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A couple of links and another picture of Phil

October 8, 2010

* This is a news website article about a scientific paper (by Martin Robbins of The Guardian)

* A. Hopkins Parker and Rob Benson: names not easily forgotten (by me; text also reprinted below)

* Phil is learning to write his full name — see below!

Phil using The Force to spell

* * * * * * * * * * * *

I had to read A Separate Peace by John Knowles in high school. Perhaps you’ve read it too. If you have, and if you’re an athlete, you probably recall the following passage.

One day [Phineas] broke the school swimming record. He and I were fooling around in the pool, near a big bronze plaque marked with events for which the school kept records — 50 yards, 100 yards, 220 yards. Under each was a slot with a marker fitted into it, showing the name of the record-holder, his year, and his time. Under “100 Yards Free Style” there was “A. Hopkins Parker — 1940 — 53.0 seconds.”

“A. Hopkins Parker?” Finny squinted up at the name. “I don’t remember any A. Hopkins Parker.”

“He graduated before we got here.”

“You mean that record’s been up the whole time we’ve been at Devon and nobody’s busted it yet?” It was an insult to the class, and Finny had tremendous loyalty to the class, as he did to any group he belonged to, beginning with him and me and radiating outward past the limits of humanity toward spirits and clouds and stars…. He said blurringly, “I have a feeling I can swim faster than A. Hopkins Parker.”

So, with his friend Gene (the narrator) as the only witness, Phineas swims 100 yards in 52.3 seconds, then declines to repeat the feat or tell anyone about it. Gene concludes, “The Devon School record books contained a mistake, a lie, and nobody knew it but Finny and me. A. Hopkins Parker was living in a fool’s paradise, wherever he was.”

The repetition of “A. Hopkins Parker” is, to me, quite funny but also captures some of the prestige and solemnity of these school record boards. I was reminded of this the other day when I came across the name of Rob Benson on the Big Games website run by Will Dudley ’89. Rob Benson — why did that sound so familiar? Is he a Williams alum or something? And then it hit me.

In the early ’90s, the Williams cross-country team had pool practices on Monday nights, and in between bouts of thrashing around in the water I’d look up at the wall and see the school swimming records … including the one held by Rob Benson. 400-yard individual medley, 4:02.09, 1988.

I didn’t overlap with Rob at Williams, nor have I seen footage of him in action, nor do I have any particular fondness for the 400-yard individual medley. And yet seeing Rob’s name again — a faceless name with nothing attached to it but an event, a time and a year — filled me with nostalgia. Good old Rob Benson — he sure was a hell of a swimmer, wasn’t he?

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