Ken Kantrowitz, age 70, is one of those fortunate individuals who discover a passion that embraces him for life: he loves swimming in pools, has been competing on and off for 55 years, and still practices eagerly many many days each week. Inspired by this web site to describe his love affair, he has written a detailed narrative that shows his determination and what it took to make the most of his talents. Especially interesting is that after college and daily swimming, Ken gained 60 pounds due to the lack of intense exercise. Then at age 48, he returned to the pool and the regular exuberant workouts he loves, and much of the weight dissolved in the water. Most years he swims 5-10,000 yards (3-6 miles) a week and 300 to 350,000 yards a year. His best year was 504,000 yards (306 miles).

Ken's specialty was the butterfly—1996

Ken's specialty was the butterfly—1996

SWIMMING FOR LIFE: MY SWIMMING CAREER
by Ken Kantrowitz

CHAPTER ONE: ELEMENTARY AND HIGH SCHOOL DAYS
When I was six years old, in 1946, my dad took me to a swimming pool and saw that I received lessons to learn how to swim. My teacher, according to my dad, was Jack Morris (more about him later.) Today I would call what I learned to do “swimming doggie-paddle.” It was one step beyond learning to float. I could keep my head above the water level, move my arms and legs and very slowly get from one spot in the pool to another. During the next few summers I went to summer camp and had some more exposure to what a person could do in the water. I was very comfortable in this element and usually had to be bribed to get out of the pool or lake. Little did I know in those days in elementary school that my prime passion at the age of 70, in 2010, would be working out in a swimming pool three or four times a week for an hour and a half each session, and swimming competitively.

In 1954, in the ninth grade, when I was fourteen years old, I wanted to play for a high school varsity team. I was, and still am, a spectator and participation sports nut. Through grade school and junior high, I played softball, baseball, touch football, and basketball. These sports and several others were played on the street in pick-up games, at the Pittsburgh Oakland “Y” on Saturdays and during the summer school vacation, and in a league or two, whenever. Getting into a swimming pool, a lake or an ocean was an afterthought most of the time when the opportunity arose or if we wanted to cool down after doing other exercising land activities or sports. In most sports, I was decent or better than average, but I didn’t feel that I was good enough to make the starting high school varsity in any particular sport.

Ken (far left) and friends—

Ken (far left) and friends—4/94

I knew how to swim I thought— but not really! “Doggie-paddle” wasn’t VARSITY SWIMMING. So in ninth grade, I tried out for the Varsity Swimming team. Coach Claude Sofield, who was a junior and senior high school physical education instructor, coached the Taylor Allderdice High School Varsity Swimming Team in Pittsburgh. Al Wiggins, who swam for Allderdice and the Oakland “Y,” was one of the premier swimmers in high school and in the state and the country. Al set the state record for Pennsylvania in the 100-yard backstroke and eventually was an All-American at National Champion Ohio State and later a top medalist in the Olympics. It was an understatement to say that he was my HERO.

At the tryout, Coach Sofield asked each of us to swim one 25-yard length of the high school pool. About “two days later” I thought, “crawling” along (swimming the freestyle stroke), I finished that pool length. “Coach,” with his eyes on his clipboard, muttered after I finished, “Take a shower.” I didn’t really immediately understand until later, that I wasn’t even in the running to make the team. I was dejected. Already a six-footer, I then thought I could take a stab at tackle football. My Mom said, “Absolutely not! It is too tough! You could get hurt.”

Later on I read a notice in the Oakland “Y Weekly” saying “Swimmers Wanted—No Experience Needed.” I was an active member of the “Y” for years at that time, regularly participating in a recreational gym and swimming routine. Mom said, “OK. You can try out.” The “Y”s swim team coach, Jack Morris, taught me how to keep my head above the water and dog paddle when I was six years old, also was an Icon amongst national amateur swim coaches. At my tryout for the team, Coach Morris timed me for two lengths freestyle. I had practiced a few time before the tryout. “Thirty-eight seconds” he shouted after I finished my strong-armed gutsy episode of flailing, thrashing and turning beet red. At that moment he said I had “potential” and he would work with me. I had HOPE.

