It was a weekend to remember, to be sure, and would have been even without the snow.
Indeed, the West Virginia women’s basketball team scored probably one of the most memorable victories in the program’s history over Baylor, putting them within a victory of the Big 12 regular season championship and spring football got underway, which is an event that magically erases the bad memories of a year ago and replaces them with the hopes and promises of the future.
But there was another event that sort of sneaked in the back door, an event that in its own way was everything those other happenings were, an event worthy of taking note of as a new week begins.
Tim Squires won a pair of Big 12 championships.
Who, you are probably going to ask, is Tim Squires and in what did he win his championships?
Fair enough question, for the sport of swimming has seldom been in the spotlight over the years at West Virginia and Tim Squires is a swimmer and, judging by the results of the 50 and 100 freestyle swims at the Big 12 Championships in Austin, Texas, he’s one you are going to be hearing about a whole lot more.
But, what makes this story extra special is that Squires ability to set a pair of school records in the events should surprise no one, for he comes out of West Virginia swimming royalty, the grandson of Catherine deGruyter Williams.
She was to swimming in West Virginia what Abner Doubleday was to baseball, so much so that her nickname was simply “Splash”.
“Splash” Williams grew up in Charleston, attended what was then Morris-Harvey College, transferred to WVU, from which she graduated. She received her nickname as a Water Front Director at Camp Ann Bailey.
In 1963 she moved to Buchanan and, according to her obituary after she died on Oct. 9, 2007, “with the assistance of West Virginia Wesleyan College, ‘Splash’ founded the Buckhannon-Wesleyan Swim Team, and taught scores of swimmers during her coaching years of 1964-1996. She helped develop Wesleyan’s Women’s Swimming in the late 1960’s and taught Water Safety and Lifesaving courses as well as adult swim classes through the Upshur County Board of Education.
“In 1981,” the obituary continued, “she entered the world of Masters Swimming, where she held national and international records, traveling across the US and Canada, and even to Australia in 1988.”
In 2005 at age 81, she won three gold medals and a silver medal at the Summer National Senior Olympic Games in Pittsburgh.
Her daughter also swam and attended WVU so there is little question which direction Tim Squires would be heading athletically.
“My first memories of being in the water were playing in the water with my cousin at the Buchanan High School pool,” he said, that being the pool that “Splash” was built.
With that background, recruiting Tim Squires to WVU became a priority of Coach Vic Riggs, who happened to come to WVU the year that “Splash” Williams died.
“Having Tim become part of our program was a high priority and a big effort,” he said after returning from Dallas over the weekend. “When he came and started to develop and then, as the program grew more and more, people started looking at what we were doing.
“Having him, a local boy, a Buchanan product, is a real pleasure to watch. I’ve been doing this a long time and to see his swims this week has been a real treat. When you see someone take control of their races and what they are trying to get done, he was definitely doing that.”
Tim Squires wanted to come to WVU out of high school.
“I wanted to have that WV on my cap,” he said.
But it was hardly a certainty.
“That’s why we are so blessed. He’s been a great kid for the program and to see it come together for him this week was very moving,” Riggs said.
The dual championships, won the way they were, lift expectations to a national level for Squires, maybe even an international level.
“You know Timmy has a whole year of eligibility left,” Riggs noted, pointing out that agreeing to redshirt last year really helped the team and Squires himself. “He can take this to a higher level. Then if he has a desire to swim in the Olympic trials … these are all stepping stones to put him in a better situation.
“Now he certainly has the talent and some of the experience swimming on a big stage. I mean, those boys he beat from Texas are pretty good. He now has the capability and the opportunity to get some second swims at USA Nationals and possibly Olympic trials in 2016.”
But first come the NCAA Championships.
Riggs says a championship there is very much a possibility.
“Absolutely. I have not seen where those times put him, but very few go 42 seconds in the 100 free and there’s very few who go into the 19-low range in the 50 free,” the coach said.
It would be a tall order, true.
“He’s never been to the men’s NCAAs and it’s a very intimidating meet, so our step right now is to get home, prepare the next three weeks for the NCAAs,” Riggs said. “You can never can limit an individual on what they are capable of. They all have to show up that day and compete. This is a huge opportunity for us in the program and we’re going to go and learn.”
And maybe make a big splash – pardon the expression – in the NCAA Championships.
Follow Bob Hertzel on Twitter @bhertzel.
It was a weekend to remember, to be sure, and would have been even without the snow.
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