, would be made an annual fixture, but such was not the case.

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The first official swimming sports were conducted in the Western Baths in April, 1910, with Mr. C. A. Cameron in charge and Mr. James D'Helin as starter (a position he filled for many years afterwards) . Most of the eleven events were handicapped. The school championship was decided in a 100 yards free style race which was won by H. E. Sewell from L. F. Douglass.

The swimming sports were then considered by most competitors and onlookers more as a happy outing than as a serious contest. For example, the timing of races was not always a matter of great concern. The first known championship time is that of T. B. Hawkes, who in 1913 covered the 100 yards in 1 min. 18 1/5 sec. Possibly the best swim of those earlier days was C. E. Backwell's 1 min. 7 2/5 sec. in 1916; it is unlikely that this was beaten in the years before the change to metric distances.

When the inter-House sports competition was introduced in 1921, the House swimming contest consisted of nothing more than an open relay race and a junior 50 yards event added to the usual swimming sports programme. However, a swift change took place, and by 1923 the position was reversed, a few handicap events being a mere appendage to a broad House contest, within which individual championships were decided on set groups of events. Soon the handicaps had disappeared completely.

From 1928 to 1934 there was, in addition to the open swimming championship, a separate aquatic championship, awarded on a varied programme of swimming and diving.

The swimming sports were held according to circumstances at the old Western or Eastern Baths or at Parkside, none of them ideal for the purpose, until 1939, when the modern Eastern Beach pool became available. This is a magnificent structure for public recreation, but racing swimmers are so exposed to wind and wave that the success or failure of a meeting is decided by the weather. In this new pool the races were swum over metric distances. In 1945, under the keen direction of Mr. A. E. Simpson, all events were timed on this new basis, and in 1947 the best times were declared records.

In 1947 the College first entered an outside contest, an invitation meeting against Melbourne Grammar School, Scotch College and Wesley College. This fixture gradually grew in size and importance, with the Geelong College nearly always a participant. Occasionally other contests took place by arrangement with individual schools.

The rapidly rising standard of Australian swimming during the 'fifties had its repercussions at Geelong. Record times were repeatedly lowered: in 1958 new figures were set in twelve of the possible twenty events; in 1959, seven; in 1960, thirteen.

In 1960, A. G. R. Strahan and P. J. Doak bettered State times in two events at the College sports, though for technical reasons these results could not be claimed as records. Shortly afterwards, at the All Schools' Championships, the same boys broke records in, respectively, the Under 19 and Under 16 110 yards free style events, and I. W. McCay was the winner of the Under 17 breaststroke. The College was now one of the State's five top schools, and swimming colours were awarded for the first time, six boys gaining the honour.

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Nearly every Collegian has been a swimmer, regardless of his racing ability. Each year many boys, including the very young, have qualified for "Herald" learn-to-swim certificates and for the Department of Education junior and senior certificates. For some years, in the 'forties, the College held the Sydney Keith Cup, awarded by the Royal Life Saving Society for the highest aggregate of life saving awards among the Public Schools.

Naturally enough, Old Collegians in recent years have taken an increasingly important part in the work of swimming and life saving clubs; several have won events at State junior and country championships. None of these, however, has approached the all-round excellence of F. D. Walter, who in 1929 and 1930 held all free style championships of Victoria at distances from 100 yards to one mile.'

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Sources: The Geelong College 1861-1961 by G C Notman and B R Keith. Chapter 17, pp 120-122.

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