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by Nan Bohl

March 24, 2006

A long history of swimming

I was born and raised in a very small town, Olathe, Kan. The town built a WPA pool back in the thirties. The pool was egg shaped. There were no square corners. It had a diving stand with a ten-foot diving board with low diving stands on each side of the high dive. The deep end was only 11 feet in depth!

I spent every summer at the pool. It opened at 1:00 p.m. and I would stay until 5:00 p.m. I played and swam with the boys because girls didn't participate in sports and I loved all sports. I was a better swimmer than many of the boys. By high school, girls went to the pool, but very few swam. They would sun bathe and the boys would tease.

There were a few swim meets in the summer, but they were not much. You just swam whatever you wanted. No one knew the proper strokes. It wasn't until college that I swam in some intramural meets and realized I had the ability to be a competitive swimmer.

Johnson County decided to give Red Cross lessons the year I graduated from high school. I was one of three picked to go to Aquatic School in Ardmore, Okla. I was known for my love of swimming and being a girl was not a problem for the Red Cross. Aquatic School was a two-week program and I learned how to do all the strokes correctly. This was the period of Esther Williams, so all young girls tried to swim like Esther! Aquatic school taught me a lot and I also found out that I loved to teach swimming.

The Kansas City Athletic Club was in downtown KC on the seventh floor of the Continental Hotel. They had the only swim team in the area that was well known. I joined the club, and a very good coach, Wayne Berry, taught me competitive swimming. Wayne's method is still good to this day. Butterfly stroke has evolved, starts have changed, but overall what I learned was successful for me.

Our club swam at meets around the KC area. At the time, Ponca City, Okla., had a well-known Phillips 66 team. Our team went down there and I won several events. I can't remember what I swam except the butterfly, which I lost by one-tenth of a second.

I was having fun in competition when I met Ford in the spring of 1949 on a ski trip to Aspen. I was with a group of college students from KU that all went to Aspen on spring break. Aspen was not a resort yet. It was an old mining town where they trained Army ski troops in World War II. We met in the spring of 1949 and were married on November 11, 1949.

After our marriage we moved to Crystal City, Mo. Ford was an engineer at Pittsburgh Plate Glass. There were no public pools in the area for me to teach swimming. Ford found a private pool that contained fresh spring water that was really cold and not filtered. He contacted the health department to get an okay for me to use this pool. I taught there for one summer.

After two years in Crystal City, Ford was recalled to serve in the Korean War. He was sent to school in Bayonne, N.J. With our one child, Cathy, we lived there for six months. Ford then received orders to serve on a repair ship and went overseas for a year. Cathy and I went to Olathe, Kan., and lived with my parents. After Ford returned to the states he was stationed in San Diego. We lived in National City, Calif., for about a year when he was released from service in 1953 at which time we moved to Olathe.

We added one new member to our family, our son, Ford. He was born in December and that summer I started teaching private swim lessons at the Olathe Public Pool. I did this for several summers and then we decided to build a pool in our back yard. We finished the pool in 1958 and there have been swim lessons in this pool ever since.

In 1957 we added our daughter, Amy. We now had three children and my teaching at home was really great. In 1966 our youngest and last child Andrew was born. As each child was old enough, they taught swimming and loved it. They earned summer money even through college. We also provided work for others for many years. As I write this letter we have two granddaughters teaching and they plan to teach next year. After the granddaughters quit teaching, we will be just short of 50 years in our pool!

In the early sixties the Olathe School System put in their first pool. I knew if we wanted a high school swim team we needed a summer program. We had been teaching in our pool for a few years, and we knew there were boys and girls who would like a competitive swim team. There were not as many sports for kids at the time, so it was a great start.

We organized an Olathe swim club and hired Dick Edington as swim coach. He was a junior high football coach. I started coaching the 10 and under age group and continued coaching for 12 years. Our swim team was very successful. Our son Ford started as a ninth grader and by the time he was in high school he began to start winning at the AAU level as well as the at the high school level. Our youngest son Andrew was born in 1966. So he went through the program from ages six thru 18. He was a top swimmer all those years.

In 1988 I was called by the Shaklee Corporation to swim at the World Corporate Games in Concord, Calif. I was a Shaklee Supervisor and my sponsor told them that I swam. Shaklee was putting together a huge team of the different sports and was also one of the sponsors for the games.

I had been involved in swimming all these years, but I had not competed since college! I have always been competitive at heart so I accepted the challenge. I had only six weeks to prepare for this meet. Having access to a 25-yard pool, I practiced on my own. I had coached for 12 years, gone to many meets and knew the competitive strokes, but putting all that into my own practices was a challenge. I had no one to help me. I tried to swim every day, not a lot of distance, but I worked on sprints because I knew that I wouldn't swim more than a 200. I didn't have the time to do anything else. It all worked out for me. I was able to win one fourth place, three third places and one second. The following year in 1989, I returned, swimming seven events and winning four first places and three second places.

