Keeping Score

By Cindy Luis

Monday, February 1, 1999

UH swim team is a
‘paragon of virtual’

SAM Freas is right. The possibilities ARE endless. Freas, first-year coach of the University of Hawaii men's and women's swimming teams, held a virtual reality meet Saturday at the Duke Kahanamoku Aquatic complex.

The Rainbow men swamped North Carolina State, 122-83, in a dual competition held 5,000 miles apart and connected by cyberspace.

The meet was held over the Internet with times being e-mailed from N.C. State's dual meet at Clemson in South Carolina. The races were not held in "real time" -- the Wolfpack's results were downloaded then given to the UH P.A. announcer so that spectators could compare what had happened with what was going on with the swimmers in the pool.

This could change collegiate athletics as we know them. Who needs to spend money on travel when it can all be done through the World Wide Web?

This could save UH athletics thousands of dollars annually and may help convince the WAC's Breakaway Eight (the new Mountain West Conference) that UH is again a viable conference member. The biggest gripe from the renegades was over travel costs; virtual reality games would virtually eliminate those expenses.

Maybe we could even start virtual reality interviews. Freas was unavailable for comment yesterday, so I'll just post my questions on the 'Net and wait for his answers.

BUT seriously, Saturday's meet was a novel approach to getting recognition for the oft-overlooked sport of swimming.

"Sam's imagination and creativity run 1,000 miles an hour," UH assistant coach Scott Hardman said (not via e-mail). "This meet was definitely a money-saver, and it opens up the possibilities for having all sorts of invitationals."

The Rainbows tried to duplicate meet conditions, swimming in alternating lanes as would happen in a normal meet. The result was the same as in UH's real meets this season: Hawaii improved to 12-0.

"This is a scary time for men's swimming," said Hardman, who swam for the Rainbows from 1978-81. "With gender equity and our big numbers, this is the sport to drop. But Sam told the (athletic) administration that we have the potential to be as good as the national powers: Texas, Stanford and Auburn.

"Swimming used to be Hawaii's sport, the one that sent the most athletes to the Olympics from here. We want to recapture that.

"We're not ranked but we're certainly the most improved team in the country."

And that's a reality.


Heather Bown isn't using a computer, but she's also trying to be in two places at one time. The All-American blocker for the Wahine volleyball team is taking one week off a month from her studies to train with the U.S. national team in Colorado.

Bown left last Friday for the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs and will return this weekend. This was the only way for Bown to remain eligible to play next fall for UH as well as be part of the U.S. effort to qualify for the 2000 Olympics.

U.S. head coach Mick Haley finds himself taking desperate measures after a dismal showing at the World Championships in Japan last November. Haley decided on some radical changes and cut team captain and setter Salima Davidson and hitter Karrie Downey, the team's best passer.

The U.S. has to do something quickly or end up on the sidelines next summer. The Americans are 0-21 in major tournament matches over the past two years and have few remaining chances at qualifying for the Sydney Games.

Bown has long dreamed of competing in the Olympics. Here's hoping the commute is worth it.

Cindy Luis is a Star-Bulletin sportswriter.
Her column appears weekly.

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