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by Alana Aubin and Laurie Hug

August 27, 2019

The Vermont lake hosted two USMS open water national championships in August

More than 100 Masters swimmers gathered at Lake Willoughby, Vt., on Aug. 16 and 17 for U.S. Masters Swimming’s Sprint-Distance Open Water National Championship and Long-Distance Open Water National Championship. The event was hosted by the Northeast Kingdom Open Water Swimming Association as part of its Swim the Kingdom Week and supported by the New England LMSC.

On Friday, Aug. 16, 93 swimmers took to the water for the Sprint-Distance National Championship, a 1-mile buoy course off the lake’s North Beach. The water was around 70 degrees and a southerly wind caused 1–2 foot waves. The race was run in three waves of 30-32 swimmers each.

In wave one, Kim Elsbach posted the fastest time (23:24) to earn the national title in the women’s 55-59 age group with nearly a minute lead over the women’s 60-64 champion, Karen Einsidler.

In the all-male second wave, Stuart Cromarty emerged from the lake first in 21:08 to take home the national title in the men’s 55-59 category with Rob Allen about 25 yards behind to earn the men’s 50-54 title.

In wave three, Ildiko Szekely had the overall fastest time of the day in 21:05 to win the women’s 40-44 age group, narrowly beating out Mackenzie Leake, who won the women’s 25-29 group. The top six in each age group took home a custom “woodal,” and national champions also garnered some Vermont maple syrup.

On Saturday, Aug. 17, 82 athletes completed a 5-mile Lake Willoughby crossing, swimming south to north for this year’s Long-Distance Open Water National Championship. Each swimmer was escorted by a personal kayaker. Eric Nillson, 32, took the overall win in 1:36:21, and Mackenzie Leake picked up her second national title of the weekend by winning the women’s event (and the 25-29 age group) in 1:45:57. Conditions were similar to the day before, with water 68–70 degrees and a tailwind from the south pushing swimmers along and creating waves up to a foot.

Swimmers finished on the sandy North Beach and were treated to a pig roast. Winners took home beef jerky and more custom woodals.


  • Open Water


  • National Championships
  • USMS Nationals