Meet changes name to honor Ebersole|[6/02/05]

Published 12:00 am Thursday, June 2, 2005

For years, the Stamms have been the first family of Vicksburg swimming.

Its members helped start the Vicksburg Swim Association, participated in its programs and brought it glory with victories and championships.

Now it’s time for the VSA to give a little something back, and honor one of the family’s most beloved members in the process.

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The organization has changed the name of its annual meet – formerly known as the River City Classic – to The Stamm Family Invitational in memory of Alan Ebersole.

Ebersole grew up in the VSA program, won several state championships in high school for St. Aloysius, and later swam for Princeton University. The 20-year-old was killed in October while swimming off the coast of Florida.

Ebersole’s neck was broken while swimming in the surf at a beach about 15 miles north of Fort Lauderdale, apparently when he hit a submerged rock, according to the coroner’s report. He drowned afterward.

The following week, hundreds of people waited in line for nearly two hours to console the family at Ebersole’s visitation. All of Alan’s Princeton teammates attended the services.

“Some of us got to talking after his death. We’ve been knowing the Ebersole family for years. If for nothing else, we wanted to do it this year because he was a great kid,” said meet director Steve English, whose children participate in the VSA program. “It was kind of honoring the whole family. He’s not just a part of the Ebersole family, he’s part of all the different families involved in VSA swimming. He touched a lot of people’s lives.”

When it was time to plan this year’s meet, English approached the Ebersoles for their blessing on the new name. It was an emotional moment, he said.

“They got choked up. I get choked up thinking about it now, because I was around (Alan) a lot,” English said.

English added that while Ebersole’s death was the driving force behind the name change, the Stamms’ long-term contributions to the VSA program were also a factor.

“There’s a lot behind it, that’s for sure,” English said. “Not just honoring a great kid, but everything they’ve done.”

The Stamm Family Invitational in memory of Alan Ebersole begins Friday at noon at City Pool. It will continue on Saturday and Sunday at 8:30 a.m. each day, with events concluding around 5 p.m. on both days. City Pool will be closed to the public for swimming this weekend, but admission to the meet is free. Nearly 200 swimmers from across Mississippi are expected to descend on Vicksburg for the meet.

The number of swimmers is down from recent years, but English said that is due to the consolidation of several teams from northern Mississippi. Instead of four or five larger teams from that area, there will be one “megateam,” English said.

“It’s been bigger before, but about five teams up north joined together into a megateam to compete against the Jackson team. They call it the Swat team,” English said, referring to the Sunkist program in Jackson that is a state power based largely on numbers alone.

The lower numbers of the VSA’s team will make it hard to compete for a team championship, as usual. The VSA squad will bring about 25 swimmers to the meet, roughly half what the Sunkist and Swat teams will bring.

Still, the meet will provide an opportunity for the VSA swimmers to make qualifying times for the state meet later this years, and for new coach Mark Bucat to see how well they are applying his lessons.

It will be the second meet for Bucat as coach of the VSA. He was hired about a month ago, and led the VSA team to a meet in Jackson in his first week on the job.

“It’ll be good to see if all this drilling and technical stuff we’ve been working on is taking,” Bucat said. “It’ll be a testing ground for the technical work, even more than the qualifying times.”