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Profiling Barbara Jensen Reeve Jackson

A stellar and long swimming career

Author Unknown | November 4, 2002

Barbara Jensen Reeve Jackson was born in San Francisco in 1929, and grew up in Colma, Calif. When she was five years old, she learned to swim at the Jewish Community Center in San Francisco, since the YMCA only taught children who could stand up in the water. At the age of seven, she was asked to join the Fairmont Hotel Swim Club under the direction of Phil Patterson; she remained until the age of twelve when the Club disbanded due to World War II. For the next two years she swam at Crystal Plunge in San Francisco for Charly Sava and then went to Athens Athletic Club in Oakland, Calif., to return later to Crystal Plunge in 1949.

Barbara was an All-American swimmer from 1948-1950 and qualified for the 100 backstroke on the 1948 Olympic Team.

She was also a member of the 1949-1950 overseas squads and high point winner for indoor and outdoor nationals in 1949. She held nine American championships and 17 American backstroke/IM records (set in 20 yard, 25 yard, 33 1/3 yard, 50 yard, and 50 meter course pools). In 1949 she was runner-up for the Sullivan Award as the Pacific Association's nominee.

Barbara said, "Besides making the 1948 Olympic Team, breaking the long course 100-meter backstroke American record in 1945 at the age of 15 (1:16.8) and holding the record for 10 years were the two outstanding swim experiences of my early life."

She became involved with Illinois Masters in 1972 under her married name, Barbara J. Reeve. She had four children at that time and was living in the Chicago area. Barbara said, "My first meet was in 1972 at Short Course Nationals in Palo Alto, Calif., where I won and set records in the 50, 100, and 200 backstroke events." She attended national meets through 1978 and held 42 national championships and eight Masters backstroke U.S. and world records during that time. Barbara was an All-American swimmer from 1972-1979.

She continued to compete in relays only through 1980, representing Riconada Masters as Barbara J. Jackson. She did not start competing again until 1997. "My health was the reason for the termination of competition as cancer had appeared," said Barbara. She had her thyroid removed in 1989 followed by therapy. After her operation, in order to increase her strength just to function normally, doctors started her on weights. "This is the first time in my life that I had used weights. In my previous swimming efforts, girls did not use weights to practice."

"I slowly started back swimming, regaining my strength and, in 1997, I entered the nationals in Tacoma representing Oregon Masters and won the 50, 100, 200 backstroke events." While she made Top Ten from 1997-2002, and All-American in 1997, 2000, 2001, Barbara reflected, "I must say that I have not regained my strength, or anywhere near times for the previous years of competition due to my illness." Her most memorable Masters swims were the Long Course Meters Nationals at Spokane in 1977, defeating the Australian swimmers (especially winning the 50 fly), and the nationals at Tacoma in 1997, winning after 17 years away from competition.

Barbara has also volunteered for USMS. Barbara said "I took over the helm from Watson Lawrence as Masters Chairman for Central A.A.U. and represented them at the 1975 National Convention in New Orleans." She also sat on the Board of Governors as Masters Representative from 1974-1978 for Central A.A.U. In 1999 she represented Montana at the National Convention in San Diego, CA.

She is presently living in a state that is not really interested in Masters swimming. "There are a few die-hard enthusiasts like myself that number well under 100. If it wasn't for Gail Roper and Dave Radcliff keeping me informed on Masters swimming, I would not know what was going on at all."

About her current training schedule, Barbara said, "The most I am able to work out is three times a week, doing a max of 2,000 yards at each workout. During the winter months here in Montana I only swim twice a week due to inclement weather and icy roads. The days I do not swim I do a routine at home involving a ski machine, hand weights, bicycling, and water exercises in the hot tub. I do this to keep my strength up and I hope I have the health to continue."

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