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Archive for Monday, July 20, 1992

EX-BLAZER INSPIRATIONAL

July 20, 1992

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It's hard to say how much Janie Wagstaff has benefitted area swimming or to quantify the number of young girls she's inspired to take up the sport.

When Wagstaff, a Shawnee Mission East graduate, competes in the Olympics, she'll be fulfilling the dream held, at some point or another, by the nearly 600 swimmers who competed in the Roger Hill Invitational over the weekend at Municipal pool.

After all, Wagstaff was a Kansas City Blazer years before she was an Olympian.

"It puts a lot of enthusiasm into the club, knowing there's somebody of that caliber on the team," Jeff Dorris, one of two Blazers head coaches, said Sunday. "The entire Missouri Valley benefits from Janie's accomplishments."

THE BLAZERS, one of the top area swim clubs, brought a contingent of 95 swimmers to the Roger Hill Invitational. Wagstaff, a University of Florida signee, is only the second Olympian to have advanced through the Blazer program. Mark Dean, another Blazer, competed in the 1988 Olympics.

Where there any other Olympic hopefuls in the weekend meet? Sure, there were 595 of them.

"To say someone is an Olympic hopeful, I'm not comfortable with that," Lawrence Aquahawks coach Pat Grzenda said. "To say there are 595 of them here, that's accurate."

A few years ago, Jeff Stout would have been No. 596. Stout, a 23-year-old from Tulsa, completed his eligibility with the Kansas University swim team last year. In May, he graduated.

Last summer, while swimming with the Aquahawks, Stout qualified for the Olympic trials in the 100 backstroke.

"OH YEAH, I had dreams of swimming in the Olympics," Stout said. "The Olympics are a big deal for the kids. But everything has to fall into place."

Not everything fell into place for Stout. Because his eligibility expired a year before the Olympic trials, he would have had to train independently. Even then, Stout said the talent gap between him and his trials opponents was too great.

"There was such a big difference between the Olympic guys and me," he said. "About six seconds. I just didn't go. I would have had to train for a whole year, and I chose to have my last year of school like a normal student.

"There was no way I was going to drop six seconds in a year, so I decided to hang it up. It would have been interesting to see what I would have done, but I think I made a good decision. I think I did the right thing."

AS STOUT will attest, there's no such thing as sure-thing Olympic swimmer. Ask any of the coaches at the Roger Hill meet what makes an Olympian, and there will be as many different answers as there are coaches.

"That's a hard question," Dorris said. "Some people are late bloomers. Some you can tell at an early age. There's so much perseverence involved. You have to be focused, day in and day out."

That's a dedication Grzenda finds almost incomprehensible.

"I saw Janie swim when she was 7," Grzenda recalled, "and I thought, `Wow, she's good.' I don't know that I can fathom what she's done, and I've been around it all my life."

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