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UMass Struggles With Swimmer’s Death

January 12, 1996 GMT

AMHERST, Mass. (AP) _ The swimming coach choked back tears, trying to sum up the loss of a standout on his team.

One moment, the only member of the swimming and water polo teams to ever earn a full scholarship to the University of Massachusetts was sitting beside coach Russ Yarworth at a meet in New Hampshire. The next, Greg Menton lay on the deck of the pool, apparently suffering a heart attack.

Menton, 20, was pronounced dead about an hour after he collapsed Wednesday at Dartmouth College. Autopsy results were not available Thursday.

The junior from Dundee, Ore., had just finished swimming in two events at a meet in Hanover, N.H. Yarworth remembered Menton joining him on the bench.

``He said, `Oh my God, Russ.′ I thought he was talking about the other swimmers, how slow they were,″ Yarworth said.

The next thing Yarworth knew, Menton lying on the deck.

On Thursday, Yarworth and the rest of the swimming team tried to make sense of the death of a star athlete who had shown no signs of illness.

``The world has lost a great person. It’s so strange that 24 hours ago I was sitting, joking, laughing with one of my friends. Now, today he’s gone,″ team co-captain Jeff Little said Thursday.

Team physician Dr. Daniel Clapp said he gave Menton three annual physicals, most recently on Aug. 19, and had never detected a hint of any heart trouble.

``He had successfully competed in a vigorous water polo season and had several top performances in swimming meets already this year. There was no reason to believe this incident would occur,″ Clapp said.

Menton was ``the epitome of what a student-athlete should represent,″ Yarworth said.

``Greg was a goal-oriented athlete. He wanted to become one of the few athletes in the nation to qualify for two different NCAA championships,″ Yarworth said.

Menton held UMass school records in the 100-yard backstroke (51.38) and the 100-yard butterfly (50.14). He swam the anchor leg of the 200-yard medley relay (1:33.71), which broke the school record at the 1995 Atlantic 10 Championships.

As a member of the university’s water polo team, which this fall reached the final four for the squad’s highest finish ever, Menton set the school record for the most steals in a season (63) and had 40 goals and 29 assists.

Menton was majoring in sports management and was named to the 1994-95 UMass Athletic Director’s Honor Roll for academic achievement.