Strokes of genius

Star swimmer inducted into hall of fame

By Jim Patterson

If not for accidents along the way, former UT Arlington swimmer Ric Nesbit might have reached the Texas Swimming and Diving Hall of Fame much sooner.

But he’s just happy to be one of the 2009 inductees. He and 13 others, including his UT Arlington coach, Don Easterling, were inducted into the hall in April in San Antonio.

“I’m honored and humbled to be remembered for my swimming accomplishments,” Nesbit said. “The other inductees are the giants of Texas’ swimming past. I was the youngest living inductee this time.”

Former UT Arlington swimmer Ric Nesbit (‘69) was a 10-time All-American, seven-time NCAA champion and set three NCAA records.

At age 19 he qualified for the U.S. Olympic Trials in 1964 but didn’t make it to the finals. He came to UT Arlington and won the NCAA 100-yard breaststroke as a senior in 1968. He was a 10-time All-American, seven-time NCAA champion, and he set three NCAA records.

“There were so many great experiences swimming for Don Easterling and with all my teammates,” he says. One of his fondest memories is watching his roommate, Doug Russell, beat Mark Spitz in the 100-meter butterfly on ABC’s broadcast of the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City. Another was defeating UT Austin in a dual meet.

At the 1968 U.S. Olympic Trials, Nesbit was a favorite to win the 100-yard breaststroke. But a motorcycle accident and strep throat kept him from training properly.

“When I crashed the motorcycle, the primary injury was a sprained wrist,” he explained. Not being able to exert full pressure on the wrist and generally feeling tired all summer from the strep throat kept him from building strength. At the trials he swam the 100 and 200 breaststroke but failed to qualify for the U.S. team.

He doesn’t dwell on what might have been.

Nesbit (’69 BS, Mathematics) has served as a high school counselor but never ventured far from swimming, coaching Fort Worth’s Arlington Heights High School team for two years and also participating in masters swimming, both as a swimmer and coach.

Shortly after his return to masters swimming in 1992, he was injured in an automobile accident and never regained championship form. He currently serves as the masters coach for the Fort Worth Area Swim Team (FAST).

A masters swimmer is any adult who enjoys swimming and has joined United States Masters Swimming.

“It’s very gratifying to be able to assist in the development of a swimmer at any age. We’ve grown our masters group to about 40 from just a few when I started,” Nesbit said. “Swimming has been an integral part of who I am all my life, and now it’s just nice to be able to help others.”

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