The 2018 UANA Pan American Masters Championships presented by SeaWorld and hosted by Rosen YMCA Aquatic Center drew 1,717 swimmers representing 39 countries, with nearly 900 U.S. Masters Swimming members competing in Orlando, Fla.
The eight-day meet, which returned to the United States for the first time since 2013, saw USMS members break 35 USMS records and 26 FINA Masters world records. (Note: All records are subject to change pending verification.)
Tamalpais Aquatic Masters swimmer Laura Val set four USMS records and four FINA Masters world records to lead the women, and teammate Rich Burns did the same to lead the men. Phoenix Swim Club’s Emi Moronuki was the only other swimmer to nab more than two USMS records and two FINA Masters world records.
Val Nearly Perfect at Pan Ams
Laura Val wasn’t perfect at the 2018 UANA Pan American Masters Championships, but the Tamalpais Aquatic Masters member was close to accomplishing that feat.
She set USMS records and FINA Masters world records in four of the five individual events she entered, success that shouldn’t come as a surprise. Val holds nearly 100 USMS records and many FINA Masters world records.
“It never gets old hat,” says Val, who, at 66, is breaking many of the records she set since moving up to the 65-69 age group. “You always want to do better. If I can whittle away a couple of tenths, like I did in the 100 free, that’s great.”
She broke both USMS records and FINA Masters world records in the 50- and 100-meter freestyle events and the 50 and 100 backstroke events, but fell just .6 seconds short of doing the same in the 200 freestyle with a time of 2 minutes, 25.87 seconds. Val was just off her mark of 2:25.29 set two years ago.
Although some swimmers enjoy aging up to a new age group and being the youngest there, Val takes pleasure in moving up within her age group and racing the times she did the previous year. She didn’t think she’d break 1:15 in the 100 backstroke again after going that time last year, but she went 1:14.49 at Pan Ams. Val also went 1:04.89 in the 100 free, achieving her goal of breaking 1:05 again.
“Every year, I look at the records and go, ‘Oh, I wonder if I can do that,’” Val says. “It’s a real challenge to do it again the following year. It’s challenging myself.”
Val also enjoyed her first Pan Ams, which drew swimmers from 39 countries and had nearly half of its 1,717 swimmers from outside the United States.
“This is so much fun,” she says. “It’s got a real international flavor to it. A lot of my friends from South America, Central America that I only see at international meets are here. It’s really great.”
Grueling Stretch for Kirkland
Dan Kirkland didn’t enjoy a restful taper going into the 2018 UANA Pan American Masters Championships.
The Puget Sound Masters swimmer competed in the 2018 USMS 2-Mile Cable Open Water National Championship and the USMS Marathon-Distance Open Water National Championship in mid-July, earning a national title in each event, and he swam in an Oregon LMSC championship meet the weekend before Pan Ams.
Still, the 70-year-old opened Pan Ams on July 28 with a USMS record and FINA Masters world record in the 800-meter freestyle with a time of 10:37.71. He followed that three days later with a 2:24.22 in the 200 freestyle, besting the USMS record and FINA Masters world record, though he got beat by New England Masters’ Fred Schlicher, who now holds both records with a 2:23.30.
“Although I hadn’t [swum the world record time] before, I felt like I could do it,” Kirkland says. “I swam that time, just Fred swam faster than me. I can’t be disappointed.”
Kirkland finished Pan Ams on a high note, setting a USMS record and FINA Masters world record in the 400 freestyle with a time of 5:03.56. The previous records had been 5:12.05 and 5:11.68, respectively.
Kirkland had set 12 USMS records entering the meet (four of which he still holds), success he credits in part to Oregon Masters member David Radcliff, who told him about five years ago to focus on distance freestyle events because of his endurance.
Radcliff’s advice came about the time Kirkland was forced to retire from his job as a pilot because he had turned 65. With more time to train, he began swimming more often. Kirkland began experiencing success in meets and ePostal national championships.
“Until I came into the 65-69 age group, all I could think of, ‘Those guys out there are the elite swimmers,’” Kirkland says. “I was never an elite swimmer in my life until I got to age 65 and looked at the records and said, ‘I might be able to achieve that.’”