January 27, 2012

Friday to mark final meet at Gregory Pool

For the last half century, Denison's varsity swimmers and divers have called Gregory Swimming Pool their home. Opened to the public in the fall of 1962, the facility, named in memory of Denison sports legend Mitchell O. "Mike" Gregory, has hosted tens of thousands of Big Red practices and hundreds of dual meets. Now, following this Friday night's meet with Malone University, the curtain will finally fall on the venerable facility.

With construction on Denison's new natatorium well under way and scheduled to open later this year, this is the perfect time to give the hallowed Gregory facility a fitting farewell. While glancing at the archives, we came across a football game program from the 1961 season that included a feature anticipating the opening of Gregory Pool.

Inside that program were factoids and building specs related to the new pool, and here are some interesting excerpts.

"The pool will be six lanes wide and the standard Olympic size, 45' by 75'1" with two, one-meter diving boards and one three-meter diving board. There also will be underwater sound and lighting systems and an underwater observation window."

"In addition, the two-story structure also will provide for a team locker room, laundry, a women's shower room and locker room to be used for swimming, and the future addition of a women's gym to the center, a temporary women's physical education office, and three classrooms."

"Intramural and intercollegiate water sports, as well as class activities and water shows, would be held in the pool with seating in the spectator's galleries for nearly 400 fans. The $600,000 structure is expected to be complete late next year."

The building ended up costing $650,000, and while the sum probably wouldn't cover the cost of the facility's new parking lot today, there is no denying the magnificent successes that were achieved in the storied structure. Denison's swimming and diving programs have collected 45 top-five finishes at the NCAA Division III Championships, including 13 runner-up finishes and highlighted by two celebrated national championships, one each for the men's and women's programs.

Mike Gregory, the pool's namesake, was a student at Doane Academy before entering Denison as a freshman in 1925. He was a standout member of the DU wrestling and basketball teams, captain of the track and field team, and a three-year captain of the football team. He is best known for his performance on the football field as a standout guard and kicker. His 55-yard field goal against the University of Cincinnati in 1927 set a national record. He was duly honored as an football All-American.

After working his way through his undergraduate years by firing the boilers in the college's heating plant during the 1 to 6 a.m. shift, Gregory graduated in 1929. He went on to play professional football for the Cleveland Indians and the Boston Redskins, playing against such greats as Red Grange and Jim Thorpe.

In 1931, Gregory purchased a hardware store in Granville and remained in the village for the rest of his life. He was a supremely loyal alumnus and an ever-present fan and supporter of the college, especially of Big Red athletics. Gregory was instrumental in helping to raise some of the funding to build the pool, and the decision was made to name the iconic facility in his honor soon after his death in 1957.