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by Daniel Paulling

May 13, 2018

Swimmers throughout the meet spent Mother’s Day with their mothers

Marti Erickson and Ashley Whitney enjoyed their Sunday morning routine at the 2018 Nationwide U.S. Masters Swimming Spring National Championship more than theirs when Whitney competed at the IU Natatorium 22 years earlier.

In 1996, Erickson went to an IHOP at 4:30 a.m. to get her daughter breakfast to make sure she was properly fueled in advance of competing at the U.S. Olympic team trials. This time, they slept in, went to Starbucks, and then went to the pool.

“It just brings back so many memories I can share with mom,” says Whitney, who made the U.S. Olympic team in 1996 and won a gold medal as part of its 4x200-meter freestyle relay.

Whitney credits her mother’s Masters Swimming career for getting her into swimming. When Whitney was younger, Diane Allison, a friend of Erickson’s, asked Erickson about having her daughter compete for her summer league team that was in need of more 6-and-under swimmers.

Whitney, who swam the 50 butterfly Sunday and collected four top three finishes at the meet, now coaches the Nashville Aquatic Club Masters, which her mother swims for.

“Really frustrating—she does not follow the rules, does not listen to me ever,” Whitney says, joking. She then adds, “She is so strong. [She’s] finished more events than I’ve finished. I’ve DNF’d some open water swims, and [she was] tough and gritted it out and finished them.”

Erickson, who swam the 500 and 1000 at the meet and spent the rest of her Mother’s Day driving home with Whitney, credits her daughter for keeping her as active as she is in the sport.

“Thanks for her for bringing me along and keeping me going,” Erickson says. “I don’t know if I’d still do it as much. I probably wouldn’t do it as much if it weren’t for her. We started making [going to nationals] a tradition. We went to long course nationals two summers ago in [Gresham, Ore.,] and a couple other meets. It’s kind of a good excuse to go on a girls trip.”

Family of Badgers

Swimming for Wisconsin is a Meinholz family tradition. Dan and Amy Meinholz both swam for the Badgers, something their daughters, Elle and Anna, did as well.

“Pretty much when I was old enough to understand going to college, it was like, ‘Mom and dad went to Wisconsin, I’m going to Wisconsin, and I’m going to swim, too,’” Elle says. “The only place I applied to. I was pretty determined to go there.”

It makes sense that the Meinholz family would do Masters Swimming together, too. Amy, Elle, and Anna competed at Spring Nationals for Wisconsin Masters Aquatic Club. It was Amy and Elle’s second Masters Swimming national championship, Anna’s first.

They wanted to swim in honor of Fred Russell, a recipient of the Kerry O’Brien Coaching Award in 2016 who was diagnosed with cancer last summer. Wisconsin Masters brought a group of nearly 150 swimmers, which is about 30 percent of the USMS-registered members in the LMSC.

“We’re all kind of doing it for Fred,” Anna says. “We just kind of got a group together and said let’s bring in some points for Wisconsin, win the team division, and it’ll be great.”

Wisconsin Masters won the regional club competition by 180 points over Michigan Masters. The Meinholz spent their Mother’s Day at the meet and then driving home.

The Swim Mom

Becky Connolly spent years supporting her daughter, Molly Connolly, throughout her youth swimming career. She helped set up meets for Molly’s club and high school teams.

Becky continues to help today, just with Molly’s Masters Swimming career.

“I prayed that she would stay healthy, so she could enjoy this,” Becky says. “This is our mother-daughter weekend. I wanted to make sure she had her ice packs, her heat packs. It’s just how I could help her. Probably too much for someone who’s 35.”

Molly, who finished in the top 10 in all four of her events, loved having her mother around. She hopes her mother will compete with her at some point after her exposure to Masters Swimming.

The two may consider going to next year’s Spring Nationals in Mesa, Ariz. But their plans for celebrating Mother’s Day were more concrete: dinner at St. Elmo Steak House and wine.


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