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by Sharon Robb

November 24, 2005

Training with those half her age

Anne LaBorwit, a top masters swimmer with Fort Lauderdale Aquatics, is training with swimmers half her age and loving every minute of it.

At 55, the photographer and web-page designer from Boca Raton hasn't even scratched the surface, according to Masters coach Marty Hendrick.

LaBorwit surprised even herself with her recent performance at the Masters Swimming Long Course National Championships in Mission Viejo, Calif. She brought home five gold medals and one silver, the most she has won at a major meet.

"I was excited," LaBorwit said. "Gosh, I couldn't believe I did that."

LaBorwit won the 50- and 100-meter freestyles, 50-, 100-, and 200-meter backstrokes and finished second in the 200-meter freestyle.

"In her wildest dreams she never expected to do that," Hendrick said. "My only fear was that she wouldn't step back and realize what a great accomplishment it was."

Between races she was on the cell phone with Hendrick, in Fort Lauderdale coaching the rest of the team. Hendrick gave her "a plan" for her races before she left, but his calm demeanor helped to get her through one of the nation's largest and most nerve-racking meets.

Hendrick, a former U.S. Masters All-American and YMCA national champion, has coached Masters swimmers for 12 years around the state but had never met anyone quite like LaBorwit since the two started working together in March.

"She is very competitive and goal-driven, she wants to do well, but she also enjoys the camaraderie of Masters swimming," Hendrick said. "She hasn't even come close to her prime. There is a lot more she still can do."

The 1972 University of Miami graduate is among a growing number of athletes over 50 who are discovering competitive athletics for the first time or returning to competition after a long break.

Baby boomers have resulted in a 33 percent increase at health clubs, according to recent studies.

LaBorwit learned how to swim at two. She competed in her first meet at four and swam competitively until she was 13.

She stopped swimming when her family moved to Washington, D.C. She didn't swim in high school or college because her schools had no teams.

She resumed swimming competitively at 37 at Mission Bay but three years later had to stop to undergo four shoulder surgeries. At 49, she got back into the pool.

"It was only going to be for fitness, but sure enough I got the competitive bug back and started swimming meets," she said.

"I got smarter with my body. I just want to maintain the level of fitness that I had. What's 55? It used to be old but not anymore. I'd like to be able to swim until I'm 100."

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