FORT MILL — Standing beside each other, the East Carolina College Sigma Nu brothers took in the glory of earning All-American status after their Pirates swim team’s national title win in 1959.
Fort Mill resident Jeff Faucette was a member of that Pirates team ranked in the top five during the 1959 nationals. That was the same year Faucette joined the team.
“It was an incredible experience,” Faucette said. “No one expected us to turn that kind of performance.”
The school has won nationals twice in swimming, once in 1957 and again in 1959.
When the team returned home, it was to a room full of more than 500 people, including local media, and it was a moment Faucette said he’ll never forget.
“It was exciting and intimidating,” he said.
The Pirates also helped organize the Kappa Sigma Nu fraternity, which became affiliated with the national Sigma Nu fraternity.
In honor of the team’s accomplishments, Sigma Nu alumni started giving to East Carolina University’s Coach Ray Martinez Swimming and Diving Scholarship Endowment, an endowment named for the team’s former coach, last year. The endowment supports the athletic department and scholarships for East Carolina swimmers, said Matt Maloney, assistant athletic director for ECU.
“[The alumni] wanted to honor that incredible group of brothers,” Maloney said.
Last year, the Sigma Nu alumni gave a $1,000 gift to the endowment and plan to give again this year and in the future.
The endowment supports scholarships for students chosen by Rick Kobe, the current swim team coach.
“It’s a gift that keeps giving,” Maloney said.
Faucette said he is humbled to have the gift made in his team and coach’s honor.
“I hope it causes East Carolina to get a swimmer of a caliber they may not have otherwise been able to attract,” he said. “It will take [the team] to another level.”
The Pirates had a strong camaraderie that improved their performances, especially against bigger schools, said Jolene McCann, who is married to Jack McCann, a six-time All-American Champion.
“They were an inspiration to each other,” she said.
Faucette said most schools did not see them as a threat since during their time, East Carolina College was a smaller school. That didn’t stop them from beating most of their competition.
“We could see how each other wanted to win,” Faucette said. “We were a very successful team.”
The Pirates trained differently from other teams, Martinez, the former coach, said.
“Larger schools thought they had an easy win,” he said.
The team was among the first to focus on weight training and often worked through school breaks.
“We really pushed hard,” Martinez said. “They were a tough bunch.”
The team had difficulty finding meets in its region because they often beat the larger teams, he said.
“We were so far above the Southern Conference that no one would swim us,” Martinez said.
Piling on mattresses packed in the back of station wagons, the team often traveled long distances to compete against schools such as Florida State and the University of Florida. The team often told jokes and shared stories to pass the time, Faucette said.
“Everybody got along,” he said.
Faucette said his specialty was backstroke and he medaled in multiple events during his three years on the team.
During his sophomore year, Faucette also earned a $200 swimming scholarship.
“I did not expect it,” he said. “It was quite the honor.”
Faucette married his wife, Kay, whom he met at East Carolina, between his junior and senior years.
Faucette got his master’s in psychology from Each Carolina in the 1960s and worked as the director of continuing education at Wayne Community College in Goldsboro, N.C. In 2000, Faucette retired in Charlotte as General Electric’s Vice President of Human Resources. He and Kay now live in Fort Mill.
Jeff Faucette volunteers with their church and plays a little golf. He also works with the Carolina Lakes Golf Club’s Lifetime Learning Program.
Faucette still works out almost every day and swims recreationally. He also spends time with his two sons and four grandchildren.
“Go, Pirates,” he said.