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by Dennis Wilson

November 30, 2005

"Best decision I ever made"

Jeane Gruender does not have the typical USMS member history. Being born to a tennis family, competitive tennis was always in her blood, having played womens singles and mixed doubles years and years on the tournament circuit.

When her two girls, Robin and Gretchen, were youngsters, they did however swim laps regularly. One later became an age group swimmer and instructor, and both eventually swam Masters.

But one day at the YMCA, while swimming next to the Topeka Masters, Robin commented about the fun they all seemed to be having, "So Mom, why don't we just scoot under the lane rope and join them?" Her response was, "No Way! There is enough competition in my life already." (having become a 5K runner, cyclist and golfer). BUT—being a competitor, Jeane was somehow swept under the lane rope and participated in her first organized workout. This was soon followed by the Topeka Masters swim meet where she won her first medal, an acorn shaped medal, and was hooked at age 50.

"Looking back it was the best decision I ever made," she said. It set a pattern of untold number of meets from local, to regional, to zonal, to national and international (Germany and England).

One of her fondest memories was in Orlando at the National Senior Olympics meet, having gone with teammate qualifiers, Linda McHenry and Joe Neal. During the 200 back, she said, "Linda, my friend and coach, walked the deck on each lap, shouting commands. Feeling the burn, responding to her encouragement, the race concluded, the steps to the exit were climbed and a medal at fifth place was garnered. The photos of two very thrilled swimmers, hugging and screaming is worth every workout to achieve better technique, skills and speed."

A word about the friendships and camaraderie Jeane has had with the Topeka Masters cannot be overlooked. Since joining 27 years ago, there have been regular gatherings throughout the year, Christmas parties, outdoor cookouts and the annual February 14 Valentine party at Jeane's Canterbury Lane residence.