Looking for a little inspiration in your swimming? Head to Masters Nats.
Each spring, United States Masters Swimming (USMS) holds its annual SCY National Championships. This year, "Nats" were held in Coral Springs, Florida, and the event attracted 1271 swimmers from nearly every state in the USA. The swimmers represented 159 teams, most with serious names like Gold Coast Masters (the top-scoring team at the meet) or New England Masters (my own team). Some teams had fishy names. There were Catfish, Marlins, River Rats, Crawfish, Sharks, Fins, Manatees, Wetcats, Mud Sharks, you name it — even Rainbow Trout. But some teams, like the Lochness Masters, the Atlanta Water Jocks, and Slowtwitch.com, had names that tell you something about the less-serious side of Masters swimming.
Attending a big meet like USMS Nats reminds me of why I love this sport so much, and one of the reasons is that there’s a place for EVERYONE in Masters swimming. There’s a place for the serious and the not-so serious, the svelte and the not-so svelte, the young and the not-so young. Masters Nats provides a venue where we can all convene to compete, compare, and draw strength and inspiration from each other. How many other events can you think of that give EQUAL attention to the talents of 18-year olds and 98-year olds? In Coral Springs, there were 75 total heats (men and women) of the 50 free. One third of those heats were filled with swimmers age 50 to 90. One third! And in case you think it’s not educational or inspiring to watch these older swimmers, get a load of some of their times.
Ninety-year-old Austin Newman set three national age-group records in Coral Springs:
1000 free: 20:31.68
1650 free: 33.59.81.
500 free: 10:01.23
And — the 1000 and the 1650 were contested on the same day.
Florence Carr, female, age 80, raced to a national-record 54:87 in the 50 Fly. (Mike Freshley, age 65, swam it in 27.44 and Bob Bailie, age 70, swam it in 29.33 — both for national records.)
Jim McConica, age 55, took advantage of his recent age-up to set three national age-group marks:
1000 free: 10:07.36
500 free: 4:59.74
200 free: 1:50.85
Robert Strand, a 60-year old from The Olympic Club, demolished a national age-group record almost every time he dove in:
200 breast: 2:24.68
100 breast: 1:05.57
50 breast: 29.32
200 IM: 2:17.60
100 IM: 1:00.75
In the gold-standard races of the 50 and 100 free, there were four eye-popping national records:
Cav Cavanaugh, male, age 70:
100 free: 57.89
50 free: 25.41
Charlotte Davis, female, age 60:
100 free: 59.81
50 free: 27.28
While it’s motivating to watch the heats of AARP swimmers, it’s mind boggling to witness the twenty- , thirty- , and forty-somethings do their thing. Susan Von Der Lippe, a 40-year old who swims for Colorado Masters, swam six events and set six national records. My favorite swimmer to watch at Coral Springs was 24-year-old Gary Marshall from The Olympic Club. He swam all three breaststroke events, and smashed the national age-group record in each one:
200 breast: 1:58.80
100 breast: 54.65
50 breast: 25.59
Gary’s turns were so fast and so low and so splashless! I tried to take a mental snapshot of each one and will take that to every practice.
Masters Nats is heat after heat of fast swimming. But in between races, there’s plenty of opportunity to hang out with team mates, make new friends from the far ends of the country, catch up on your nap time, and eat chocolate-covered protein bars. There’s also time to cheer for your friends — and then, of course, there are RELAYS.
My point in writing this is to share some of the inspiration from Coral Springs. To view the complete results, and to check out the 55 national age-group records that were set at the meet, go to the USMS website. On the site, you can also find the age-group qualifying times for Nationals. Many Masters swimmers are intimidated by the thought of going to Masters Nationals. They think they’re not fast enough or not talented enough. But that’s not the case. Any registered USMS swimmer is allowed to swim three individual events at Nationals without having to meet the qualifying standards. If you want to swim more than three events, then you must meet the time standards. So you ARE fast enough to go to Nats!
If you’ve never gone, I urge you to check it out and consider it for next year. USMS hosts two national events each year — SCY in April/May and LCM in August.