By Mike Watkins//Contributor | Thursday, December 12, 2019
Michael Urbanowicz doesn’t swim. In fact, he said he sinks like a rock in the water.
So, when he and wife, Stephanie, decided to get their daughter swim lessons so she would know the life-saving skill, it didn’t take long for him to also get involved as a swim parent.
That was more than 20 years and several hundred swim meets ago – and he said he loves the sport even more now than before.
It’s one of the reasons he’s excited to return to Omaha next summer as a deck official at his fourth Olympic Trials.
“My first Trials (in 2008), I was a kid in a candy store,” he said. “On the long drive to Omaha, I took pictures of all the key landmarks that you pass. Two hundred miles out, I saw billboards advertising the event. That’s when I knew Trials was an event not like any other swim meet that I’ve attended.
“The best part for this Trials is that same level of excitement exists. At this Trials, I get to share this excitement with other officials that I have mentored as apprentice officials who are selected to work this meet.”
Here’s a quick Q&A with Urbanowicz, who is back for 2020 Trials as a Chief Judge. Suffice it to say, he can’t wait for June to get here.
Q: Where do you live? What do you do for work, fun, hobbies? Family?
A: I live in Arvada, Colo., where I can see three wilderness areas from our deck. Arvada is where the gold rush in Colorado began. I have been a grain trader for over 35 years. For hobbies, I enjoy the back country and exploring the mountains with my wife, Stephanie.
Q: What do you enjoy most about working swim meets in the various roles you've held?
A: The great people that I have met and worked with who are sharing a common goal: to help our youth.
Q: What do you remember most from past Trials? Any particular memory or memories/experiences stand out?
A: The atmosphere is incredible. Its comparable to a major college football game. You can feel the concussion of the sound against your skin. A 1,500 freestyle race at the last Trials had over 12,000 people screaming at the top of their lungs watching three swimmers swim stroke for stroke for nearly 1400 meters. So much for distance events being boring to watch.
Q: How many meets (including Trials) would you say you've officiated?
A: Hundreds. I’ve been honored to be selected to many national level meets. This will be my fourth Trials meet. This will be my first in an assigned position.
Q: How were you selected to be an official at next year's Trials?
A: USA Swimming Selection Committee solicited input from all the LSCs. I’m honored that they selected me. There are many highly qualified officials within USA Swimming.
Q: What will you be doing as an official (what is your role, duties, where will you be, etc.) Have you done multiple officiant roles at meets before?
A: I will be part of the Chief Judge team led by Don Hougardy. The Chief Judge team functions as the eyes and the ears of the deck officials for the deck referee. I have been a Chief Judge at numerous national-level meets in addition to serving as nearly every other officiating position on the deck.
Q: Have you been a Trials official before?
A: I have been at three previous Trials Meets as a Stroke and Turn Official.
Q: How long have you been officiating at swim meets? How did you get started doing this?
A: I’ve been an official since 2002. Our daughter started swimming in a CARA league before moving up to a summer swim league. Running heating for 800-plus eight-and-under swimmers at a summer league prelims meet launched my officiating career.
Q: Are you a swimmer/former swimmer yourself?
A: I’m not a swimmer. I sink like a rock.
Q: Do you have kids who swam (I know this is how a few people got into officiating)?
A: Our daughter started swimming when she was four and swam through high school.
Q: What are you most looking forward to about 2020 Trials?
A: Seeing all of my friends that have developed over the years as a national level swim official. Additionally, the raw emotion at this meet is amazing. For almost all the swimmers this will be the biggest swim meet of their life.