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Derek Rose: Swimmer had 'chlorine in his veins'

Derek RoseThe cognoscenti who cover Olympic swimmers often note that the sport tends to attract shy personalities.

They have never met Derek Rose.

This Forest Grove High School legend won a 2000 state championship, All-American status at the University of Washington and competed in the 2004 U.S. Olympic Trials against a rookie from Baltimore named Michael Phelps.

His old Forest Grove coach, the aptly named Paul Waterstreet, wasn’t at that Olympic Trials, but one can imagine that when his prodigy lined up against Phelps, Rose acted the same way he did for every championship Waterstreet ever saw him in.

At the starting blocks, when many swimmers were grim-faced, “Derek would be talking to everybody. The swimmers on his left, his right, and smiling — until the absolutely last moment when they dove into the pool,” recalled Waterstreet, still slightly amazed at the memory.

“Derek was just the most infectiously optimistic guy I ever coached,” he said. “You meet him — you like him.”

Waterstreet theorized his superstar “wasn’t born with blood in his veins — but chlorine.”

Rose’s mother, Patti Rose, herself starred for the Forest Grove swim team in the late 1960s. Her daughter Bridgette similarly made big waves as a third-grader in swim meets and her young son, Derek, a kindergartener, could not wait to bicycle to the Pacific University pool where the youth team hung out.

Little Derek would grow to become 6-foot-four and make his own splash. He led Forest Grove to the state meet in his sophomore year, placing in the butterfly and helping set a 200-meter freestyle relay school record that still stands. Come his senior year, he won the state championship in the 100-meter butterfly and earned prep All-American status.

After Rose completed that record race, the University of Washington coach, Mickey Winders, immediately came down from the bleachers and offered him a scholarship. UW has long been the marquee college swim power in the Pacific Northwest, and Rose fit right in, setting three school records, five relay records, winning All-American status in three events and accepting an invitation to swim against Phelps and future Olympic gold medal winners Lenny Krayzelburg and Arron Peirsol in the U.S. Olympic Trials.

“Derek was just a consummate team guy for us,” said Wenders, now varsity swimming coach for the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. “He had big goals and wasn’t afraid to work hard for the team.”

These days, Rose finds fulfillment where many extroverted watermen often do: representing a water sports company selling swimming pool and hot tub equipment in the Seattle area. From a personal standpoint, his most successful business trip took him to South Korea, where he met his wife-to-be, Jae Eun.

After marrying, they settled back in Des Moines, Wash., where they recently welcomed a baby, Daniel, to their family.

Might young Daniel be a swimmer some day? “I’ve already put him in the water,” his father laughed.

The Hall of Fame inductees will be introduced at an open house reception in the FGHS Basinski Athletic Center at 6 p.m. Friday, Oct. 7, prior to being introduced at halftime of the FGHS varsity football game at Dick Hendricks Stadium. The corollary event, the HOF banquet, is set for 6 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 8, at Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club in North Plains. Tickets are $35 and available at the FGHS athetic office, 1401 Nichols Lane, Forest Grove.