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by Scott Rabalais

July 19, 2000

Fell in love with Masters training

Ardeth Mueller (USA) was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame as an Honor Masters Swimmer in 1996. The following text was included in the program for the induction ceremony of that year:

For the Record: Masters swimmer since 1976; 46 world records: 40, 45, 50 year age groups; seven world championships: 1985, 1991; 64 national championships; 86 national records.

Since its beginning in the early 1920s, the Masters swimming program has grown worldwide and includes thousands of individuals. They are former competitive swimmers or current fitness swimmers who participate in the program for various reasons: fitness, recreation, camaraderie, self esteem, cleanliness, or just plain fun. But the premise upon which everyone participates is competition—competition against your competitor and against yourself.

This is the premise upon which Ardeth Mueller has participated. There is no better friend of Masters swimming, no better promoter of Masters swimming, and no better achiever in Masters swimming over a 16 year period than Ardeth.

At the age of five, she began swimming with a summer AAU team in St. Louis, competing through her high school years. Because her colleges, Baylor University and University of Missouri, did not have women's swimming teams, Ardeth swam recreationally until her daughters joined a team, pulling their mom with them to swim on the adult team.

She was embarrassed when the coach told her she could move to a faster lane the next day as she found out that the faster lane was full of ten and under swimmers. However, her daughters liked the fact that their mom was getting in shape.

And get in shape she did. From her 1976 beginning, she has set 46 age group world records in the 40, 45, and 50 age group categories. She competed in the Masters World Championships of 1985 in Toronto and 1991 in Indianapolis, winning seven gold medals in the freestyle, butterfly and individual medley events. She has set over 86 national records and won over 90 national championships. Throughout the last fifteen years, Ardeth has consistently become the oldest woman to break a number of milestone times in different events. She was the first woman to break a minute in the 100-yard freestyle in the 50-54 age group, as well as posting a 2:30 for the 200-yard butterfly, and a 1:10 for the 100 freestyle. In the 45-49 age group, she was the first to go under six minutes for the 400-meter individual medley. Ardeth consistently dominates her age group in most of the freestyle, butterfly and individual medley events, particularly in the longer distances. Her dominance is demonstrated by the length of time she has held world and national records in these events. Although many of these records remain, the others have taken at least seven years for her competitors to break.

from Swim Magazine:

On May 11, 1996 Ardeth Muller of Kirkwood, Mo, was inducted as a Masters athlete into the International Swimming Hall of Fame. She, along with Ray Taft , joins Clara Walker and Gus Langer, who, in 1995, were the first Masters athletes selected for the Hall of Fame.

Many great athletes are proclaimed legends well after their peak performance days or even years after they have passed on. But Ardeth Mueller is one such swimmer who could easily be called a "legend in her own time."

As a swimmer for St. Louis Masters since 1976, Mueller has dominated her age group in the freestyle, butterfly and medley events. In four age groups and in three courses, she has set over 80 world and 100 USMS records. Her most impressive achievement might be the 27 records she currently holds in the 50-54 age group, including all the long course freestyle records from the 50 to the 1500 and the butterfly records from the 50 to the 200.

Perhaps one reason for Mueller's astounding success in Masters is that she never burned out as a youngster. Although she participated only in summer swimming through high school, she managed to qualify for the 1956 Olympic Trials in the 100-meter butterfly. She did not make the U.S. Olympic Team, but she did lay a solid foundation for her future Masters career.

That career began some 20 years later when the 1976 Masters Nationals arrived in St. Louis and her daughters, Jenny and Angela, were swimming at a local club. One of the club's coaches asked Mueller to swim in the Nationals, and she was soon back in the water. "I fell in love with training," she says. "I had never done any intervals, so I had to learn swimming all over again."

While Mueller's fast times have triggered rumors of a rigorous training schedule, she admits that she trains from three to six times per week and that she is not particularly rigid with her schedule. "I swim to relieve stress, and I try to swim consistently" she says.

On her induction to the Hall of Fame, Mueller says, "I'm thrilled and overwhelmed with the honor," she says. "It's wonderful that the Hall of Fame has decided to include Masters. I've really enjoyed the people I've met, and swimming has given me a world I wouldn't have had without it."

published in SWIM magazine, July-August 1996

Ardeth R. Mueller lives in Kirkwood, Mo., and swims for St. Louis Masters Swim Club.