The Norman Transcript

Local Sports

February 17, 2013

Passion brought him back, competition brought him title

NORMAN — It’s about the moments.

It’s about the stories.

It’s about the drama.

You’d think I’d make up my mind. But the truth is it’s about all of those things, from saves state soccer championships couldn’t have been won without, to the back story behind Norman’s first state swimming championship since the Norman High boys won it all in 1994.

I tell people I try to find the drama in everything I cover, because somewhere it always lurks. Only today, maybe not. The way the Norman North boys blew everybody out of the pool Saturday at Jenks, the drama can be harder to peg, the completeness of the achievement so clear.

So let’s go with the story.

Quickly.

Kent Nicholson swam on three NHS state title teams, in 1980, ’82 and ’83 and he was helping Jim Akey with the Tiger swim program when NHS last won it all 19 years ago.

Then he went to law school.

“We thought we were going to be able to just walk away, and I did, I went to law school,” he said. “But the bug had bitten me.”

So he came back.

First, that meant guiding the Sooner Swim Club. Eventually, it meant running a single high school swimming program, albeit one that counts two different high schools.

“It’s what I know, it’s what I love, it’s what I do and I just fight for it,” Nicholson said, interrupting a celebration to answer a few questions Saturday night. “At one time, when I was practicing law, I thought swimming was going to die in Norman and I didn’t want to let that happen.”

When he took on the high school teams at NHS and North, he figured he had maybe 25 swimmers between both schools. This year, he has about 70 in the program. He said 21 are seniors, and about 10 of them are the program’s core, because they bought into the process when they were 6, 7 and 8 years old when they first got started in Sooner Swim Club.

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