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by Author Unknown

July 19, 2000

Combined Masters with medical school


Mary Pohlmann started her Masters swimming career while she was completing medical school in Springfield, Illinois, in 1983. She credits Mel Smith of the Springfield Prairie Sharks for inviting her to swim with their Masters group. "Mel just came up to me while I was lap swimming at the Springfield YMCA and said, 'Hey, you swim pretty good; why don't you join our Masters team.' I told him that I was rather busy with medical school, but he just said, 'What could you be doing at 5 o'clock in the morning?' I admitted that I would probably just be sleeping, so how could I resist trying it?", says Mary. She competed that year in both swimming and diving at the 1983 YMCA Masters Nationals held in Chicago, Illinois, her first of many Masters championships. Between 1983 and 1998 she has competed in four YMCA Nationals, 12 USMS Short Course Nationals, 10 USMS Long Course Nationals, 2 FINA World Masters Aquatic Championships and one Pan Pacific Masters Championship. She has won 30 Masters gold medals at the national or international level.

Mary comes from a swimming family with her father, Chuck Michaels, being her coach most of her childhood. As a result of her father's various duty assignments in the Army, she had the opportunity to swim for many excellent teams including the Walter Reed Swim Club in Washington, D.C.; the San Leandro Beavers, in San Leandro, California; the Fort Lewis Swim Club in Ft. Lewis, Washington; the St Ingbert Schwimmverein, in Germany; the Ft. Sam Houston Aquatic Team, in San Antonio, Texas; and the Jewish Community Center in Washington, D.C. Neither her high school, nor her college had swimming teams for women, but Mary competed in AAU age group swimming, diving and synchronized swimming meets from about age 5 until she was 18. Her final pre-Masters competition was the Senior National Synchronized Swim Championships held in Silver Springs, Maryland in 1963.

Mary is a Family Practice physician at the Southern Illinois University Student Health Service in Carbondale, Illinois. She is married to John Pohlmann who is Chair of the Educational Psychology and Special Education Department at Southern Illinois University. John swam on his high school swimming team in St Louis, Missouri. Mary fittingly met John at a swimming pool in San Antonio, Texas, while he was in the Army. They have been married since 1963. They are proud grandparents of Kasey and Amanda Laurent and parents of Joan Pohlmann and Theresa Laurent, all of whom reside in St. Louis, Missouri. Both of Mary's daughters have been involved in AAU, YMCA, high school and Masters competitive swimming and Mary is already taking 3 year old Kasey swimming whenever they visit.

Mary is the co-founder and treasurer of the Saluki Masters Swim Club, a subgroup of Illinois Masters. She is also treasurer of Illinois Masters and past vice-president of the Central Masters LMSC. She swims at the Southern Illinois University Recreation Center at least six days a week, (typically 2500-3500 yards) each morning before going to work and on Saturday mornings. Weight training has also become a regular part of her routine. She likes to ride her mountain bike and alpine ski with her husband and occasionally sails and rollerblades.

Mary's most memorable Masters Nationals were the 1985 USMS Short Course Nationals in Brown Deer, Wisconsin and the 1998 USMS Short Course Nationals in Indianapolis. The Nationals in Brown Deer was her first USMS Nationals and her team, Lincoln Masters, won the National Team Championship. At the recent Nationals in Indianapolis, Mary helped to organize the Illinois Masters relays and her team again won the National Championship. She is most proud of her achievement at the 1989 Pan Pacific Aquatic Games in which she competed in swimming, diving and synchronized swimming. She won the 200 meter backstroke (40-44 age group) and the platform diving (40-49 age group) and her duet took 3rd in synchronized swimming. Since 1986 Mary has achieved USMS All-American status 10 times. She continues to find the final year in an age-group to be the most difficult to achieve this honor, but she keeps trying.

Mary says she enjoys Masters swimming because through it she has met lots of wonderful people and made many friends. She finds her biggest challenge in Masters swimming is to balance her involvement with swimming with less competitive leisure pursuits, time with family and her profession. Her current swimming goal is to keep physically fit to overcome obstacles and prevent injuries. Her first thought after a fall while skiing in February of 1995 was that she had seriously injured her right shoulder and that would prevent her from swimming. She had just aged up to the 50-54 age-group and was highly motivating in rehabilitating her subluxed shoulder. Just three months later she won both the 100 and 200 yard backstroke at USMS Nationals in Ft Lauderdale. Her mother and father from Arlington, Virginia, were there cheering for her.