Background and Interests
Richard N. Hinrichs, Ph.D.

This file contains some information on my background and interests. I have added some new stuff on 8/26/06 and then again on 9/17/06 and 10/17/06.  Let me describe a little about three of my major lifetime interests that have shaped who I am.  One is swimming, two is physics, and three is music.


Let me start by telling you about my swimming interests.  Swimming has been my life.  I began competitive swimming (and diving) at age 10 on a summer club team in Lakewood, Colorado (Applewood Knolls Swim Club).  There was no swim team at my high school (Lakewood High), so I played basketball during the winter season instead.  I did not swim seriously until I entered Oberlin College as a walk-on in the fall of 1971 (no athletic scholarships).  It took one full month before I had gained enough motivation and conditioning to finish an entire 5000 yard daily workout (without sitting out any laps) as a freshman.  Dick Michaels (who is still coaching at Oberlin) was my coach.  My brother Dan was already the big star at Oberlin, having reached All American status the year before in the 200 yard breaststroke.  I started out slowly, but got really good over the next four years.  By the time I was finished at Oberlin in 1975, I had won four Ohio Athletic Conference titles in the 100 breast, three in the 200 breast, and two in the 200 IM and held school and conference records in all three.  I reached the top 12 at nationals (NCAA College Division [1973], Division II [1974], and Division III [1975]) six times in the 100/200 breast and 200 IM which made me a "six-time NCAA All-American".  I placed fifth in the 200 breast in NCAAs my sophomore year and third in both junior and senior years.  My best times were 1:01.8/2:13.2 in the 100/200 breast and 2:01.4 in the 200 IM.  My best relay splits (with relay starts) were :49.9 in the 100 free and 1:00.7 in the 100 breast.

My favorite race of all time was beating several-time All-American Rich James from Kenyon College in the 200 IM my junior year at Conference in a performance in which he swam a lifetime best 2:02.0.  I finished in 2:01.4.  My previous best was about a 2:05.  Something clicked in that race.  I split a full second and a half better in the last leg (freestyle) than I ever had before.  I never went under 2:02 again, although I came close.

I coached swimming at the Green Mountain Swim Club in Lakewood, Colorado (summers of 1971, '72, and '73), Elyria (OH) Country Club (summer of 1974), Hawkeye Swim Club (at the University of Iowa in summer of 1977), and Dobson Dolphins Swim Club (Mesa, AZ, summers of 1992 and '93).
 Coach Rick with team trophy in 1972
Here is a photo of me from 1972 (click here or on photo to enlarge) just after my swimmers had placed first in Division B of the Jefferson County League Championships.  The best swimmer I have ever coached is Tom Jager, who, until just recently, held the world record in the 50-m freestyle (long course :21.81).  He was known as "Tommy" at the time.  He was 12 in the summer of 1977, and tagged along with older brother, Bill, and older sister, Diane, to be part of the Hawkeye Swim Club at the University of Iowa, where I was an assistant coach while working on my masters.  My brother, Dan, also was an assistant coach while working on his Ph.D.  Glen Patton was head coach.

I still swim competitively now at age 53 and work out occasionally with the Sun Devil Masters swim team at ASU.  I train 2-3 times per week for about 2000 yards or meters at a time.  I definitely believe in the higher quality, less quantity method of training which Dave Costill has made popular.  I recommend swimming to anyone wishing to stay healthy and strong.  In my opinion, swimming is the best overall exercise for the body.  I also play basketball in pick-up games at the park and during the noon hour with other ASU faculty.  A major motivating factor in my continued participation is self competition with various landmarks from my younger days.  I am happy to say that I am better now than I was in high school in both swimming and basketball.  Although I play basketball for the fun of it, I believe swimmers need some additional loading stimulus (besides swimming) to maintain strong bones.  The biomechanics literature supports this (and my body is counting on it!).

I swam in two major masters competitions in the last three years.  First, there was United States Masters Swimming (USMS) Short Course Nationals held at ASU in May 2003.  Normally I wouldn't have swum in such a large meet, but it was held here at ASU so why not?  I was one month shy of 50 years old so I swam as one of the oldest in my 45-49 age group.  I swam 50, 100, and 200 yard breaststrokes events.  I took 7th in the 50 (:29.89), 12th in the 100 (1:06.7), and 8th in the 200 (2:27.7).   My time in the 50 was good enough to crack the USMS masters top 10 list for my age group for the year (I ended up 9th).  If I had been 50, my times would have placed me in the top 5 in the 50-54 age group.  These were 18-year best times for me!  I had not swum that fast since I lived in Texas in 1985 (at age 32).  And I had not really trained very long for this meet (about 6 weeks only). 

