Encouraging More Adults to Swim
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USMS Oral History


Reflections from Keith Harries Aug 11, 2000

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Born and raised in the the UK in a small town called Cheltenham (with namesakes in Maryland and Pennsylvania and elsewhere) where swimming and water polo were embedded in the culture. Although there was no competitive high school swimming, every high school student learned to swim even though there was no pool in house. Interest was high and was cultivated via a town swim club. Legendary coach Fred Moss worked for the city and was also the club coach. He must have taught literally thousands of kids to swim, myself among them, and I'm still grateful to him and the system that permitted swimming to flourish.

I got my start there as an asthmatic; I found that the only sport I could do without wheezing was swimming. No college swimming of any consequence (college sports in the UK are treated like, well, sports). Got back into swimming in 1980 in my early 40s owing to kidney stone problems induced by getting dehydrated from running and playing racquetball in the Oklahoma summer heat in Stillwater, where I was on the faculty at Oklahoma State U. Set the national 10 mile as a goal for 1984, but decided that I would be happy just to finish. That swim, in California, from Huntington Beach pier to Seal Beach pier was usually current assisted, but not in '84, with the result that most swimmers dropped out with hypothermia (63 degree water). My paddler gave up after about a mile when his board got waterlogged and he had to be rescued. It was interesting seeing him waving the little orange distress flag for himself. Then my paddler was a person in an Avon rubber boat with an outboard (his swimmer had already quit) and when he departed, I inherited a paddler whose original swimmer had also quit. The third paddler took me the rest of the way, in a distinctly non-record time of over 8 hours. At that time I was affiliated with Oklahoma Masters.

Still swimming, now with Maryland Masters at the University of Maryland Baltimore County. Had the good fortune to win my age groups in the Chesapeake Bay swims in 1997 and 1999, in both cases under somewhat adverse conditions. I've come to the conclusion that I do best when conditions are rotten and people with good judgement quit early!

I also do a bit of backstroke in short course and this year (2000) also long course since the LC Nationals this year are sponsored by Maryland Masters.

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