Missouri swimming and diving takes off in first SEC meet

Friday, October 26, 2012 | 10:57 p.m. CDT; updated 6:03 p.m. CDT, Saturday, October 27, 2012
Swimmers from the University of Missouri, University of Arkansas, University of Kentucky and Southern Illinois University women's swim teams start the 100 yard breaststroke Friday afternoon at the Mizzou Aquatics Center.

COLUMBIA — Joe Goldfarb sat in the spectator section of the Mizzou Aquatic Center, between the diving well at the west end and the Colorado Time Systems display board on the other, cheering on junior Nathalia Mello, daughter of close friend and former assistant coach Cesar Mello.

Goldfarb watched closely Friday afternoon as the Missouri swimming and diving team competed against other Southeastern Conference schools for the first time this season. Kentucky, Arkansas and Southern Illinois all faced-off against Missouri, who was able to post a 4-1 team record.

As a former Missouri coach who had been with the team for 23 years, Goldfarb reflected on the past and present of the program and said that it had come a long way since he began coaching in 1965.

“Everything is better,” Goldfarb said. “Initially, we didn’t have a max number of scholarships for men or women and the weight training is a lot more sophisticated than in the early years. There is a lot more money invested in the swimming program now than back in my day.”

Goldfarb likes to think that the legacy he left behind as head coach of the Tigers' swimming and diving team, had a lot to do with the advancement of the program. He saw an all-male team go from practicing in a small, six-lane pool, to a coed program with many swimmers attending on full athletic scholarships.

“It’s very different,” said Goldfarb. "Especially since I’m so old and a lot of the guys I coached have children that swim.”

Nathalia Mello, a junior swimmer on the team, said despite Goldfarb's past coaching experience, the former head coach, who she refers to as her grandfather, almost never gives her advice on swimming. She said that he attends many of her meets and listens to her thoughts about swimming but does not try to live vicariously through her.

Head coach Greg Rhodenbaugh said that he enjoys seeing Goldfarb in the crowd at the team’s meets.

“I’d say we have a similar demeanor,” Rhodenbaugh said. “I think much more of him than I do myself. I think he’s a very good man and someone that I would love to emulate.”

Coach Rodenbaugh believes that the team, which came out 4-1 in this meet, has proven that it's ready for the SEC. The men's team claimed 14-of-16 events by defeating Kentucky 205-93 and SIU 229-67. The women’s team posted a 164-135 victory over Kentucky and beat SIU 215-84, but was defeated by Arkansas 197-103.

“The SEC is the strongest conference in the United States for swimming and diving, and we competed very well with four wins and one loss,” Rodenbaugh said. “We showed that we could compete with anybody."

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