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Swimming into the Hall

FGHS athletic hall of fame, part one of a six-part series

Most people know Tom Gamble as the head of Parks and Recreation for the City of Forest Grove. They know his office resides in the Forest Grove Aquatic Center, not too far from the pool, an arena Gamble's all too familiar with as a record-breaking high school and collegiate swimmer.

Now, Gamble gets to add another title to his resume - Forest Grove High School Athletic Hall of Famer.

'I wasn't expecting to be inducted at all,' Gamble said. 'When I saw the list of inductees last year, then saw who I was joining this year, it was both surprising and humbling.'

A 1975 graduate of Forest Grove High, Gamble set school records in the 100-yard backstroke, 100 butterfly and 500 freestyle. As a senior, Gamble captured a state championship in the 100 backstroke, earning him a four-year scholarship to the University of Oregon.

'Tom was a great teammate,' said Sheri Burlingam-Schneider, one of Gamble's teammates at Forest Grove and also a fellow AAU swimmer. Schneider was made a Hall of Famer last year and her husband Randy, a member of the Vikings' 1976 football team, will join Gamble in this year's class.

'He would always be there for you on rough days, always encouraging and offering recommendations to help improve. Having Tom as a teammate helped get me through rough practices and get better as a swimmer.'

As a Duck, Gamble would become a three-time Pac-10 Northern Division champion in the 100-yard backstroke. He says that while he enjoyed his success in the pool, it wasn't something he sought to go after.

'Back then, I didn't think too much about the recognition I got,' Gamble said. 'I simply had goals and things I wanted to do for myself and worked to achieve them.'

Gamble is also quick to credit those who helped him reach his goals along the way.

'I can name every single coach I've ever had and have remained good friends with all of them,' he said. 'We still keep in touch and they've been great lifelong relationships. They afforded me the opportunity and knowledge to help get me where I am today.'

Leaving Eugene in the spring of 1979 with a degree in Parks and Recreation Management, Gamble decided he'd had enough of being in the pool to compete, but still wanted to be involved. For seven years, Gamble served as Assistant Athletic Director at the Jewish Community Center in Portland.

In January of 1989, Gamble returned to Forest Grove as Aquatic Superintendent, remaining in that post until 1997, when he became the Director of Parks and Recreation for the city.

As part of the Recreation Commission, Gamble helped approve the refurbishment of Lincoln Park, a joint effort with Pacific University to create a new athletic complex for both the school and the city. He also worked on the deal that helped bring Pacific University football back to Lincoln Park Stadium last year, after the school resurrected the program in 2009.

'I was kind of glad when I hung my suit up,' Gamble said. 'It was just time after four years, but it led to my career, which had a lot to offer the community. I'm a recipient of that and am grateful that the city built the pool when they did.'

'Swimming takes a lot of time and effort. You get 11 months of work and maybe two weeks off, so it is a long grind,' Burlingham-Schneider said. 'I always knew Tom would be involved with the city and the aquatic center when he was done.'

Gamble is quick to point to the guidance of his parents for his success both in and out of the pool.

'It's the standard line I give people, but they never told me I had to swim,' he said. 'Instead, they asked me if I was going to do it. It's a big difference from what I see in athletes now and it impacts how they handle themselves.

'Once a season started, I knew I had things I needed to do, but they never told me it was wrong to skip a practice or a workout if I needed to.'

Burlingham-Schneider is happy to see her teammate and friend joining her and her husband in the school's Athletic Hall of Fame.

'Not only did Tom earn it as an athlete, but he's also a well-rounded guy and been a friend to the city for a long time,' she said. 'He's a great addition to the Hall of Fame.'