After 1989 I didn't swim again until 1995. I was tied up with my family's estate. I had a problem at that time finding place to practice, since indoor time was difficult to find at the time that I could attend. I swam at a friend's 45-foot indoor pool. In October 1996 I joined the newly built Prairie Life Club. They started a Masters group there. One of the practice times was 12:00 noon so I was finally getting regular practices and good workouts and I began to improve. I started going to all the local Masters meets and doing very well. I was setting Missouri Valley records! My name was starting to show up in the Top Ten USMS records! This was exciting for me. So I started adding the weight machines to help me become stronger.

In December of 1997, Mike Calwell was contacted by the "Women In Sports Network" of Kansas City. They wanted USMS of KC to nominate an over-50 swimmer who exemplified life-long participation in sport, community service, and other qualities that served as a model for others. It was a total surprise when Mike called me.

This was a humbling experience. I had never dreamed I could have been noticed! Anna Lea Roof volunteered to pull up all the 50+ female KC area registered Masters swimmers. After all the research, they came up with my name! I was one of eight girls and women that were honored on February 4,1998 at the Crown Center Hotel.

By 1999 I decided to attend my first USMS national meet. It was the long course meet held at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. I was not yet aware of the top swimmers in my age group. I was 70 at the time and had never been to a big meet like this. I swam next to Gail Roper and Jean Troy in the freestyles. I didn't have the foggiest idea who they were! I do remember asking my husband before the meet if he thought I could swim a 50 free in a 39. My best time was 41:21. He said that would be about a 10% improvement, which is a lot for a 50. I swam the 50 in 38.82 and placed third. Gail Roper swam a 35:28 and set a world record! I was pleased with my times at the meet. I really improved all of them by a great deal. I ended up with four thirds, two seconds and one first and I got my first USMS National Champion patch!

Since then, I have been swimming in national meets as often as I am able to work it out. I swam in the Senior Nationals in Orlando in October of 1999; USMS Short Course Nationals, April, 2000; USMS Long Course Nationals in Federal Way, Washington in August 16-19, 2001; YMCA Short Course Nationals in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., in April 18-21, 2002; USMS Long Course Nationals, Cleveland, Ohio, August 15-18, 2002; Huntsman World Senior Games (short course meters), St. George, Utah, October 9-11 2002; YMCA Short Course Nationals, Fort Lauderdale, Fla., April 24-27 2003; National Senior Games, Hampton, Va., June 5-7, 2003; Huntsman Games, St. George, Utah, October 8-10, 2003; USMS Long Course Nationals, Savannah, Ga., August 13-15, 2004; USMS Short Course Nationals, Fort Lauderdale, Fla., May 20-22, 2005; and Huntsman Senior Games Short Course Meters, St George, Utah, October 5-7, 2005.

Going back to my times, which I didn't start keeping until 1995, I have improved up through 2004 and some in 2005. This is most gratifying to me.

1995 Short course meters:

50 free—42.70.
100 free—1:40.78 and a MOVY record
50 breast—58.13
100 breast—2:07.73

Huntsman Games 2005, short course meters:

50 free—41:15. I won nine events and broke seven records!
100 free—1:33.94.
50 breast—55.08,
100 breast—2:04.25

These are just some of my short course meter times. I have also improved in short course yards and long course meters, especially long course, except for my backstroke.

I have gone to as many local meets as possible, probably four or five a year. They have been USMS, Senior Games of Kansas and the Kansas Games. I have also been to meets in St. Louis, Tulsa, and Denver. Some of these were zone meets.

Ford is my greatest fan and supporter. It makes it more fun when we both enjoy my swimming. My husband has encouraged me every step of the way. We enjoy going to the meets and being around all the swimmers who are there for the same reason as I am, wanting to improve their times and having fun at the meets.

I haven't had too many disappointments in swimming. I always want to do my best every time I swim. The National Senior Games in Hampton, Va., in 2003 was one of my best short course yard meets. I had exceptional times and broke four records! They were my best times ever in 200 and 500 freestyles! I would not have moved up much nationally, but the times were never turned in to USMS. It would have been nice to have my swims recorded with USMS—50 free 36.19, 100 free 1:23.38, 200 free 3:06.71 500 free 8:08.27 (In April 2003 at YMCA Nationals I swam the 200 free in 3:11.96 and 500 free in 8:23.14.) I moved up to the 75-79 age group before I swam in another short course national meet.

I have been swimming at the Olathe YMCA since 2001. Ford designs pools for the YMCA. He has memberships in the Y, and I did not see a reason to pay two club memberships. I'm in practice three days a week and also do weights. In the summer I try to make four practices a week with the Johnson County Blazers Master Swimmers in a long course pool.

My plan for 2006 is to swim USMS Short Course Nationals in May 11-14 in Coral Springs, Fla., and to swim FINA World LCM Masters Championships at Stanford, August 4-17.

Swimming is not my only sport interest. I love snow skiing and have done that ever since Ford and I were married. All our children ski and so do our grandchildren. I also play tennis twice a week at the Racquet Club. My uncle had a tennis court across the street were I grew up and I have played tennis almost as long as I have swum.

Nanette Hyer Bohl lives in Olathe, Kan., and is a member of USMS Missouri Valley.