Carol Swenson of McPherson is going to be inducted into the Kansas State High School Activities Association Hall of Fame on Saturday at Wichita State’s Cessna Stadium.
All I can say is, “It’s about time.”
I can remember when there was the celebration of McPherson High’s 1972-73-74 state championship basketball teams a few years back at the McPherson Opera House and KSHSAA director Gary Musselman was on hand. I asked him, “what does it take to get Carol Swenson into the Hall of Fame?”
I think Gary knew, as I did, that Carol belonged as much as anybody.
I owe much of my career to three men — David Torbett, my high school journalism teacher who saw something in me and encouraged me to pursue my sports writing dream; Dick Hardy, the sports editor of The Independence Reporter who allowed me to be a cub reporter while in high school and junior college; and Carol, who took a greenhorn graduate from the University of Kansas and helped me become some semblance of a sports writer and taught me the ropes of what it was to be a professional.
“Swen” was one of the very first persons I met when I arrived in McPherson in August of 1979. He told me he kept statistics for the Bullpup football and basketball teams, which was such a tremendous help for a rookie reporter. I wound up going to all the games with Carol and “Cousin Claude” Hughes as we traveled thousands of miles of highway to follow the Bullpups.
Carol also helped me become a better statistician. I could remember how amazingly legible his stats were, as he had a gift and a system. My stats paled in comparison, as they were somewhat messy and disorganized, but more and more as I apprenticed under Swen my stats improved.
Carol’s No. 1 sports passion, though, is track and field. He coached track for USD 418 and for 44 years has served as a correspondent for Track and Field News and for 40 years has joined fellow KSHSAA Hall of Famer Don Steffens as the two announcers for the State Track and Field Meet.
I always found it somewhat disappointing that Carol didn’t go in with Don a few years back as for two days in May they’re joined at the hip. Don has always been wildly enthusiastic in his calls, while Carol is cool, calm and collected, providing fans a plethora of information that takes hours upon hours of research. There’s no question Carol is the foremost authority in Kansas history when it comes to track and field. If and when he ever retires, there will be a void probably impossible to fill.
His highlight was working the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles as a press steward. It’s not often somebody from a small town in Kansas has such an important job on the world-wide stage, but that just shows what talent and knowledge he possesses.
He also has worked countless meets, such as the KU Relays, the Big 12 Championships, Kansas State indoor and outdoor meets and, of course, the KCAC Championships.
Once Carol left USD 418, he served as the first-ever fulltime Sports Information Director at McPherson College. Not surprisingly, he is on the MHS Wall of Fame for his contributions as a coach and administrator as well as a member of the McPherson College Hall of Fame. Along with A. John Pearson at Bethany College, they pioneered sports information and other KCAC schools soon followed as we now have information that wasn’t available until Carol and A. John made the push to make sports information directors a vital cog in the workings of a college or university.
Carol is a devout family man and has a wonderful wife, Donna, and two terrific daughters Ryan and Erin. I don’t think I’ve ever heard Carol say a bad word about anybody and his positive attitude rubs off on everyone around him. I am proud to call him a friend and he’s definitely been a role model for me, not just in sports but life as well. I’ve said it often that I owe about half my salary to Swen for starting me on the right path in my profession.
I’m glad KSHSAA has finally righted a wrong. Carol should have been in the Hall of Fame earlier and Saturday he’ll take his rightful place — and fittingly his dedication ceremony is at Cessna Stadium, where he’s been so important to the state track and field meet for four decades.