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by Rob Butcher

December 31, 2009

Thoughts on the 2009 USMS Short Course National Championships

What a facility! It's hard to imagine a high school with two 50-meter pools, but that's what you'll find at Clovis High School North and where the 2009 U.S. Masters Swimming Short Course Nationals were hosted. If you missed it, we highly encourage you to put the summer Long Course Nationals in Indianapolis or the next spring Short Course Nationals in Atlanta on your calendar. Both facilities are world-renowned for fast swimming. Indianapolis has hosted five U.S. Olympic trials. Atlanta hosted the 1996 Olympics. If you've never been to a Nationals, don't feel intimidated. First-timers are encouraged and absolutely welcome. There is plenty of help to give you a great experience.

So, in honor of the 16 lanes of competition, here is my 16-lane "best of" on the Tuesday morning after Nationals:

Lane 1 - Meet Host

Unless you've hosted or volunteered at a Nationals, it's hard to truly understand the effort that goes into this type of event. The U.S. Masters Swimming Short Course Nationals is the largest attended swim meet in the country. It's bigger than any age-group meet in terms of attendance. A total of 1,582 swimmers were entered. It lasted four days and also included the 1 Mile Open Water National Championship on Monday morning. Planning started more than two years ago with Dr. Dowain Wright of the Clovis Swim Team serving as meet coordinator. Dr. Dowain (who is also a full-time physician and swam in the 1-Mile Open Water Championship), working with the Championships Committee and USMS staff, pulled together nearly 250 volunteers to run a super smooth event. The timeline was accurate. Most days finished by 4 p.m. Perfect! It gave participants a chance to rest for the next day, socialize with friends and sightsee Yosemite National Park.

Lane 2 - Floswimming

You guys were terrific. You are swimming passionate. You were everywhere. You broadcast every event and the heats on You were at the Monday morning 1-Mile Open Water National Championship, getting video. You captured and edited human interest stories well into each night. You had some of us laughing and crying, both at the same time. Please check out their coverage!  Click here to view all of the 2009 U.S. Masters Swimming Short Course National Championship Floswimming coverage.

Lane 3 - The Open Water Championship 

This was an experiment and I love the idea of combining our 1-Mile Open Water National Championship with the pool Nationals weekend. A total of 214 Masters swimmers signed up for the Monday morning championship in Millerton Lake. The weather was gorgeous. The water temperature was 72-degrees. The announcer was enthusiastic. The lead men swimmers finished in 17 minutes and lead women in just under 18 minutes. My suggestion to both the Championship and Open Water/Long Distance Committees is that in the future we have an open water championship on the same weekend; we start the pool championship on Wednesday and finish on Saturday. This would give those who want to fly home a Sunday travel day without missing work. It would also give those who want to swim in the Open Water National Championship an opportunity to do so while still being able to make a flight home.  Click here to view coverage of the 1-Mile Open Water Championship.

Lane 4 - Relays

Competitive: You bet. Fun: Absolutely. I saw more smiles and high fives from people on relays then I did even when they swam individual best times. At the Long Course Nationals this summer, Saturday is set up as relay day. They will contest all the Olympic distances, including for the first time ever the 800-meter freestyle relay.

Lane 5 - Records 

More than 130 U.S. Masters Swimming national records were broken during the weekend. If you thought only Olympians were the ones breaking records, well think again. Case in point: Rich Burns of Tamalpais Aquatic Club (TAM). Rich was not an Olympian, but swam like one. He competed in the 65-69 age group. He swam six events and broke six national records.

Lane 6 - Announcers

Dave, Rob, Rowdy and Garrett. You guys add so much to the championship. You highlight close races with enthusiasm. You let the crowd know when someone is on record pace. You break down things you see. You roam the facility, bringing us updates. And you keep the energy going.

Lane 7 - Newbies

To all you first-timers at Nationals, welcome and come back again. We love cheering for you. We love seeing the smiles on your faces.

Lane 8 - Sponsors 

We can't create this level of enthusiasm without you. You help us with goody bags, product samples, outfitting our meet officials and volunteers and hospitality set-up. We know many of you appreciated the new deck-side signage and feather signs. We'll be offering more opportunity for you to get involved with both our pool championships and open water championships.

Lane 9 - Forums

I heard one story after another about how many of you met on the forums. You developed friendships. You exchanged information. You became roommates at championship and other events. You encouraged each other. You blogged about the happenings, sometimes right from the pool itself. USMS has nearly 10,000 registered forum users. If you haven't signed up for an account, be sure to do so and get connected.

Lane 10 - Coaches

You are unsung heroes. Your preparation starts months and sometimes years in advance. You get your Masters swimmers excited about Nationals. You help them pick events. You get them physically and mentally ready. You devise race strategies. You pick them up and calm them down. You take splits. You give feedback. You set up relays. And for those attending without a coach, you serve as on-deck surrogate coaches. We all stand and applaud Masters coaches everywhere.

Lane 11 - Ransom Arthur Award

Dr. Ransom Arthur is credited with having developed Masters swimming. In his honor, U.S. Masters Swimming annually presents the Ransom Arthur Award to a person who has done the most to advance the mission of USMS. On Saturday, Julie Heather of Southern Pacific LMSC was presented the 2009 Ransom Arthur Award. Congratulations Julie!

Lane 12 - Dr. G.

Welcome to Masters swimming, Dr. Genadijus Sokolovas. Dr. G. was most recently with USA Swimming as a director for the National Team. He worked with the U.S. Olympic Team, using scientific velocity testing and lactate testing to improve performance. He brought his underwater videotape velocity testing and lactate testing to USMS Nationals, and Masters swimmers flocked to sign up. Dr. G. stayed busy all weekend videotaping and then breaking down the video with swimmers, showing velocity points where their stroke was slowing and areas for improvement.

Lane 13 - The Social

Socials are a part of every Nationals. They offer a great time to meet other swimmers, tell stories, make new friendships and, of course, eat food. Nearly 500 swimmers showed up for the Saturday night social. Indianapolis is planning its social at the local Indianapolis Indians minor league baseball park, which will include a fireworks show.

Lane 14 - Walnut Creek Masters Swim Team

Congratulations to Head Coach Kerry O'Brien and the Walnut Creek Masters Swim Team. You brought more than 80 swimmers and took the overall club title. In the regional category, congratulations to Colorado Masters, who took the regional title.

Lane 15 - On-Deck Massages

Need we really say more!

Lane 16 - Youth and Experience

You're never too young or too old for Nationals. The youngest competitor we tracked was 18-year-old Madeline Banashak. The oldest was 91-year-old Brud Cleveland. Then there was Rita Simonton, who at 90 years old set national age group records in the 1000-yard freestyle and 200-yard freestyle. Way to go Rita!

There you have it, our 16-lane "best of" from Clovis. Mark your calendars, only 86 days till we see each other again for the Long Course Nationals in Indianapolis!



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