The Oakland “Y” team was one of the very top non-scholastic national amateur teams of its era, being loaded with present and future All-State and All-American swimmers, including the legendary Al Wiggins who had just left for a stellar career at Ohio State University and the U.S. Olympic Team afterwards.
Jack was an extremely nice man, but the toughest, drill-sergeant-like, heartless, unrelenting, task-master swim coach you could imagine. He, along with my fellow male and female teammates, many of whom were my age and had been swimming competitively for years, taught me things from the beginning: the four basic strokes (freestyle, butterfly, breaststroke and backstroke), techniques, strategies and all about competing. Coach Morris worked us seven days a week until we were totally exhausted, and he whipped us into competitors at the top age-group amateur level. We sprinted, paced, and raced every day. I started competing in about a meet or two a month, improving my times gradually. By the end of the next summer, I was a seasoned competitor. I shed most of my adolescent flab and developed aerobic endurance. I had developed muscles I never knew I had.

I was ready again to try out for the high school team. I not only made the team, but was a starter in several events! My time in the 50 free was under 30 seconds, very competitive in our city league in 1955. It wasn’t the best time on the team, but was good enough for a relay team. By that time, I was in tenth grade. I was working out 5 days a week at the high school pool after school. Each day, after swimming perhaps ¾ miles or more in about an hour and 15 minutes, I would dress, go home, eat dinner, and head for the “Y” to work out another mile-plus. After that I would head home, eyes burning intensely from the chlorine in the water, since there were no goggles on the commercial market at that time, to spend another 2 to 4 tortuous hours doing homework.

While the high school season only lasted 4 to 5 months a year, I was working out with the “Y” team 6 or 7 days a week, year round. We would travel and swim in several meets a year for the “Y,” except during the high school season. I lettered for three years in high school. While I worked out, doing all four strokes in high school, the routine which Jack Morris stressed, I started out competing in freestyle events and then took on the stroke which very few swimmers liked, the butterfly. By the time college rolled around, that stroke became my specialty. My Mom always asked why I always found the hardest way to do things? My answer was that I had strong shoulders, strong will, and tenacity. Very few swam the butterfly, and I was relatively good at it. So, why not?

The Allderdice swim team was above average in the City of Pittsburgh league, finishing third or fourth regularly to two or three schools led by many of my peers from the “Y,” Lew Goldhammer was my closest swimming buddy from my class at Allderdice. A backstroker, he was my only teammate who worked out at the “Y” and competed with me. Lew also chose to pursue the profession of Architecture as a career, attending school at Miami of Ohio. In our junior year, Lew and I co-captained the Allderdice Swim Team. The two of us largely coached the team throughout our two years plus, together at Allderdice. By that time Coach Claude Sofield had moved on to be the swim team and track team coach at Carnegie Tech (after the high school day was finished). Our swim team coaches at Allderdice were math and social studies teachers who knew next to nothing about swimming or coaching. So Lew and I organized and programmed the workouts, the meet lineups and most of the enthusiasm.

One of my other lifelong swimming buddies, Richard Rosenzweig, who wrote for and was the editor of the high school newspaper, featured me in one article wherein he gave me my high school nickname “The Machine” – “because of his tireless and never ceasing training program.” In my junior year he also called me “the best all around swimmer on the team.” That year I was awarded the Kiwanis Club’s “Most Valuable Player Award” as voted by my teammates. Our team finished very high in the City of Pittsburgh Championship Meet and many of us went on to swim in the PA State semi-finals at Grove City College. I anchored two of our relay teams. Richard was a member of each of those relay teams. We just barely missed out qualifying for the PA State Championship meet. Richard also swam, later on in life, on my Master’s Swim Team and competed with me and against me for about 18 years. Often “the Zweig” and “The Machine” would travel together to Masters meets, socialize, and attend “Y Nationals” together. He has been sorely missed since 2009
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CHAPTER TWO: COLLEGE AT CARNEGIE TECH
My ideal college aspirations were to swim for Ohio State, the team of my idol, Al Wiggins. Reality hit after I realized Ohio State was among the top three teams in the nation, if not the world. I doubted very much if I could make their squad. My second choice was Syracuse University, where my favorite male cousin Stan, also a high school swimmer, was in the architectural program. This also was unrealistic. I had slim chances of making the swim team. The economics and logistics involved in attending and swimming on the varsity of either school were very foreign to me. My back-up choice was Carnegie Tech, a small Division Three College about a quarter of a mile away from my home in Pittsburgh. I applied to and was admitted to all three schools for the architectural program.

