CHICAGO – When you are with Randy Clark, every one hundredth of a second counts.
Clark knows punctuality is important, but the main reason he is so particular about exact time is his role as a swimming official. As a volunteer, he devotes more than 300 hours each year to the sport he and his family love.
I have been a national championship official since 2000 and worked at meets in 15 states from Alaska to Florida.
He has officiated competitions at USA Swimming and NCAA national championships throughout the country, as well as professional meets. This year, officiating allowed him to see the majority of the U.S. Olympic Swimming Team in action.
“When I’m not at national meets, you can find me at collegiate meets at the University of Chicago and University of Illinois-Chicago and at local all-ages meets. I truly enjoy seeing the beginner swimmers (age 8 and younger) as much as the Olympians,” he said.
Clark got involved in officiating when his children were on the local YMCA swim team. “To this day, my whole family continues to be involved in the sport,” he added.
Clark’s oldest daughter is a high school and club team swim coach in Milwaukee, and his youngest daughter and wife work for a pool management company in the Chicago suburbs. His first professional job was YMCA program director before earning his master’s degree in accounting and going into banking.
Clark is also a national evaluator, mentoring officials as they progress through the national certification process, and a certification clinician in Illinois. Just like a swim relay team involves teamwork and synchronization, so do swimming officials.
Besides the chief judge, there is the starter, stroke and turn judge, deck referee and administrative referee.
Clark likens this officiating role to his job as a senior field examiner with PNC Business Credit, which also often keeps him on the road. With 10 years at PNC and 31 years in the asset based lending field, Clark has learned a lesson or two. “I spend a great deal of time mentoring new field examiners coming through PNC's Development Academy.”
He enjoys a volunteer activity that is completely different from his professional job. But he also notes: “Interestingly, in my interactions with customers, I have discovered that many have a relationship to swimming in one way or another.”
The biggest thrill is being there when a world record is set. I have been fortunate to witness Michael Phelps’ first world-record swim in 2001 and several other milestone swims. It’s an experience I will always treasure.
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