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Bauer makes waves for Viks

Robb Bauer shines at the 1980 swimming state championships with an individual and relay title


Photo Credit: NEWS-TIMES FILE PHOTO - Robb Bauer was a three-year state meet qualifier during his swimming career at Forest Grove, and he will be inducted into the school's Athletic Hall of Fame this fall.When Robb Bauer was about 8 years old, he did a little goal setting with some guidance from his father.

Bill Bauer was the coach of the Forest Grove Swim Club back then, and he engaged his pupils, including young Robb, in an exercise.

“We had each one of the swimmers write down a goal on a piece of paper, write it down real big, you know,” the elder Bauer recalled. “And put it above your locker or above your bed. Put it somewhere you see it all the time.”

Father and son engaged in a bit of discussion about Robb’s goal. They decided on the state record for the 50-yard freestyle for the boys 8 and under division, which Bill remembered being a time of 32.5 seconds.

In pursuit of that record, Robb soon demonstrated a skill that would characterize his swimming career: the ability to step up when it matters most.

“At the championship meet, what does he swim?” Bill said. “Thirty-two five. Sometimes it does pay to set goals.”

Robb Bauer continued that pattern all the way through a record-setting career at Forest Grove High School and beyond. Before graduating in 1980, he set numerous Viking program records, won two state titles and broke a state meet record.

For his accomplishments, Bauer has been selected to the fifth class of the school’s Athletic Hall of Fame. Along with the other honorees, he will be formally inducted Oct. 4 during a banquet at Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club in North Plains.

“I appreciate that. It’s an honor, totally,” Bauer said of his inclusion. “They only do five or six ... every year, so it’s a very elite group, for sure.”

The second-oldest of Bill and Shirley Bauer’s four children, Robb was born into a swimming family. His dad was a four-time letter-winner for Jefferson High in Portland, which won a state title in 1951, and Robb was in the pool from his earliest days.

“Because he coached, it was just something that was probably easy for the family,” Robb said about his father. “We all swam as kids, so it was a family thing.”

Bauer was born in Portland, but the family moved out to Forest Grove when he was about 6 years old. Not long after, Bauer began his swimming career and overcame asthma to compete.

Though Bauer admits he enjoyed having fun in the pool, he also developed into a hard worker — a prerequisite for anyone who wants to excel in swimming — and refined his strokes, learning from his coaches and teammates along the way. He also grew, eventually, to a lanky 6-foot-2, a useful build for a swimmer.

Before he reached high school, Bauer was nipping at the heels of some of the city’s best and brightest, including Tom Gamble, who also swam for the Forest Grove club team and won a high school state title in the 100-yard backstroke in 1975, five years before Bauer earned his in the same event.

“I can remember, ‘What is the coach’s kid doing in my lane?’” said Gamble, now the Forest Grove parks and recreation director, with a good-natured chuckle. “‘This kid’s getting fast. I gotta start working harder.’”

The young Bauer, who eventually started swimming at the Multnomah Athletic Club under Trond Williams while still in high school, continued to excel. He qualified for the state meet in two individual events as a sophomore in 1978, and his star continued to rise his junior season.

That year, Bauer defended his titles in the 200 individual medley and 100 backstroke at the Coast-Valley League district meet, and his 200 medley relay team broke the meet record but settled for second place behind a speedy McMinnville quartet.

That relay team, which included John Reynolds, Mike Montano and B.J. Beu, was a bit star-crossed at the state meet, though. The Vikings made the championship final but were disqualified for leaving the blocks too early on an exchange.

Bauer did make the most of his individual races, taking second to Gresham’s Scott Flury in the 100 back and seventh in the individual medley.

And after those results, Bauer knew exactly what he wanted as a senior.

“The main goal, I think, was getting the state record in backstroke and winning that event,” he said. “The relay of course was also at the top of our priority because we were probably ranked fastest going into that year as well.”

In the buildup to the 1980 state meet, Bauer set school records in the 100, 200 and 500 freestyle races and in the individual medley, and he broke District 4 meet records in the 100 back, 200 free and as part of the medley relay, which once again included Montano, Beu and Reynolds.

Then the action really heated up at the state meet in Gresham. To kick off finals — with Bauer putting Forest Grove out front as the leadoff swimmer — Forest Grove crushed the field by a second and a half. The winning time of 1:40.38 was the meet’s third-fastest winning mark to date.

But Bauer saved his best for last. After a seventh-place finish in the 200 free, Bauer got another shot at Flury and delivered — in record time. Like the relay, this race wasn’t close: Bauer toppled the reigning champion, 54.12 to 55.15, and broke the 8-year-old OSAA meet record by .13 seconds.

“For me it was like the perfect race and it was the perfect time, and it was the perfect event, because that’s when you want to do it, the biggest event,” Bauer said. “It was great. It kind of made up for the previous year, for sure.”

Bauer went on to swim for two years at the University of Washington. As a freshman, he made the final of the 200 backstroke at the Pac-10 championships and just missed qualifying for the NCAA national meet.

He left school before graduating to pursue a business opportunity and has worked in the computer and technology field ever since, currently as the owner of Rapid Technologies, which repurposes and distributes computer parts. Bauer has two teenage sons, is engaged, and resides in Northwest Portland.



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