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by Anne Wilder

May 23, 2001

How did I become a Master swimmer? I thought you would never ask!

How did I become a Master swimmer? I thought you would never ask!

Before I retired as a Miami Herald reporter I interviewed a guy named Pete Jurczyk out at Indian River Community College. Jurczyk had just returned from a Masters swim meet in Canada with a bunch of gold medals. It was the first time I had heard of Master swimming.

The next time I heard about it was in India, in the Vale of Kashmir, to be precise. We were trekking in an altitude that gave most of us difficulty, but one young woman, Lynn, was moving up the trail ahead of everyone.

(Trekking,for the uninitiated, means that a bearer or a donkey or horse or camel carries your luggage on the trail.)

Lynn's husband said she was a swim coach at a community college outside Detroit and held several world records as a Master swimmer.

Wow, I thought. Maybe Master swimming would give me more endurance on these climbs. So when I got back to Fort Pierce I called Pete Jurczyk and found that he wanted to organize a Master swim program at the college. I was his first recruit.

I'd swum all my life. At Monroe High in Rochester, N.Y., I earned my high school M on the diving team. (for some reason high school women did not race.)

I had done scuba after I moved to Florida, but I had never really taken swimming seriously. However Pete had high hopes for me and began to help me with my strokes, and then persuaded me to enter a meet over at St. Pete.

So I entered and with my enthusiastic free style (which had lots of enthusiasm and little style) I managed to get across the pool. Pete rounded up some of his buddies who greeted me at the finish with applause.

But the crowning touch was when team member Scott McMillan dropped two beautiful medals in my hand. I had won them, he said.

While the medals did not indicate the place I knew they were for fifth or sixth places. It was the only non-national meet I ever attended which had medals below the third place. But I never forgot them. I came back and jingled them before my fellow reporters and friends who had thought it was hilarious that I had entered a swim meet. They were impressed.

So I became an enthusiastic Master swimmer; I hit the Florida meets, the national long courses (I don't like turns much) and the international meets (watch out Casa Blanca.)

Competitors do not tremble when they see me approach the blocks, and if any trembling is done it is mine.

But it is great. I like the five-morning-a-week training sessions at IRCC with our wonderful Coach Tom Harmon. I like to better my strokes (plenty of opportunity here) and I just plain like to swim with a goal of improvement.

I remember when I first jumped into the Masters. I have not dried out yet.

Anne Wilder lives in Fort Pierce, Fla., and swims for IRCC Masters Swim Team.