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And Suddenly ... It's Summer! Open Water Championship Season

by Ali Hall, with Dick Brewer, Gregg Cross and Dick Sidner

If you’re like many swimmers, you click into the USMS Open Water and Long Distance page sometime early in the year and dutifully mark your calendar with the upcoming championship events, imagining yourself come summer in wonderful places like Florida, Noblesville, Lake Placid, Oregon, Coney Island and Wisconsin, enjoying all there is to experience at a USMS National Championship. Then, the months go by and the snow finally disappears. Then, the dogwood and azalea blossoms vanish too. And suddenly it’s summer. Time for the USMS Open Water National Championship season!

The first event of the 2011 season, the 10K swim (five laps around a 2K course in the lovely calm waters of the Gulf of Mexico), is fast approaching, to be held June 11 in Ft. Myers, Fla., and online entries close June 7. The hosts, Gulf Coast Swim Team and Lee County Parks & Recreation, have a great experience in store for the competitors. Event representatives Gregg Cross and Dick Brewer took some time out of their busy preparations to share a few words with us about the swim.

“This is out 10th year of hosting our Open Water Festival on Ft. Myers Beach. During that time, we have hosted six USA Swimming Open Water National Championships, a USA Swimming 10K World Trial, as well as the Canadian 10K World Trials and two Canadian National Championships. This is our second USMS National Championship, as we played host to the 2007 5K event,” says Cross.

“We take great pride of the fact that we believe we host one of the safest open water events offered anywhere. This is thanks in great part to the help we receive from Lee County parks and recreation, and the Lee County Sports Authority,” he adds.

“For this year’s event we have unprecedented cooperation of multiple agencies with regards to safety. EMS, and water rescue units throughout the area will be coordinated through the Lee County Emergency operations center, which is handling the safety aspect of our event.”

Dick Brewer shares, “USMS swimmers will have some world class ‘rabbits’ in the water to chase. Swimming Canada is bringing 20 of its Olympic caliber athletes who will be vying for spots on the Canadian open water world championship team. Although a separate event, the Canadian swimmers will have a 7-minute head start on the Masters and will be on the same course.”

“Both events are part of the annual Open Water Festival held on Fort Myers Beach. In addition to the USMS championship race and the Canadian world team trials in the morning, Saturday will include an afternoon open water clinic for USA Swimming's young, future open water stars. In the evening, Masters and USA Swimmers will compete in the Crippen Mile open water swim, a one-mile straight swim paralleling the beach. The Crippen Mile is a charity swim with all proceeds going to the Fran Crippen Elevation Foundation to promote safe open water swimming,” Brewer adds.

Gulf Coast Swim Team is the host for the event, and information can be found at gcst.org. Information for all of this year’s events, and results from previous years, are posted at openwaterfestival.org.

And if all that wasn’t enough fun, just a short week later, you can find yourself in Noblesville, Ind. for the 25K Open Water National Championship. This event will be held June 18, hosted by Noblesville Adult Swim Team and Friends of Central Pool, and entries close May 21.

We caught up with Event Director Dick Sidner, who shared the following: “We have an unprecedented field of 69 solo swimmers from 22 states, Canada and Puerto Rico vying for OWNC titles. The solo field is filled due to the strain on our resources for kayaks and volunteer paddlers and to prevent crowding on the reservoir. Along with the solo swimmers, there are 35 single or mixed gender relays and we are still accepting relay entries until May 21. The course is a 5K counterclockwise loop in the idle zone between North and South Harbour on Morse Reservoir. Five laps are required of solo swimmers and one lap per person for the relays. Relays are not sequential—all relay swimmers swim at the same time and their times added to determine placement. Many relay swimmers plan to spend the day at the lake to serve as relief paddlers for solo swimmers.

On Sunday, June 12, six days before the race, a USMS open water clinic with 10 incredibly experienced open water swimmer/instructors/coaches will be held. More information is available at grinswim.org/swimclinic/. And for more information on the 25K race and relays, go to grinswim.org/2011USMS25K.

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