OK, fast forward three years to May 2006.  I had not swum in any meets in three years but an opportunity came along that I couldn't pass up. On a whim I decided to swim in the FINA Masters World Championships (long course meters) held in August 2006 at Stanford University.  Again, normally I wouldn't have even considered traveling to such a big meet, but I had just been asked to speak at a Sports Medicine conference that was accompanying the World Championships so again, why not?  Well, I competed with the best in the world and and I did great!  Read more about it here (with photos!).

I have brought swimming into my professional life in a big way.  After getting my Ph.D. in 1982, I was selected to be part of the first Swimming Biomechanics Research Team in 1983 by U.S. Swimming, Inc. (the national governing body for swimming in this country).  Along with other distinguished members of that research team such as Bob Schleihauf and Ernie Maglischo, I have published numerous articles on the topic. We did much of the early work on hydrodynamics of swimming propulsion in elite swimmers, work that continues now at the International Center for Aquatics Research (ICAR) in Colorado Springs.  In 1990 I was invited to present two weeks of lectures on the biomechanics of swimming and diving to the Egyptian Swimming Federation in Cairo.  I also coached their national team swimmers.  I continue to do swimming research and publish articles on the biomechanics of swimming.  You can look at CV on line to learn more about these articles.

Physics and Biomechanics

I was raised in a household that valued education.  My mom had been a physical education major, my dad a geology major, both at Oberlin College.  My dad also had received his masters degree in geology from Cornell University.  I was turned on to physics for the first time when I took a physics class in high school.  I was fascinated by learning why things moved the way they did.  I learned about how gravity worked, how balls bounced, how waves moved, and how electricity and magnetism worked.  I had a big interest in music in high school and physics promised me a chance to learn how transistors, amplifiers, and other stereo components worked.  I told myself and others that when I entered college I wanted to major in physics.  ( I also wanted to be a varsity swimmer--both came true.)

I took my first calculus-based physics class at Oberlin and got a C+ (ouch!).  My grades improved from there.  Like many people, I found physics a very difficult subject, but I stuck with it.  The hardest course I remember was junior year in "Advanced Dynamics".  I was not ready for Lagrangian mechanics and other advanced topics that, it turns out, I would study later as part of my Ph.D. at Penn State.  I got a C in this course.  I did get some A's (e.g., in Electronics) and by the end of my physics major I had raised my GPA to 3.2.  This was still a shock compared with my 3.9 GPA in high school!

My interest in physics did lead me to biomechanics.  I took a course called "Kinesiology" my senior year at Oberlin.  One of the two textbooks for this course was a book called The Biomechanics of Sports Techniques by James G. Hay.  I loved this book immediately!  Dr. Hay used the same equations to quantify human movements that I had used in my physics classes, and they showed me how to understand the shot put, long jump, basketball, running, and other sports skills.  This was great!  I thought that if I could just learn more from this guy Hay, I might be able to find answers to a ton of things I was curious about; like why do swimmers use zig-zag pulls under water, exactly how do gymnasts and divers initiate twists in the air, and the like.

Toward the end of my senior year at Oberlin I was awarded a $1500 NCAA post-graduate scholarship (1975).  Although it took me the better part of a year after I graduated from Oberlin, I found that I really wanted to go to graduate school, but not in physics.  There was this great new field that I just had to learn more about: BIOMECHANICS!  In April 1976, I married the love of my life, Debbe Simpkins (we had been dating since second semester freshman year).  That same month I applied to the University of Iowa to study with Jim Hay.  Even though I had applied late, Jim accepted me into his program but could not offer me an assistantship. We packed up all our stuff and drove to Iowa City in August. We were on the waiting list for married student housing but did not have a place to stay except for temporary quarters at my cousin Peter Verstegen's house until we found an apartment. The Friday before classes started I got a call from the P.E. Department saying that one of the TA's had canceled and asking if I still needed financial support. Boy, was this great news! They also arranged for me to move up to the top of the waiting list for married student housing and that weekend Debbe and I moved into a nice one bedroom apartment on Hawkeye Drive and Monday morning I taught my first swimming class as a P.E. Department TA.

