By Mike Watkins//Contributor | Thursday, January 9, 2020
Peter LaGow’s first Olympic Trials in 2016 proved life-changing in many ways – and he wasn’t even competing.
As a stroke and turn judge in Omaha, he said the meet was “humbling” and an honor.
And now with 2020 Trials just months away, he is returning in a different role but knows he’ll have the same amount of wonder and excitement.
“Watching athletes at this elite level allowed me to witness some pretty incredible swimming,” he said. “Seeing the record-breakers was equally exciting as seeing those athletes from home that just had their best swims ever at Trials.
“The overall excitement in the venue session after session was contagious, and I remember saying to myself, this never gets old!”
Having officiated in a variety of roles at hundreds of meets over the past 20 years, LaGow brings a lot of experience to the pool deck. Following is a Q&A with him about his expectations for 2020 Trials.
Q: Where do you live? What do you do for work, fun, hobbies? Family? Names?
A: I live in Washington, D.C., with my husband, Stephen, and work for Capital One as a compliance advisor. We spend our free time at local events in the city, watching the Washington Nationals and traveling now that the kids – Steven, Kate and Caroline – are all out of college.
Q: What do you remember most from past Trials? Any particular memory or memories/experiences stand out?
A: During the first night of finals in 2016, I noticed the lighting as we ascended from under the deck along with the murmur of the crowds. They combined to create an electricity that I could feel everywhere. During the first race, the thunderous applause and cheers for the first Olympic qualifiers was deafening and made me smile to see all those fans in one venue supporting our athletes. It also almost knocked me off my position as I had never heard anything that loud before. It made me truly appreciate the elite athlete’s ability to focus on their performance even more
Q: What do you enjoy most about working swim meets (in the various roles you've played)?
A: I think it’s all enjoyable and must be in order to withstand the elements of a long meet in sometimes challenging weather conditions. Mostly it is the people who I get to see and work with that keep me coming back year after year – from the new local parent who wants to help and starts officiating to those friends I have made over the last 20 years traveling from meet to meet. I like the sense of family that we all have during our time at a meet. There are hundreds to thousands of athletes, parents and volunteers that band together for a meet and create a well-managed community all in support of our amazing sport.
Q: How many meets (including Trials) would you say you've officiated?
A: I can’t even begin to count but well into the hundreds.
Q: How were you selected to be an official at next year's Trials?
A: I was incredibly fortunate to have been chosen (by USA Swimming) from more than 250 eligible officials.
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 an Assistant Administrative Referee for the Trials in 2020. The Admin team manages the entries, timing and results for the meet. We will be working from stations near the finish end of the pool overseeing the races and in the warmup area to provide support for the athletes and coaches. We are probably most like the customer service team providing information and helping out with the program of events on deck. I participate in any role needed when I am at a meet as each position has a unique perspective of the meet.
Q: Have you been a Trials official before?
A: I was selected as a Stroke and Turn Judge for the 2016 Trials.
Q: Do you have kids who swam?
A: All three of my children swam, and I officiated year-round to support their teams. It only took me one meet to get hooked into officiating
Q: How long have you been officiating at swim meets? How did you get started doing this?
A: I have been an official for the last 20 years. I started at my son’s first swim meet. Timing the first session and starting to apprentice officiate the second. I wanted to do something at the meet to help out rather than just sit and watch from the stands.
Q: Are you a swimmer/former swimmer yourself?
A: I am a former swimmer at the club level though high school. I was a distance freestyler and medley swimmer so I appreciate those spectators that stay through the distance events.
Q: What are you most looking forward to about Trials?
A: I am most looking forward to seeing the excitement of the fans, athletes and volunteers alike. It’s an energized atmosphere all week long. I am also excited to see many longtime friends and make some new ones along the way.