By Mike Watkins//Contributor | Thursday, November 14, 2019
Like many swim parents, Jacki Allender’s introduction to becoming a swim official arrived courtesy of her daughter, Megan.
From there, it’s evolved over time into longstanding friendships and relationships and a true love for the sport she once only saw from a parent’s perspective.
Now, more than three decades and over 35 national level meets later, Allender finds herself a handful of months from returning to Omaha to officiate her fourth Olympic Trials.
Suffice it to say, based on the many, many relationships she’s fostered over the years, she’s excited to see some old friends as well as fast swimming.
“What I remember most from my first Trials in 2008 is that the athletes were so fast,” said Allender, who was a stroke and turn official during her first Trials. “My partner and I had to walk pretty fast to keep up with them.
“We had been forewarned that a big pyrotechnic display was going to happen at the end of the event and that we needed to move ourselves quickly away from the end of the pool.”
Allender has been back to Omaha for two more Trials, officiating in different roles both times, and 2016 brought back memories of a young swimmer who finally broke through to make his first Olympic team headed to Rio.
“Trials in 2016 was really exciting because an athlete that I had watched in the pool from the time that he was a little guy made the Olympic Team,” she said. “It was Jacob Pebley. He had started his swimming career in Oregon. That made Trials even more special than usual.”
Below is a brief Q&A with Allender as she looks back on past Trials and forward to next summer’s Trials.
Q: How long have you been officiating swimming meets?
A: I have been an official for 28 years
Q: How many national level meets have you officiated?
A: My first national level meet was in 1999. I don’t know the exact number. Definitely over 35.
Q: How many Olympic Trials have you officiated?
A: This will be my fourth Trials (2008, 2012 and 2016).
Q: What is your greatest/strongest memory of a past Olympic Trials?
A: I remember walking on to the competition deck in 2008. It was a venue unlike any other meet that I had attended. There were pyrotechnics on the sides and seating for so many spectators. I was walking Stroke for Finals during the 100 butterfly.
Q: Why is it an honor for you to be selected to work Trials?
A: There are about 250 officials that meet the criteria used to select the officials for Trials. So it is truly an honor to be selected.
Q: What makes Trials so special for you?
A: It’s special watching athletes grow in the sport. We have so many talented athletes in USA Swimming. This makes our Trials an amazing event. It’s special seeing the family and friends that come to cheer on their athlete in an amazing venue.
Q: What will you be doing as an official (what is your role, duties, etc.)?
A: I am the Lead Administrative Referee. The Administrative Referee team (myself plus 2 assistants) produce the heat sheets for each session and oversee the results.
Q: Have you done multiple officiant roles at meets before?
A: I have worked every position on deck (stroke and turn, chief judge, starter, deck referee).
Q: What are you most looking forward to about Trials?
A: Seeing some amazing swims.
Q: Tell us about your family.
A: My husband Pat, our daughter Megan and our grandchildren Cael, 8, Maryn, 5, and Corbin, 4.
Q: Where do you live?
A: Corvallis, Oregon
Q: What do you do for fun? Hobbies?
A: Spending time with grandchildren, whale watching on the Oregon coast, wine tasting. My husband is also an official and a Masters swimmer, so we both spend a great deal of time volunteering at swim meets (high school, Masters and some college.