That Monday also began my career in biomechanics. It turned out that I was the only American citizen in a very international lab.  Jim Hay had come to Iowa from New Zealand.  My fellow graduate students included people who have since done very well in biomechanics: Barry Wilson (now at University of Otago in New Zealand), Jesús Dapena (Indiana University), Carol Putnam (Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia), Kit Vaughan (University of Cape Town, South Africa), and Alex Stacoff (ETH in Zurich, Switzerland).  These people are like family to me.  I feel fortunate to have been there in the "early days" when biomechanics at Iowa was young.  (I do wish I could have been there when Jim Hay was so heavily involved in swimming research, though!  I was gone by that time.)  While I was at Iowa, most of us were heavily involved in angular momentum related research.  In 1978 I was the second overall graduate (and the first masters degree graduate) from Hay's program in biomechanics.  My masters thesis was on the nature of twisting somersaults in trampolining and diving: something I had been curious about since taking Advance Dynamics as part of my physics major at Oberlin.

While at Iowa I learned about Penn State's reputation as the premier place to study biomechanics in the U.S.  Although I thought hard about staying at Iowa for my Ph.D., I went to Penn State to study with Peter Cavanagh and Dick Nelson.  Cavanagh had a huge interest in locomotion and he convinced me to take my interest in angular momentum and apply it to understanding the mechanisms of locomotion.  We came up with the topic of upper extremity function in running and walking (e.g., why do runners swing their arms?).  At the time we had the opportunity to study distance running great Bill Rodgers who had a wierd, asymmetrical arm action.  Many of us appeared on the PBS TV series NOVA on a special sport science segment profiling Olympic hopefuls.  Bill was on track to become a gold medal winner in the maraton at the 1980 Olympics in Moscow.  Unfortunately, he never got to the chance because of the U.S. Olympic Boycott.  (I also feel terrible for Tracy Caulkins, Mary T. Meagher, and many other U.S. Olympic swimmers who missed out at their primes.)  I did learn why runners swing their arms and contrary to what you might think, it is not "just for balance."

Like at Iowa, I feel blessed to have been surrounded by many great people in the biomechanics lab at Penn State.  Among my fellow graduate students were Tom Clarke (now Vice President of Nike [way to go, Tom!]), Keith Williams (UC Davis), Mario LaFortune (University of Guelph in Canada), and Gordon Valiant (also at Nike).  Among the visiting scholars I studied with at Penn State were Ewald Hennig (Germany), In-Sik Shin (Korea), Pen Watanabe (Japan), Yasuo Ikegami (Japan), and Michi Ae (Japan).  I left Penn State A.B.D. in 1981 (I don't recommend it), and finished up 15 months later in the fall of 1982.


I first played trumpet in the fourth grade.  My uncle, Richard, had played trumpet and my mom and dad gave me Richard's old trumpet to play in the school band.  I got a new trumpet in 9th grade and went on to be first chair trumpet in Lakewood Jr. High band and orchestra, and later at Lakewood High School in both the band and orchestra.  I was also second chair in the Colorado All-State Band and  All-State Orchestra my senior year in 1971.  One of my fondest memories was marching down Pennsylvania Ave. in Washington, DC in January 1969 as a sophomore playing trumpet in my marching band.  We had won a competition to represent the state of Colorado in President Richard Nixon's Inaugural Parade.  Mainly what I remember is that it was snowing and the white gloves we wore were not enough to keep my fingers from freezing!  Since marching while playing trumpet is very hard on your lips (a biomechanics question?), I went on to be the drum major for the marching band my senior year and directed, rather than played in, the marching band.

I also studied trumpet at the Conservatory of Music at Oberlin College.  While I majored in physics, I minored in music, and was fortunate to be the only non-Conservatory (i.e., not a music major) selected to take private lessons from trumpet professor Gene Young for four years.  I also played trumpet in the Oberlin Jazz Ensemble and Commencement Band.  I was quite serious about my trumpet playing.  Second semester senior year, I stepped up my music interests at Oberlin, taking two private lessons per week and preparing for auditions in major symphony orchestras.  I tried out (but was not selected) for first chair trumpet positions at both the Edmonton (Alberta) and London (Ontario) Symphony Orchestras in Canada.  The year after graduating from Oberlin I studied privately with Roger Voisin who was first chair trumpet with the Boston Symphony at the time.  However I stopped playing trumpet for a time after beginning graduate school.  I picked it up again several years later and still play today.

Currently I am playing with Valley Unitarian Universalist Church (VUU) House Band and occasionally in local broadway shows.  So far I have played in the Rhodes Junior High productions of Wizard of Oz (1998), The Mikado (2001), and Oklahoma (2003), and most recently in the Tempe Little Theater production of A Chorus Line (September 2006). Read more about A Chorus Line here.

Last updated 17 October 2006.

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