Something quite amazing has been happening at the Turner Community Center swimming pool every Sunday at 7 a.m.
It started quite unassumingly in November 2010. My husband and I had just relocated to the Bemus Point area from Warren, Pa. I had inquired about improving my swim technique as I participate in triathlons, and wanted to race better, faster.
Anyway, my chiropractor in Warren, a Jamestown native, Dr. David Brook, said he would speak to his former high school coach, Bill Rollinger, and let me know. Just days later, David called to tell me, "Coach Rollinger is waiting for your call.'' So, I called, and it was agreed to meet at Turner for swim training.
Former Jamestown High School swim coach Bill Rollinger is also a Chautauqua Sports Hall of Fame inductee.
Photo courtesy of
I was nervous, but put at ease quickly with Coach Bill's positive and encouraging style.
I didn't know I was being coached by a "Hall of Fame" coach and athlete, who continues to swim regularly. I didn't know he would become a dear friend and mentor.
Then something else happened.
This other fellow began to show up. That would be Dr. Bob Berke, and there it was, I found another triathlete wanting to improve his swim!
Over the past two years others have joined our training group Karen and Mara, who are Master League swimmers; Roy, Pat, Amanda, Beverly and my husband Robert ("I'm not going to do that, I'm not a swimmer." He is now).
Most recently, Mike, Nancy, and Cheryl Burns have jumped in. There is something in the water at Turner on Sunday mornings. Ask the lifeguards, they know.
We have fun, we work hard.
We have a GREAT coach who continues to make a meaningful impact on his students. Just let me tell you a few of the "Rollingerisms" we have learned.
He starts us in the water with a bellowing, "Are we here to socialize or swim?"
"It isn't the first 100 yards you swim, it is the last ones of the day that make you stronger"
And he will be looking for our "rooster tails" that indicate a strong pull and spray (the tail) of water. He knows our goals and we know he cares about those goals. He recently sent out an e-message to me, "You can't put a limit on anything. The more you dream, the farther you get."
We are the Rollinger "Ducks" and actually have a mascot duckie that makes the rounds. It is given to the identified motivated swimmer of the morning.
It is highly competitive.
So, with this as a backdrop, last December 2011, I wanted to know what our swim group would think about creating and organizing a local Olympic distance triathlon to be held on Chautauqua Lake.
My very first triathlon was the Bemus Point Triathlon held in Bemus Point, back in the 1990s. All triathlons start with a swim, continue with the bike, and finish with a run.
Well, there was overwhelming interest and energy. Dr. Berke has also been involved with triathlon as a serious competitor and organizer, working with the previous Mayville Triathlon. Now, we are co-directors of this totally community-oriented, volunteer non-profit event.
There are no current triathlons held on Chautauqua Lake.
We are going to change that.
On June 8, 2013 the Chautauqua Lake Triathlon Coalition will launch the inaugural Big FishOlympic distance triathlon, individual and relay triathlon, at Camp Onyahsa in Dewittville. The Olympic distance is a 1.5 K (.93-mile) swim, a 40K (24.8-mile) bike ride, and a 10K (6.2-mile) run to the finish.
This triathlon will benefit YMCA Camp Onyahsa, and be held there, so athletes and their families can see the amazing resource that the Y Camp offers. We have three grown sons who all attended Camp Onyahsa growing up, and we recognize the advantages the camp experience offers. Our oldest son, worked at camp as a counselor and assistant director all through high school and college. It was his second family. It is a joy to plan to give back, raise money, and be able to offer others that opportunity.
Back to Coach Rollinger. He is the swim coordinator for the triathlon. There is no messing around, because this triathlon is focused on safety. As this is being written, we have a solid foundation in place for the upcoming triathlon. We have start-up sponsorship from Univera Health Care, and United Refining Company. Our vision is to offer the best athletic experience possible in a safe and well-organized event. There has been enthusiastic response from emergency personal, spearheaded by Capt. Darryl Braley of the Chautauqua County Sheriff's Office, with Dewittville and race-area fire departments.
Our hope, as we solicit sponsorship, is that businesses will seek us out, as a great venue to get their business behind.
Put this date on the calendar, Saturday, June 8 , 2013, 8 a.m.
Check out our website, www.bigfishtriathlon.com and start training to race it solo, or as a team effort.
It is all about relationships. The Big Fish Triathlon is a creation formed from those Sunday morning friendships and hard work. It underlines the importance of real-time effort and vision towards a common goal. We want to offer others what we have on Sunday mornings, a focus on the importance of physical training in an atmosphere of fun and friendship.
The last two years have provided great opportunity for growing into our new community, establishing great friendships, and having the privilege to pay it forward, and for that we are very thankful.
Thanks Coach Rollinger. It all started one early Sunday morning in November.