In September of 2000 no doubt you will hear of the incredible Australian knowledge and enthusiasm for the sport of competitive swimming. I know first hand that Aussies will stop Yanks on the street and harangue them about the probable outcomes of swimming races. Perhaps it is difficult for most modern Americans to realize that, in their time, Johnny Weissmuller and Buster Crabbe were bigger names than Mark Spitz. Likewise, few Baltimoreans remember the Roaring Twenties and Thirties of Baltimore swimming when the City Recreation Department brought Municipal pools alive with thousands of local swimmers and spectators cheering on Firemen, Policemen, Post Office Employees, as well as up and coming teenage stars. In l929 Clifton Park won the Evening Sun/P.A.L. (Playground Athletic League) annual swimming meet with 89 points. However, in eleventh place with a inauspicious seven points earned by Frank Cummings in the 115 pound 125 Freestyle was a rather new team called the Knights of Columbus. Seven points seemed only a modest success in the heady world of local swimming where everybody knew somebody who swam in these major public outdoor competitions.
In l932 The Sun recorded that young “Arthur Hucht, Patterson Park Swimming Champion, is the first person to send in his entry blank for this year’s meet. Last year he took first honors in the 115 lb. Class 200 Free Relay and Novelty Swim. In l938 we see Pat Ryan as Coach of the Knights of Columbus Team with names such as Russell, Hucht, McCleary, as stalwarts. 1939 was also the first local team title for the Knights of Columbus Team. With war, the fond public-focus on swimming changed. Lakewood won titles for nearly ten years until combining with K of C to form the Casey-Lakes and this combined team accumulated titles for three years.
In l953 the era of the KCO Swim Team began and in l955 Summer practices switched from the Alcazar Pool and Knights of Columbus Hall to the outdoor Orchard Pool onJoppa Road. The modern era of Maryland Swimming had begun. For the next twenty years KCO was undefeated in local competition. At the same time National recognition was brought to Baltimore swimming for the fantastic Age Group swimming performances of Reds “Blooming Orchard.”
Hildenbrand, Yonych, Pearce, McCleary, Feldman, Keats, Pardew, these names come back quickly. In the seventies Shettle, Glasgow, Feldman and others achieved international competitive success for the United States. With record setting swimming by Kim Shettle (1974 American Record), Olympic alternate achievement by Bonnie Glasgow in l976 and Olympic Trial Swimming by Sudi Miller in l988, KCO continued contributing top Age Group swimmers to school teams and to USA meets around the country until the team was disbanded in 2003.
Over fifty years of pace setting for KCO, certainly a team that stood the test of time.