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Publication Date: Wednesday, September 26, 2001

M-A dedicates new pool, honors aquatic athletes M-A dedicates new pool, honors aquatic athletes (September 26, 2001)

By Marjorie Mader

Almanac Staff Writer

Menlo-Atherton High School will dedicate its new swimming pool on Sunday, September 30, with tours at noon, a program at 1 p.m. and an invitation for all to join in a swim.

This event celebrates a partnership between private donors _ former M-A swimmers, parents and community members _ and the Sequoia Union High School District that funded the $3.6 million aquatic facility and infrastructure upgrades.

"It's a dream fulfilled," said Jim MacKenzie, M-A's first All American in water polo back in 1962, who now teaches economics and psychology at M-A. The genesis for replacing the high school's first pool originated with a tragic event in 1990. Greg Buckingham, an Olympic gold medalist in swimming and teammate on M-A's "golden" water polo team, died of a sudden heart attack at the age of 45.

When he returned to school after the memorial service, Mr. MacKenzie said he was dismayed that people didn't remember Greg Buckingham. "The kids knew of Greg's brother, Lindsey Buckingham, lead guitarist with Fleetwood Mac, who also went to M-A," he said, "but they knew nothing about M-A's 'Golden Age of Aquatics.'"

Mr. MacKenzie resolved that the history of aquatics at M-A would be remembered. He created The Buckingham Society, mostly friends of Mr. Buckingham, former swimmers and water polo players. At that time, during a recession, the idea of building a new pool at M-A, at a cost of $1 million, was a "pipe dream," he said.

Fortunately, circumstances changed in the mid-1990s as the economy boomed, and voters in the Sequoia district passed a school bond measure to upgrade facilities. Unfortunately, the estimated cost of the pool had escalated to between $1.5 million and $2 million.

Initial support for building the pool came from Tod Spieker of Atherton, M-A class of 1967 and an All American in swimming. He offered $500,000 and agreed to talk with prospective donors, said Mr. MacKenzie.

A total of $1.54 million has been raised in donations from more than 200 contributors, including major donors, former M-A swimmers and water polo players, M-A families and community members.

Major donors are Tod and Catherine Spieker, Bill and Lauren Younger, Jeff and Dianne Child, Tom and Polly Bredt, the Avery family, Mike and Renee Child, and the Jeff Pickard family.

Support from Menlo-Atherton's Foundation for the Future, especially Bill Younger, Jeff Pickard and Angela McIntire, was essential to the fundraising campaign's success, said Mr. MacKenzie.

Don Gielow, the Sequoia district's former deputy superintendent in charge of business and the bond program, was the pool's "patron saint," he said.

A combination of funds from Sequoia's bond Measure V and matching state modernization money provided more than $2 million toward the project. Actually, the pool project expanded significantly, said Mr. Gielow, because the district took this opportunity to redo the major infrastructure of the gym at M-A.

"At times, the area looked like the Panama Canal," said Mr. Gielow, because new drainage, plumbing, and gas and electrical lines were installed. The district also redid the boiler room for the gym, installed new boilers for heating the showers, and re-roofed the gym. Bleachers at the pool are being installed this week, in time for the dedication.

The pool _ to be dedicated as Spieker Pool _has a "footprint," described as "unique and utilitarian" by aquatic designers. It is 25 yards wide and 33 meters long. A moveable bulkhead, a ramp of steel, spans the width of the pool. It can be moved easily by two people to change the pool configuration to accommodate water polo matches, swim meets, practice lanes, warm-up lanes and recreational swimming. The bulkhead has an inflatable "bladder" which when pumped up with air makes it easy to move.

Soon to be installed at the pool is the Buckingham-Roth wall of fame. It will list the names of all the pool donors and the M-A water polo and swimming athletes, awarded this honor since 1994. The first group includes: Jim MacKenzie, Chris Dorst and Jeff Stites for water polo; and Greg Buckingham, Dick Roth and Chris Silva, Ann Warner, Kyo Bannai and Mary Edwards for swimming.

Swimming coaches Bob Caughran and Inez Nagai, whose teams built M-A's aquatic success, have been inducted into the Menlo-Atherton Hall of Fame.

To help restore M-A's aquatic history, Mr. MacKenzie has written the history of the first 50 years. He said the 1961-62 year represented a pinnacle in the program. Both water polo and swimming teams went undefeated and won the Northern California championships. Many experts ranked this team as the strongest squad in the United States that year, he wrote.

Mr. MacKenzie points to several remarkable achievements: M-A's Dick Roth, class of 1965, won the Olympic gold medal in the individual medley in 1964 at Tokyo and came home as the record holder in that event. Greg Buckingham, class of 1963, won his Olympic gold in the Mexico City event in the 800 freestyle relay and a silver medal in the individual medley. He later set a national and world record in the IM.

Mr. Roth, now a motivational speaker living in Park City, Utah, plans to return for the pool dedication Sunday. M-A Principal Eric Hartwig will speak, and Mr. MacKenzie will talk about M-A's aquatic history. After the program, there will be recreational swimming, some competitions and refreshments.


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