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by Ann Lyttle

May 25, 2008

She will never "not swim"

Ann Lyttle was born in Oak Ridge, Tenn., which was called “The Atomic City” throughout her childhood due to its role in the Manhattan project during WWII. When the first “AAU” swim team formed in the 1950s they took the name of Atomic City Aquatic Club and proudly wore the ACAC patch on black, baggy tank suits. Years later, they branched out to red and blue suits, but always baggy. Ann joined the team as soon as it was formed, with the only requirement being to swim to the “raft” and back. The swimming pool in Oak Ridge was one of the largest in the country, with one course of 100 meters; another of 50 meters and the permanently-anchored “raft” made the 25 meter course. This was a challenge for the eight and under events and for relays when the timers and judges had to use rowboats to get from the side of the pool to the “raft.” Ann learned to swim through Red Cross Swimming lessons, and swam in her first meet when she was eight years old.

A by-product of this planned community was having a community of young scientists and engineers who all had young families, and consequently, the swim team was one of the largest in the Southeast. Ann thought every team could field relays from “A – D.” What a surprise she had when she encountered Northern Virginia Swim Team Association after having children, where there was only one relay allowed per age-group.

"The most memorable thing about ACAC for me was tons of fun and friends," Ann said. "The swimming was just incidental—I never really focused on the workouts—just the upcoming meets, riding in the bus, and playing the ukulele all the way. I actually had no idea that I had to swim through pain to get better. I just did what the coach told me, though it was quite easy to touch the bottom of the pool on the 100-meter course where we could cheat in breaststroke.”

She had a terrific coach for many years, Bill Lewis, who managed to instill the desire to work hard but have fun. "I had no idea that he was “training” us, Ann reflected. "I just swam."

Unfortunately for the team, the city did not have an indoor pool, nor did the high school incorporate swimming in the athletic program. Doubly unfortunate for the girls, there were no girls’ athletic programs—pre Title IX years of course, for someone her age. So Ann went about 15 years without competing again, as happened to many in her age group. Thank heavens for USMS!

Ann got involved in Masters swimming in Reston, Va., around 1975, after reading an article in the newspaper explaining the program and asking for joiners. "We had a rather famous coach, said Ann. And some pretty famous 'former child swimmers.' However, we had very little pool time."

Ann is now a member of DC Masters in the Potomac Valley LMSC. Her proudest accomplishments were learning to tackle the 200-yard free, 400-meter and 500-yard freestyle. Well-known John Flanagan, of Masters Morning Swim has helped her tremendously for the past 20 years. He is the reason she had the fastest time in the women 45-49 400 LCM freestyle in l993, and achieved All-American status that year in the women 45-49 age group. In 1994, she was named as a Long Distance All-American in the women 45-49 age group as a result of placing first in the women 45-49 One Hour Postal National Championship. She has also won the 1999 two-mile Cable National Championship in the women 50-54 age-group and was named Long Distance All-American for women 50-54 in 1999. She helped win five short course yard All-American 55+ relays with teammates Andrea Haines, Nancy Kirkendall, Ann Svenson, Willis Braswell and Paul Gruenenberger.

Though Ann has not competed recently, she still intends to. She will never “not swim.”

“Masters swimming has been very important in every decade of my life and I expect that it will become increasingly more important in the future years.”