By Mike Watkins//Contributor | Thursday, October 24, 2019
Denice Wepasnick remembers her first Trials in 2012 as being a bit starstruck but very grateful.
And she was recognized on TV by the people in her life more than she ever expected.
“My first Trials I was so very nervous,” she said. “I kept getting shown on TV, and my friends would text me that they saw me. When I got home, the barista at my Starbucks said to me ‘I told my wife that’s Decaf Sugar Free Vanilla Latte on TV!’”
Those first Trials left Wepasnick with many great memories as a stroke and turn judge.
When she was asked to start Time Trials (in addition to her normal duties), she said she was honored to be asked to start some of the same swimmers that were competing for a position on the Olympic team.
“I wasn’t prepared for the complete rush I had stepping on that deck to take my position as starter,” said the mother of two, who got involved with officiating to pass the time at her kids’ meets. “I thought I had died and gone to heaven. I truly thought it can’t get better than this, but then it did.”
The next Trials in 2016, she was asked to be a starter for the actual meet. Before the next Trials in 2016, when the meet referee called to tell her she had been selected, she was driving and nearly ran off the road.
“I was going to be allowed to actually start some of the most amazing swimmers in the world. Basically, Mind. Blown,” she said. “Now, I am to be Head Starter for these upcoming Trials (in 2020). I am still pinching myself. There are so many amazing officials. I am very humbled and honored to be able to do this thing I love one more time for the sport that I love.”
Below is a Q&A with Wepasnick, who is obviously beyond excited to return for her third Olympic Trials in Omaha next summer.
Q: Where are you from? What do you do when you’re not officiating swim meets?
A: Currently, I live in Leesburg, Va., but I am soon to be a resident of Daytona Beach, Fla. I have just retired from a Maryland school system, so I will have more time for swim meets. My family includes my husband, Bob, daughter, Ashley, son, Zack, and pups Tucker and Flacco.
Q: What do you enjoy most about working swim meets (in the various roles you've played)?
A: I enjoy the sport itself. Seeing the swimmers’ achievements, the friendships with other officials, and our fashionable uniforms...ha!
Q: How many meets (including Trials) would you say you've officiated?
A: I started officiating when my children were in elementary school. They are soon to be 30. You do the math. Basically, hundreds and hundreds.
Q: How were you selected to be an official at next year's Trials?
A: I am a FINA starter for USA Swimming. Typically, those are chosen for starters at Trials. In addition, USA Swimming has a matrix to help decide who is to attend based on types of meets worked and the amount.
Q: What will you be doing as an official?
A: I am Head Starter for the upcoming Trials. My main duties are to create the rotation of duties for the starter Referee team and provide support to the starters and of course the meet ref. This is my second time starting at Trials, so I will be providing insight and support to the other three who have not started at trials before.
Q: How long have you been officiating at swim meets?
A: 22 years. My children swam and I hated sitting in the stands.
Q: This must be quite an honor to be chosen for Trials.
A: This is definitely an honor to be chosen from the thousands of USA Swimming officials. Very humbling. I pinch myself all the time!
Q: Are you a swimmer/former swimmer yourself?
A: No. Both my son and daughter swam. My son continued through college, receiving a scholarship from LSU.
Q: What are you most looking forward to about Trials?
A: The excitement of exceptional swimming. The atmosphere is amazing, and of course, it’s always great spending time with my friends.