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Competition, Fun and Fitness

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Meegan Wilson | August 23, 2010

Elaine (Hochuli - Fincham) Valdez was born and grew up in Staten Island, N.Y. She learned her pre-swimming skills from her dad, but took formal lessons at the age of six and eventually started competing when she was seven years old. She was on the Susan Wagner H.S. (1969-1973) Swim Team in Staten Island. Her most memorable moments swimming as a child occured during Summer League. With her parent's encouragement, she joined the YMCA swim team at age 15 and swam year-round.

In 1974 she started competing at Herber Lehman College City University of New York. In her three seasons on the Lehman Swim Team she set six individual school records (50-yard, 100-yard and 200-yard individual medley, 500-yard freestyle, and 50-yard breaststroke) as well as two relay records (200-yard medley and freestyle). She qualified for the State AIAW Championship Finals in 1975, 1976, and 1977. She won the ECAC Award for Scholarship and Athletic Prowess and the 200-yard Butterfly gold medal at the 1977 Metropolitan Swim Conference Championships. Elaine received a B.S with honors in recreation education in 1977 and was inducted into the Lehman College Athletics Hall of Fame on May 19, 2001. At that time she was swimming and coaching for San Marcos Masters and was asked to write an article for South Texas Masters swimming on "Open Water Swimming in 2001.

Elaine started swimming Masters when she was 25 years old. She remembers the two mile cable swim at Chris Greene Lake, VA. Competing as Elaine Hochuli in 1982, she finished second overall and placed first in the 25-29 age group with a time of 45:49.4. Bettering her time in 1983 (44:47.06) she finished third overall and second in her age group. Aging up to the 30-34 age group in 1985 Elaine bettered her time even more with a 44:12, finishing sixth overall and again placing first in her age group.

Competing as Elaine Fincham at the World Championships at Stanford in 2006, she placed second in the 200-meter fly, third in the 400 IM, eighth in the 50 fly, ninth in the 200 backstroke, and 10th in the 800 free (50 - 54 age group).

Elaine competes about six times per year, but also swims for fun and fitness. She is a three time Pool All-American swimming for San Marcos Masters (SMM) in 2000 and 2001, and for Masters of South Texas (MOST) in 2006. She also became a  Long Distance All-American in 2007 and a Relay All-American in 2006.

At the Masters LC Nationals in Puerto Rico in 2010, competing as Elaine Valdez, she was a national champion twice, in the 200-meter butterfly and 400-meter IM. She also placed second in the 50 and 100 fly and 400 free in the 55-59 age group.

Elaine gives credit to Coach Susan Ingraham of Masters of South Texas for helping her the most in her Masters swimming. Because of her love for butterfly, her goal in 2008 was to "improve my 'butternut' time."

She swims four times per week for an hour and 15 minutes. Her teammates keep her motivated and she occasionally writes workouts for them. She is also on a women's water polo team, likes yard work, listening to music, origami and collecting art.

Elaine has attended USMS convention and found it an enlightening experience. She says, "my principal accomplishment for USMS is encouraging and inspiring other Masters swimmers to stay in the sport, continue to set new goals and achieve their goals."

Elaine, a Recreational Therapist, married in 1989 to Alfred L. Fincham, Jr who died in 2005. She remarried in 2008 to Jesse Valdez who is learning to swim under Elaine's instruction. "Maybe one day he will compete", she said.

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