Tuesday, March 30, 1999

Wales duplicates Dad's NCAA title




BY GEOFF HOBSON
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Dod Wales froze time and melted his father's heart during an improbable weekend at the NCAA Swimming and Diving Championships.

        Wales, a St. Xaxier High School graduate swimming for Stanford, broke Pablo Morales' American record in the 100-yard butterfly Friday night with a 45.89-second effort at the Indiana University Natatorium in Indianapolis, the second fastest of all-time.

        His father, Ross Wales, wept as he handed his son the same medal he won 32 years earlier while swimming 50.26 seconds for Princeton. It marked the first time a son won a championship in the same event as his father.

        Back in California Monday, Dod, 22, a senior, still had trouble taking it all in. He still couldn't get over the number of strangers who had approached him during the weekend after the emotional medal ceremony.

        “They said it was one of the most sincere moments in sports they had ever seen,” Dod Wales said. “It means a lot to me that he was there and I was able to see him enjoy it. He was a guy who took a back seat while I was swimming and he let me figure it out on my own.”

        Although Ross Wales didn't boss his kid around in the pool, he remains active in the sport as the vice president of FINA, swimming's worldwide governing body, and is a past president of USA Swimming.

        And it's hard to miss Ross' framed bronze medal from the 1968 Olympics. The 2000 Olympic trials are about 18 months away. And Dod has been thinking about the Summer Games long before St. Xavier's Joe Hudepohl won a relay gold medal in 1996.

        “I looked at it more when I was little, not as much now,” Dod said. “Not many people have the chance to win an Olympic medal and it's kind of my own quest. The sport has changed a lot in 30 years.

        “The actual medal is not what this is all about. So much emphasis is placed on the winners at the Olympic Games. It's unfortunate people who don't come home a winner be deemed a failure. As a whole, it's pretty special thing.”

        Dod Wales will try to do the

        special thing at the Olympic trials in Indy, in the same pool he set his record. He'll go for the U.S. team in the 100 fly, where the top two finishers make the Olympics, and the 100 freestyle, where the top six make it.

        He's now a leading contender in the fly after breaking Morales' 13-year record of 46.26. His 45.89 is the second fastest of all-time, next to the NCAA record of 45.59 set last year by Lars Frolander of Sweden while swimming for Southern Methodist.

        Dod finished second to Auburn's Brock Newman at last year's U.S. Summer nationals, but Newman finished fifth in Indy, and runner-upAdam Pine of Nebraska was way back at 46.37.

        “The record was a goal, and my times had been going down all year. I thought I had a chance for it,” said Dod, who watched Morales' Olympic comeback on TV in 1992.

        “Until the last lap (the race) was pretty close. My goal was to try and get out even, but do it doing less energy so you had more to come home.”

        Dod got discouraged with swimming the butterfly at the end of high school and had been focusing on freestyle. But last year, “it started to come around. I was going faster. It just felt right.”

        It felt right that Morales, an idol for Dod, would be part of the record. One of the reasons the fly might have felt so good was because last year Morales, a 1992 Olympic gold medalist and holder of 11 NCAA titles, was a Stanford assistant coach last year before becoming the women's coach at San Jose State.

        On Friday night, Dod Wales passed him and caught his father.

        “I just haven't been able to comprehend it all just yet,” Dod said. “I'm sure it's going to sink in, but it hasn't yet.”

       



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