Wales family makes father-son swimming history - Cardinal senior Dod follows dad in taking NCAA 100 fly titleMarch 29, 1999
INDIANAPOLIS - If you looked at the results board 32 years ago, it would have read the same thing: 100 butterfly, first place, Wales.
On the second day of the 1999 NCAA Men's Swimming and Diving Championships in Indianapolis, Stanford senior co-captain Dod Wales won the 100 butterfly in 45.89 seconds, the same event his father, Ross Wales, won for Princeton in 1967 at the NCAA Championships held at Michigan State with a time of 50.26.
This is the first time in the history of NCAA swimming that father and son have won the same event at the national meet. The NCAA not only recognized this amazing feat, but also asked Ross Wales to present the awards to the top eight finalists in the 100 fly, shaking his eldest son's hand and handing him the national champion medal with tears in his eyes.
"My dad's usually not an extremely emotional person," Dod Wales said. "My mom takes care of that for all four of us in the family."
"I'm not emotional except when it comes to my family, especially my boys," Ross Wales added. "This has been a long time coming [for Dod]."
Ross Wales and his wife, J.J., as well as Dod's younger brother, Craig, and a handful of aunts, uncles and cousins all attended the competition. Craig, a butterflyer on the Princeton swim team, flew in from New Jersey to see Dod compete.
"It meant a lot to have my family, my brother here. It really touched me that they took a couple moments to explain that [my dad] won this too," Dod Wales said. "It has been fun to swim fly because it reminded me of him. It's fun to please him and make him proud and I think that swimming fly is the easiest way to do that."
Dod's mother also swam competitively, but never up to the level that Ross did. After securing his butterfly crown, Ross Wales went on to train and qualified for the 1968 Olympics in the same event. The Olympic Trials were held at the Belmont Plaza Pool in Long Beach where the Pacific 10 Conference championships are consistently held. The pool is also the site where Stanford head coach Skip Kenney and Ross Wales met when Ross was training and Kenney was first coaching. Ross Wales' Olympic attempt was successful: he came home bearing the bronze in the 100 fly.
But even though Ross has had much success, Dod's swimming achievements are almost as exciting and satisfying. Yet it is not swimming alone that makes Ross proud of Dod: it is the kind of person that Dod is that is the most gratifying.
"The best way that [Dod] makes me proud is by being himself. That makes me about as proud as I can imagine," Ross said. "The fact that he is an outstanding swimmer is an added blessing and the combination of the two is indescribable."
The admiration between father and son is mutual and Ross is one of Dod's two greatest role models and teachers. The other is Pablo Morales, an Olympian and former Stanford swimmer and assistant coach.
Ross, even after his swimming career was over, still remained involved in the sport. He was president of USA Swimming and is currently the vice president of FINA, the world governing swimming body. So, as Dod was growing up, he not only competed from the age of eight, but also went to many important competitions.
In 1984, Dod attended the Olympic Trials with his father. That year the Trials were held at the same pool where this year's NCAAs were held - the Indiana University / Purdue University Natatorium. This was one of the first times that the younger Wales saw Morales swim and a year when the swimming great made the U.S. Olympic Team.
Last year, Morales became an assistant coach to the Stanford team and made being highly successful in the 100 fly more than just a possibility for Wales.
"When Pablo Morales became an assistant coach, I really learned how to swim the 100 butterfly, both mentally and with the physical stroke," Dod Wales said. "He was more of a teacher than my dad was."
Yet Dod's victory is not only historical in the fact of the father-son win, but also in the record books. With his time of 45.89, Dod broke Morales' American record 46.26, set in 1986. And, in addition leaving his mark twice in history, Wales clocked the fastest time in the nation, breaking the fastest time he swam at Pac-10s early in March of 46.66.
"About a year ago, I set the goal of breaking Pablo's record," Dod said. "I felt that I put too much pressure on myself in the last month. In the prelims, I was a little too emotional, I wanted it a little too bad. I was out of rhythm. This evening, I swam like I knew I was capable and I was fortunate to put four good laps together."
Though this was something that Ross always thought was possible when Dod was "an eight year-old and had the perfect stroke," it wasn't necessarily something that Dod always considered. In fact, during his senior year in high school at St. Xavier's in Cincinnati, although the younger Wales had always had a natural talent for the butterfly, it didn't feel right to him anymore. So, Wales stopped swimming fly and concentrated on his sprinting. Only during his junior year at Stanford did Dod resume his fly - it just seemed to feel right again.
This past weekend, it was more right than it ever has been in so many ways - for Dod Wales' family, for NCAA swimming history and for the nation.
"This was the goal for the year," Wales said. "I'm glad it's in the books now."
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