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G. Harold Martin Award

G. Harold Martin Award

2010 Russell "Rusty" Owens

 

For the past fifty years, "Rusty" Owens has taught and coached swimming to generations of families, including thousands of children and adults in the Central Pennsylvania, Harrisburg area. Recognized by his gravelly voice, he has become a larger than life figure to those lives he has touched, infusing in them his passion for swimming.

 

When in the military, his swimming career arose from a tragic event that occurred at Parris Island, South Carolina in the mid 1950's, when a marine drill instructor led a platoon of recruits into a swamp during a nighttime training maneuver. During that exercise, several recruits drowned igniting the Marines to assemble their finest swimming instructors to put together an aquatics learn-to-swim and training program. Rusty was one of the instructors chosen and his passion for teaching swimming was awakened.

 

Discharged from the Marines, he returned home to Harrisburg where he started teaching swimming lessons at the local YMCA, eventually coaching the local swimming team. He taught his little preschooler "puffins" to swim and provided the fundamental foundations to Olympians Anita Nall (1992 Olympic gold, silver, and bronze medalist in breaststroke) and Jeremy Linn (1996 Olympic breaststroke silver medalist). He has coached at all levels including AAU teams in the Hershey and Harrisburg area, high school teams, summer swim clubs and local Division III colleges. Equally admirable was his ability to create a "learn to swim" program for inner city children in the Harrisburg School District in the early 1970's. Rusty would drive around town picking up his beginner swimmers to bring them to the pool for lessons.

 

Rusty's proudest moments have not been starting off world class swimmers, but developing world class individuals. Taking an awkward, fearful youngster, struggling to take a few strokes and molding he or she into a self-confident streamlined swimmer and worthy citizen has been his forte.

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