Ricardo Valdivia and Laurie Hug were the top finishers in the USMS Long Distance Open Water National Championship
Ricardo Valdivia and Laurie Hug entered Saturday’s U.S. Masters Swimming Long Distance Open Water National Championship hoping to earn wins.
They accomplished their lofty goals, with Valdivia swimming the top men’s time of 1 hour, 7 minutes, 56.3 seconds and Hug swimming the top women’s time of 1:23:2.0 in the 5K race held over the weekend in Fire Island, N.Y.
“I was pretty much ahead from the beginning,” says Valdivia, a 53-year-old who swims for Gulliver Swim Club. “When I got to the first buoy, there might have been a group of two or three, but I never saw anyone ahead of me after that.”
Valdivia, who won the Fire Island 5K race in 2015, beat Great Bay Masters Swimming, Inc.’s Guy Davis, who won the 55-59 age group with a time of 1:16:25.7, and Red Tide’s Kennard Wong, who won the 25-29 age group with a time of 1:19:50.6.
Valdivia knew he had the lead early on Saturday, but he didn’t know just how far ahead he was from the 86 other swimmers who took the water this past weekend.
“The challenge with open water is that the conditions are never the same, especially in the ocean, and that’s why I love it,” Valdivia says. “I try to practice in all kinds of conditions, so that I know I’m prepared to handle any situation in a race.”
Hug was well-prepared for her national championship-winning swim thanks to her swimming routine. The Colonials 1776 member says she hasn’t spent more than a day away from the water in over a year, consistently swimming at least 2 miles every day.
Hug, 53, edged out Asphalt Green Masters’s Erin Morrison, who won the 30-34 age group with a time of 1:23:49.0, and Excel Swimming’s Catherine Hartford, who came in second in the 30-34 age group with a time of 1:23:51.9.
“That was the toughest 5K I have ever done, truly worthy of being called a national championship,” Hug says. “Between the chilly water and rough surf, anyone who finished should feel like they accomplished something special. I thought it was a lot of fun. About the third lap through, my fingers and toes had gone numb, but overall, I really enjoyed it.”
Healy Claims First National Championship
Martin Healy is making the most of his second chance at swimming.
After taking a 40-year hiatus, the Connecticut Masters Swimming member began swimming again 12 years ago and earned his first national championship over the weekend, when he swam a 2:10:42.1 to earn the top time in the 70-74 age group.
“I’m still on Cloud 9,” Healy says. “These 70-year-olds … they are tough.”
Healy has competed in pool and open water competitions since returning to swimming, but the open water is where he says he feels most at home.
“I love the open water,” the 74-year-old says. “I enjoy the challenge and enjoy the different conditions that you are faced with. The training is even more fun.”
Not only does open water racing keep him on his toes, but it allows him to travel to new destinations for races and meet new people. Although Healy says his golf game has worsened since he began swimming more, he hopes to keep swimming for years to come.
“Most people can’t believe I’m 74,” he says. “It all comes from the practice and swimming. [Swimming] makes you feel good. You surround yourself around people with like spirits.”