Reflections from Sally Dillon Apr 14, 2001
In my masters swimming "life" I have met many people who have started in the sport of swimming at ages over 25 and well beyond. Margery Meyer (age 78) comes quickly to mind. I first met her in 1988 at Buffalo LC Nationals and at the time, she was pretty novice. I think she had just been swimming for a short time at that point. Her daughter, Marguerite, was and still is a top swimmer. Margery has since broken numerous national and world records, all thru' hard work, good coaching and a wonderfully positive attitude. And, like most of us, she started out trying to break personal records: going farther and faster in practice, mastering a new stroke (or turn) and knocking off time in her races at meets. She represents a large group of masters swimmers who joined the sport late in life but enjoy it all the same; many of whom have been extremely successful.
I, on the other hand, have been a swimmer pretty much all my life. My license plate has been "salswmr" forever it seems. I was an age grouper from around 7 - 16. I didn't really "burn out" but mostly lost encouragement from family and suffered from some "hormonal brain damage" that affected my motivation. Altho' I quit age group swimming, I swam in high school and junior college. Back in the '60's it was "punch and cookies" for the leagues that were available to me. Winning was not emphasized! I took a break to get married and start a family but I stayed in the water as a swim instructor and lifeguard for a number of years. Heading back to college in the '70's I was able to compete and during my time on the college team I "discovered" masters swimming. That was the fall of '72 and I competed in my first masters nationals in May of '73. Since then I've had good years (great shape/made All American) to "not so" good years (not great shape/lucky to squeeze into my suit) but I have never considered quitting. Like many others have said, I plan to "outlive my competition"! The good times at meets, workouts, meetings, socials, breakfasts . . . just go on and on and I cherish the opportunity to have them. And I really enjoy contributing to masters swimming (like running meets and volunteering for committees). It's more than just a hobby for me.
I know of people who have blasted onto the "masters scene" and burned up the record books (and sometimes their families) for a few years and then disappeared . . . never to be seen on deck again. And I'm sorry they took it all so seriously that they couldn't stay with it. It's really our loss as well as theirs. Whether you're a "veteran" or a "rookie" to competitive swimming, there's a place for you to fit in. It's an objective sport where the clock doesn't judge you, it just measures your performance at a given time on a given day.
Enough cheerleading . . . I'll put my pompoms away and let you move on to the next of our stories.