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Started a Masters Swimming Program in Her Backyard

Always managed to find water

Penny Butler | July 19, 2000

When Edie Gruender tried to organize a swimming team while attending a Wisconsin high school, she was told by the P.E. department, "Girls don't do that." Now, mother of five children, Edie runs a Masters Swimming program from her Phoenix backyard.

Originating from a cardiovascular fitness study by a Navy doctor, the Masters program held its first national championships in 1970 for adults 25 to over 80.

The underlying philosophy is "without a goal of competing against contemporaries, it is difficult for most people to work with the vigor, regularity and tenacity necessary to really benefit heart, lungs and muscles."

From learning to swim back East in the Chesapeake Bay at the age of seven, Edie has always managed to "find water. My dad's job kept us moving," she said. "He designed book stacks for libraries so we moved westward, wherever there was a new library.”

“I took swimming and lifesaving lessons just to get in the water. Growing up I was always in the wrong place at the wrong time as far as competitively swimming. I find that at nationals, my age group (45-49) is thick with girls who swam the 1952 Olympics.”

"When my husband was transferred to Phoenix in 1960, I started looking for water. What really scared me here were open irrigation ditches. My husband worked with migrant laborers and their babies were drowning all the time.”

"We had two kids and only one car then, so I had to arrange the once-a-week 'waterproofing' swim at the YMCA the day I did grocery shopping.”

Edie's addiction to swimming increased. "As we had three more children, I swam a quarter mile every day wherever I could find water and as long as I could keep the kids busy and safe.”

"In 1970 Swimming World magazine mentioned a Senior Olympics meet in California for the over 60 person in every sport. I decided to enter my first competition, trained three to four weeks and went over to it.”

"You never forget your first experience. The swimming was in the 50-meter pool at the Los Angeles Coliseum, site of the 1932 Olympics. The 400 free was outdoors, in icy water at 8 a.m.”

"I didn't know how to swim it and didn't realize you don't go in hard because you'll poop out. I scared an ex-Olympian briefly but discovered I couldn't make eight round trips like that. I came in second.”

"Our daughter swam with Desert Rats and my husband and I ran our club swimming program so we attended AAU meetings. Through that I was approached to run the Masters program in 1973.”

Edie has been the prime mover ever since. "Our first meet was in Mesa at a city pool," she recalled. "I'll never forget all those ribbons with 'July 29, 1974' on them, my birthday."

With no year round facility available in Phoenix, the search for water ended when the Gruenders put in their own pool last year "so my husband could get regular exercise in spite of irregular hours," said Edie.

"The pool couldn't be little—my husband is 6-3, and since we were building it, I convinced him it ought to meet AAU specs and be big enough to put on short course meets—25 yards, three lanes."

Women in Sports, The Arizona Republic, February 10, 1977

 

Edie and Dan Gruender Award

by Helen Bayly

The AZ LMSC Board of Directors recently established "The Edie and Dan Gruender Award", in honor of our friends, Edie and Dan Gruender of Phoenix. The Gruenders are in large part responsible for the very existence of Arizona Masters swimming: their efforts from over thirty years ago got us launched and thriving. From a few swimmers of the early 1970s, AZ LMSC has grown to the near 1,000 AZ Masters swimmers of this new century. For twenty of those thirty years, Edie and Dan led, inspired, organized and encouraged Arizona Masters swimming—with no computers, kids! (All by phone, postcards, grit and determination...even unto their present ages of approximately 75 years each.)

Bravo, Edie and Dan Gruender! During the summer, the Board voted to create this award in your names, and also to make you the first recipients. This is our way of thanking you for creating our Masters organization, with all its statewide swim teams, clubs and fitness-swim-programs. This Gruender Award is to be an annual award, given to that person who contributes the most to the AZ LMSC in any given year. The award starts its life this year, 2003, appropriately presented to the Gruenders.

The inscription reads:

"The Edie and Dan Gruender Award: Celebrating 30 years of Dedicated Service to AZ LMSC".

Here in Arizona, from AAU swimming in 1970 to the formal start of organized swimming-for-adults in 1973, the Gruenders from 1973 have "parented" Arizona's Masters swimming, to the enormous benefit of all of today's Arizona Masters swimmers. Edie founded the organized swim-activities in 1973, while Dan supported and helped with swim gatherings—first in the Gruender home pool, and later across the state. Not until 1993 did our organization elect Judy Gillies of Tucson to take on some of the onerous duties of chairing the state-wide Arizona Masters swimming, a growing group of swim-fitness enthusiastic adults of all ages. (Then from 1997 to 1999, Jack Salvatore of Phoenix was chairman; from 1999 to 2002, Helen Bayly of Tucson was the chair; and this past year and a half, Sam Perry of Phoenix has become our chair).

During this last decade, Edie and Dan have remained faithful friends of AZ LMSC, by remaining on the Board of Directors in varying capacities (Sanctions Chairs, Historian, Archivists, President and Chair Emeriti, to name a few). They have brought their wisdom and experience to AZ LMSC's general progress, and on a national level, both Gruenders have been invaluable to USMS—Dan as a lawyer, Edie as a former teacher, and both as Masters boosters non-stop!

Honored by other Masters swimmers, Edie and Dan were awarded prestigious national recognition by USMS in 1989 as they received "The Ransom J. Arthur Award" for furthering the objectives of Masters swimming. Edie's mailings, history and archives, record-keeping, planning all meets' relay combinations (remember - no computers!)—with support from Dan, added enormously to the effectiveness of USMS as our national organization.

Both Edie and Dan have held national office in USMS, Edie as Southwest Zone Chair, a USMS archivist- historian, and Dan as USMS President, 1990 thru 1993. We're fortunate to have Edie and Dan so vitally active in AZ LMSC concerns—their experience makes them pure gold as our advisors, and keeps AZ LMSC well represented in USMS concerns.

Edie and Dan, AZ LMSC salutes you for the super job you've done for we AZ and US Masters swimmers. For over thirty years you both hung in there, to bring Masters swimming to so many of us across Arizona and the United States. The Gruender Award will enhance AZ LMSC's activities and enable us to honor some of today's and the future's best volunteers in Arizona. So we wish both of you the best of health, much happiness, and fun Masters swimming for many more years. And thanks again, Gruenders!

For further accounts of the Gruenders' Masters swimming contributions, see SWIM magazine, volume XV, #5, 1999.

Helen Bayly swims for Ford Aquatics Masters Swimming in Tucson, Ariz. She was also Chairman, AZ LMSC from 1999-2002 and served on the USMS History and Archives Committee.

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