Share Your Story: Pam McGill
My experiences as a swimmer in the Big Ten Conference are some of the best memories of my life. When I entered Ohio State in 1975 the women's program was in the infant stage. The women in my class had been swimming AAU as age groupers and it was interesting to talk to the juniors and seniors on the team who told tales of going to away meets with six women in a room and horrible travel conditions. I remember thinking how lucky we were to have OSU vans and the luxury of getting out of chemistry lab to go to a meet. We practiced and competed in the Varsity Pool, which didn't seem any older than the pool I came from in Lakewood, Ohio. Our coach was Linda Hall who was a graduate student and a former downhill skier. Ann Emmenecker was a senior my freshman year and she had just won the 50 Free at Nationals (AIAW) the previous year. Ron O'Brien was our diving coach and Carrie Irish and Barbie Weinstein were our divers. I have never seen more impressive divers. Cindy Simmonds and I split a full swimming scholarship and we were proud to be in the initial group of women to receive athletic scholarships at OSU (1976-77) The Big Ten meet (unofficial) was at Michigan my freshman year (1976) and at Wisconsin the next year.
We had no idea how fast our program would take off after that year. In my junior year we had a new 50m pool and a beautiful new diving facility but the best news was that Susie Atwood was hired as the head coach. Although she was only a few years older than us, she was a swimming legend and we were thrilled to have her at OSU. Susie was a great coach and motivator. She trained us well and she also persuaded the athletic department to allow us to train in Florida over Christmas break. During her first year we traveled to Indian River CC where Susie's former coach Jim Montrella was coaching. Jim was hired as assistant and then head coach at OSU a few years later. The "Big Ten" meet was at Illinois that year (1978) and we loved the new pool there. Olympic gold medalist Jenny Chandler joined our diving team and when Carrie and Jenny showed up at meets we knew they were unbeatable.
During my junior and senior year, Susie recruited women from all over the country - full scholarships were available and I saw our program change for the better. We learned so much from Susie and the younger swimmers that I had the best times of my life. I was honored to be chosen as co-captain of the team my junior and senior years. The Big Ten meet was at Michigan that year (1979) and I decided that I would stay and go to graduate school for the 1979-80 school year. Susie was kind enough to let me be an assistant coach with Jim Montrella.
Although I came to swim at OSU 31 years ago, it seems like yesterday. We were so proud to be the "trail blazers" and we had many fans who were proud of our success. Woody Hayes stopped by our practice a few times as did Jack Nicklaus. Our favorite guest though was Mike Peppe. He loved to tell the story of how he tried to teach Jesse Owens to swim. Jesse said he didn't like any sports where your feet didn't touch the ground! I returned to OSU this year to see the new pool and recreation center. I could not be happier for the men and women who finally get what they deserve, a first class facility. However, before I toured the new facility, I walked up the road where Larkins Hall once stood and all that was left of our Varsity pool was some leveled dirt. I stood there thinking about the thousands of hours I swam there and the many friends and family members who were kind enough to come to the meets to cheer us on. Mostly, I remember how proud my parents were to say they had a daughter who swam in the Big Ten Conference.