Tahlequah Daily Press

July 30, 2013

Swimming in success

Ron Austin has enjoyed recent achievements in the pool, despite overcoming some obstacles.

By BEN JOHNSON
Sports Editor

bjohnson@tahlequahdailypress.com

Few in this world would recognize Bobby Knight as a philosopher. The screaming, the swearing, the chair-tossing; that all tends to impede philosophical discussions.

Not Ron Austin. He’s quite keen on the former college basketball coach’s transcendental beliefs.

“He wrote an article about the four elements of discipline,” Austin said of Knight. “It was: know what has to be done, do what has to be done, do it the way it’s supposed to be done, and do it that way every single time.”

Austin has adhered to that creed and it has paid off for him during his lengthy swimming career — especially in recent memory. At the 2013 U.S. Masters Swimming Long Course Meters South Central Zone Championship, Austin hauled in two first-place medals and two second-place medals.

“It worked like a charm,” Austin said of the four points introduced by Knight.

At the South Central Zone Championship in Jenks, Austin, 78, finished first in the 50- and 100-meter breast stroke competitions. He picked up silvers in the 50-meter backstroke and 50-meter freestyle.

“My greatest achievement here was knocking 5.188 seconds off my 100 breast stroke time,” said Austin, who finished the race in 2:20.61.

“...I just wasn’t getting (the training), so that was an achievement in itself.”

Austin — who is originally from Los Angeles and is now a Tahlequah resident — was well on his way to even more success in the pool until September of 2012. That’s when Northeastern State University shut down the aquatics sector of its fitness center.

“I’ve faced so many barriers,” Austin said. “I wanted to go to Mission Viejo in California (for Summer Nationals), but it just wasn’t to be. I wasn’t getting the swimming yardage. That’s also when they shut (NSU’s pool) down. We thought it was going to be open right away, but as it turned out, they’re not going to open that facility  back up until next year.”

Thus began Austin’s search for a new training venue.

“We looked around,” Austin said. “(My wife and I) swam at Jenks, and we can’t afford to go over there too much. Swam at John Brown University (in Arkansas), and we also swam at the Muskogee Swim and (Fitness Center). I enjoyed the fact that (Muskogee’s pool) was a step up in distance, which is good for training. We went from a 25-yard pool to a 25-meter pool. I benefited from that.”

Eventually, Austin opted to find a pool in Tahlequah. He did not disclose his current practice location but did mention he uses the facility three days a week for two hours at a time.

“What caught my eye,” Austin said, “were the square ends.”

Perhaps the most astonishing aspect of Austin’s swimming career is how long he waited to get into the sport.

“I never swam interscholastically or intercollegiately,” said Austin, who is also a champion in archery. “I started swimming at about the age of 35.”

For now, Austin’s focus is squarely on an event in Bentonville, Ark., in October. He said he plans on participating in the butterfly and individual medley, in addition to the breast stroke — which he describes as his best stroke.

That plus more than a year of training will lead up to a national event in San Antonio in 2015. At that time, Austin will compete in the 80-year old age group, allowing him to be one of the youngest competitors among the field.

“That’s my goal,” Austin said of competing in San Antonio. “...The best time to win something like that is to go in at (the youngest age). There will be a lot of 82s and 84s, but that will be my best chance, because I’ll be the young man in that event.”