The Aquatic Capital of America held its third annual Hall of Fame banquet last week, on the deck at the Pete Archer Rowing Center. The ACOA inducted 14 worthy athletes in a star-studded event hosted by five-time Olympian and Long Beach legend Tony Azevedo.
“Growing up in Long Beach, I knew we were a hotbed for athletes,” said Azevedo. “In aquatic success there was no comparison. But after reading these bios I was humbled…a people without knowledge of their history and their past is like a tree without roots.”
The headliners were Adam Wright and Chi Kredell, a pair of Wilson All-Americans who went on to make huge marks with their playing and coaching careers.
Azevedo introduced Wright as his favorite player he ever played with. Nodding and smiling at another Long Beach Olympian he cracked, “Sorry Ryan Bailey, but Adam passed the ball.”
Wright made his mark as a champion at Wilson and UCLA and on the national team where he played in three Olympic Games. He’s become the nation’s best collegiate coach at UCLA where he’d led the Bruins to three NCAA titles including two in the last five years.
“I was thinking about this earlier,” said Wright. “I know it sounds cliche but I was really the luckiest kid in the world growing up in Long Beach. I was swimming with Rich Foster and Bruce Bradley, I was getting elbows from Bruce as a teeneager. The most influential coaches in my life were in Long Beach: Klaus Barth, Ricardo Azevedo, Guy Baker. I wouldn’t be where I am without the city of Long Beach.”
Kredell was also an All-American in high school at Wilson and at the collegiate level at Long Beach State. He and his friends also made a decision in eighth grade that changed the future of Long Beach aquatics.
“I had great coaches growing up and I had a lot of friends who were really talented,” he said. “I was supposed to go to Los Al or Huntington Beach, but we all committed to go to Wilson together and make a great team.”
Like Wright, Kredell mentioned his mentors in the pool: Rick Jones, Bob Gruneisen, Guy Baker, and Ken Lindgren, as well as Ricardo Azevedo and John Vargas.
“I had every chance in the world to succeed because of those coaches,” he said.
All of the inductees were introduced by current Long Beach high school athletes–Kredell was introduced by Wilson CIF player of the year Brooke Gruneisen, a poignant moment as she pointed out that she was a flower girl in Kredell’s wedding to Kristin Barth.
Kredell has continued to make his mark on Long Beach’s aquatics scene as the club director for Shore Aquatics the last several years, helping to bring up the next generation of Long Beach elites.
There were, of course, moments of levity, such as Azevedo saying that after Rich Foster asked him to emcee the event, he had to google what that job entailed. Also when inductee Skip Kenney took the mic, he expressed humorous furor about the state of the Belmont Pool, demolished and not yet rebuilt.
“I’m in town, I went to go see the pool and there’s no goddamn pool!” he shouted. “Nobody told me!”
Legendary Long Beach State swim coach Jon Urbanchek was inducted, along with Boris Beljak (rowing), Bill Barnett (water polo), Chuck Bittick (swimming, water polo), Bruce Brown (surfing), Jose Fiolo (swimming), Jay and Pease Glaser (sailing), Lisa Hansen (rowing), Gary Ilman (swimming), Skip Kenney (swimming), and Jeff Kiesel (paddling).