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by Daniel Paulling

August 1, 2018

Laura Val wasn’t perfect at the 2018 UANA Pan American Masters Championships Presented by SeaWorld and Hosted by the Rosen YMCA Aquatic Center, but the Tamalpais Aquatic Masters member was close to accomplishing that feat.

She set U.S. Masters Swimming 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 six-tenths of a second 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.

While some swimmers enjoying aging up into 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 a 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 36 countries and had nearly half of its 1,718 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 Pan Ams.

The Puget Sound Masters swimmer competed in the 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 minutes, 37.71 seconds.

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.

“I entered my time as one one-hundredth faster than the world record,” Kirkland says. “I purposely did that. Although I hadn’t achieved that before, I felt like I could do it. 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 Master’s 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.’”

Records Broken at Pan Ams

Saturday, July 28
Dan Kirkland, Puget Sound Masters — men’s 70-74 800 freestyle (10:37.71, world and USMS)

Sunday, July 29
Eric Christensen, Blue Dolfins Masters — men’s 40-44 400 IM (4:47.82, USMS)
Laura Val, Tamalpais Aquatics Masters — women’s 65-69 50 freestyle (29.17, world and USMS)
James Elder, The Olympic Club — men’s 75-79 50 freestyle (29.87, world and USMS)

Monday, July 30
Emi Moronuki, Phoenix Swim Club — women’s 25-29 200 backstroke (2:13.19, world and USMS)
Takeharu Fujimori, Phoenix Swim Club — men’s 18-24 200 backstroke (2:03.82, USMS)
Richard Burns, Tamalpais Aquatic Masters — men’s 75-79 200 backstroke (2:50.25, world and USMS)
Willard Lamb, Oregon Masters — men’s 95-99 200 backstroke (4:34.73, world and USMS)
Fred Ferroggiaro, The Olympic Club — men's 65-69 200 backstroke (2:39.44, world)
Laura Val, Tamalpais Aquatic Masters — women’s 65-69 100 freestyle (1:04.89, world and USMS)

Tuesday, July 31
Emi Moronuki, Phoenix Swim Club — women’s 25-29 100 backstroke (1:01.60, world and USMS)
Noriko Inada, Phoenix Swim Club — women’s 40-44 100 backstroke (1:04.70, world and USMS)
Laura Val, Tamalpais Aquatic Masters — women’s 65-69 100 backstroke (1:14.49, world and USMS)
Richard Burns, Tamalpais Aquatic Masters — men’s 75-79 100 backstroke (1:17.17, world and USMS)
Traci Granger, Los Angeles Peninsula Swimmers — women’s 60-64 50 butterfly (31.27, world and USMS)
Richard Burns, Tamalpais Aquatic Masters — men’s 75-79 50 butterfly (32.17, world and USMS)
Fred Schlicher, New England Masters — men’s 70-74 200 freestyle (2:23.30, world and USMS) 

Wednesday, Aug. 1
Tamalpais Aquatic Masters — women's 280 200 freestyle relay (2:24.42, world and USMS)
Tamalpais Aquatic Masters — women's 280 200 medley relay (2:48.41, USMS)
Phoenix Swim Club — men's 120 200 medley relay (USMS)
San Diego Swim Masters — men's 320 200 medley relay (USMS)

Thursday, Aug. 2
Steve West, Novaquatics Masters — men's 45-49 200 breaststroke (2:20.45, world and USMS)
Kohei Kawamoto, Phoenix Swim Club — men's 35-39 100 butterfly (53.65, world and USMS)
Emi Moronuki, Phoenix Swim Club — women's 25-29 50 backstroke (28.39, world and USMS)
Noriko Inada, Phoenix Swim Club — women's 40-44 50 backstroke (29.62, world and USMS)
Holly Green Blair, Palm Beach Masters — women's 55-59 50 backstroke (31.99, world and USMS)
Laura Val, Tamalpais Aquatic Masters — women's 65-69 50 backstroke (33.59, world and USMS)
Andre Steynberg, Swim Fort Lauderdale — men's 60-64 50 backstroke (30.63, world and USMS)
Richard Burns, Tamalpais Aquatic Masters — men's 75-79 50 backstroke (34.45, world and USMS)
Yoshi Oyakawa, OHIO Masters — men's 85-89 50 backstroke (40.50, USMS)

Friday, Aug. 3
Dana Brown, Palmetto Masters — women's 70-74 50 breaststroke (43.19, USMS)
Steve West, Novaquatics Masters — men's 45-49 50 breaststroke (29.61, USMS)
Fred Schlicher, New England Masters — men's 70-74 200 butterfly (2:53.43, world and USMS)

Saturday, Aug. 4
Charlotte Davis, Puget Sound Masters — women's 65-69 100 breaststroke (1:33.32, USMS)
Carolyn Boak, Woodlands Masters — women's 70-74 400 freestyle (6:06.16, USMS)
Dan Kirkland, Puget Sound Masters — men's 70-74 400 freestyle (5:03.56, world and USMS)

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