By Mike Watkins//Contributor | Thursday, October 17, 2019
While some people remember the 2008 Olympic Trials – the first of many in Omaha – for the amazing swimming, Mark McCaw remembers his first Trials as an official for different reasons.
One jolting memory stands out in particular.
“My first Trials had Bunsen burner-looking objects about 20 feet apart the entire length of both sides of the pool,” he said. “As the stroke judge, I walked up and down the pool slightly behind the swimmers but between the burners and the pool looking for infractions.
“The burners were lit all the time, and I could feel the heat from them as I walked by. When the first world record was set, the burners ignited, shooting flames 30-plus feet in the air. The person igniting the ‘fireworks’ forgot to wait for the officials – I was one of them – to clear before igniting them. It scared me so bad I almost fell in the pool. The flames were so intense they singed my hair and eyebrows. Only at U.S. Olympic Trials!!”
McCaw, who will return to Omaha next summer to officiate Trials for a fourth time as the Meet Referee for Time Trials and also will be in the ready room during event finals in case an official is needed, became a meet official more than 24 years ago.
A former swimmer himself, he began officiating his kids’ meets as a way to pass the time – and he hasn’t stopped. He’s loved it ever since.
Below is a short Q&A with McCaw.
Q: Where do you live? What do you do for work?
A: Estero, Fla. I own McCaw & Associates Investment Group, a family-owned and operated financial services company. My wife of 38 years, Karen, and I enjoy traveling & cycling, golf and fine dining with great wines. Karen has always supported my officiating. We have three children: Christina, 30, Jacquelyn 28, and Rich, 25.
Q: Have you done multiple officiant roles at meets before?
A: Not usually at national level meets, but local & regional meets I usually wear several hats.
Q: Have you been a Trials official before?
A: Yes. This will be my fourth Trials, but first assigned position.
Q: How long have you been officiating at swim meets? How did you get started doing this?
A: I’ve been officiating swim meets for 24 years. It’s kind of a funny story how I got started. I often claim ‘to save my marriage, I became an official.’ At our first swim meets in Florida, it was very hot and long days as our kids swam across three age groups. We were so uncomfortable – leading to being irritable – we would fight over who got to highlight the heat sheet! Thus, the save my marriage story.
Q: Is this something you've always wanted to do? I imagine this is quite an honor to be chosen for Trials?
A: It is the highest honor for officials, short of the Olympics!
Q: Are you a swimmer/former swimmer?
A: I was a swimmer. Pretty good, but I never worked hard enough to get to the National level.
Q: Do you have kids who swam or swim?
A: All three of our children swam. Our oldest, Christina, got a scholarship to swim for Indian River State College. Both of the other kids retired after high school.
Q: What are you most looking forward to about Trials?
A: The experience! The feel! It’s like no other swim meet in the world. The excitement, especially during finals, is crazy.