Well, this was fun. And educational. And difficult. And bittersweet.

We wanted to do something a little different with the Fourth Annual Best of Aquatics Awards. We wanted to recognize people — after all, people form the backbone of this industry (OK, probably most industries). We also wanted to honor facilities — those exceptional places that bring joy to their guests and provide a service to their communities.

What we came up with is a wonderful collection of winners in eight categories (two categories didn’t attract enough entries). Our judges — named below; thank you, all — were impressed with the high quality of entries, and faced a difficult time during the selection process.

But they made their choices, and on the following pages we bring you the excellence of your peers.

I learned a lot from hearing all about the winners, and from other entrants, too. Perhaps there is something, some little nugget, that you can glean from reading their stories — something that you’ll be able to take to work with you tomorrow.

Or maybe you’ll read their stories and say: “Hey, my park is pretty darn good, too” or “I also know someone who’s really special.”

If so, let us know next year. We just might put you into the magazine. So everyone can learn anew.

2002 Best of Aquatics Panel of Judges

  • Mike Giles Sr.

, an aquatics professional for 34 years, is associate director of Recreation Sports at University of Southern Mississippi, managing M.C. Johnson Natatorium, the university’s aquatics program, and the Division of Student Affairs’ Risk Management plan. He has worked at the national level with the American Red Cross since 1986 on the development of lifeguard materials and, in 1993, served as chairman of the Lifeguard Advisory Committee. Giles often speaks at national conferences, among them National Recreation and Park Association/Aquatic Section and National Intramural-Recreational Sports Association.

  • Tom Griffiths, Ed.D.

, a member of the Aquatics International Advisory Board, is director of aquatics/safety officer at Penn State University in State College, Pa. He has spent more than 30 years in the field of aquatic safety, is the developer of the “5 Minute Scan” and is a prolific researcher, writer and speaker at national and international conferences, including NRPA Aquatics, National Swimming Pool Foundation and the recent World Congress on Drowning. Griffiths also is author of an upcoming book, The Complete Swimming Pool Reference, 2nd Edition.

  • Jane Katz, Ed.D.

, a member of the Aquatics International Advisory Board, is a professor of health and physical education at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York. She has been recognized for her work as an educator, aquatics innovator and author and was recipient of the Certificate of Merit from the Federation Internationale de Natation Amateur/International Olympic Committee at the 2000 Sydney Olympics. Katz was a member of the 1964 U.S. Olympic synchronized swimming performance team and is on the Board of Directors of the International Swimming Hall of Fame.

  • Adolph Kiefer

, a member of the Aquatics International Advisory Board, runs Adolph Kiefer and Associates, a Zion, Ill., aquatic supply company founded in 1947. He won an Olympic gold medal in the 100-meter backstroke at the 1936 Berlin Games, and set 17 world records from 1935 to 1944. During World War II, Kiefer joined the Navy and implemented new safety guidelines and training for more than 13,000 naval swimming instructors to teach sailors combat aquatics and how to stay alive in the water.

  • Craig Stuart

, a member of the Aquatics International Advisory Board, is founder and president of Hydro-Fit Inc., an aquatic fitness company in Eugene, Ore., specializing in programs and equipment for water exercise and aquatic therapy. A former aquatics director with more than 25 years’ experience in the aquatics industry, he is a certified fitness instructor with the Aquatic Exercise Association and the American Council on Exercise and leads the water-exercise industry as an innovator, specialist, educator and fitness professional.