Ken (far left) competes for Carnegie Tech—1962

Ken (far left) competes for Carnegie Tech—1962

My prime criterions in choosing a college which accepted me were the quality of the school and its architectural department. Other major considerations were the quality of the swim team and whether I could make the varsity squad, the college environment, social life available, logistics and economics. As I started to weigh my final options, at first the seemingly obvious “slam-dunk” choice, Carnegie Tech, did not seem like a very glamorous option. Positive considerations slowly started to surface. The majority of my very best high school friends and classmates were planning on attending college locally. I had a very serious girlfriend from my high school who planned on attending college in Pittsburgh when she graduated.

Coach Sofield heard of my high school swimming and my admission letter to Tech. Although scholarships were not available, he was very interested in my swimming for Tech, and strongly urged me to consider it. Division Three was a level where I could make the squad and compete. Jimmy Goldman was a star swimmer and MVP for Allderdice a few years before me. He, ironically, was an architecture major and swam at Tech, although for only a year or two. He befriended me, strongly recommended Tech’s Architectural Department and program, and urged me to attend.

Since I lived with my parents a couple of blocks from campus, I could always hear the roar of the football crowd of 1500 die-hard Tech fans during the Saturday home games and was magnetized to check it out. I attended several football games and home swimming meets during the weekends while I was still in high school. I felt comfortable there and thought that attending Tech just might be “do-able.” My dad and I were able to set up a few meetings with key members of the Tech faculty after I received notification of my admission, in my senior year of high school. I still wasn’t fully at ease with the concept of walking from home to attend college classes. I had to walk almost a mile farther to attend my high school.

I guess I took Tech for granted. Tuition was so cheap, I could almost afford the tuition myself from part time job earnings—$350 a semester! I didn’t realize at that time that this little school, down the block from home, had an Architectural School that was rated “Number Three” in the NATION. Dad and Mom thought it was a good choice, convenient, and affordable. They highly endorsed my reluctant decision to attend!! The girlfriend, the swimming, and the architecture career were the swaying factors. In retrospect, the architecture career and the swimming have dominated my focuses for the last 50- plus years. The girlfriend lasted maybe a year!!

I tried out for the swim team in my freshman year, at the age of 18 in 1958, and made the squad. I was timed to rate second on the team swimming butterfly, and within the top five or six in freestyle. We had a pretty decent team in our division, and remained the same throughout my four years of swimming at Tech. We never won a league championship but consistently won 60 to 70 per cent of our meets. For my first three years at Tech, I swam “Number Two” in the butterfly and was “Number One” for my fourth season, my “sub-senior” year in the five-year architectural program. Several times each of my first three years, I competed in an additional meet event, usually the quarter mile freestyle. I swam my specialty, the 200-yard butterfly in all but one of the teams’ meets for four years. In each of the first three years of swimming at Tech, I failed to letter by one or two “meet points” per season, accumulating the largest number of competition points on the team each year without lettering. This was very discouraging, but per my character and previous reputation, I persevered, nonetheless.

Finding the time and energy to work out after classes two hours each weekday during the swim season and then study for 4 to 6 hours each night was extremely stressful, physically and mentally. Couple this with constantly burning eyes from the chlorine in the water, which never seemed to go away, and our traveling time spent going to away meets, pushed us to the limit and beyond. The benefits were the stress relief of the exercise periods and the change of pace getting out of town four or five times a season. These made us feel better and physically rejuvenated us for constantly attacking the 60 to 70 hours a week needed in the architectural program.

My college swimming routine was very mild compared to the time and effort required of swimming kids these days. Although most of my high school swim meet times improved greatly in college, my times improved marginally in the 200-yard butterfly during the first three years at Tech. My freestyle times became slower.

In my fourth year swimming at Tech, I reached the long sought pinnacle of my career. I inherited the “Number One” butterfly position in the 200-yard butterfly and swam the butterfly leg of the 200-yard medley relay, which was given to the top swimmers on the team for each of the four competitive strokes. By the end of the season, I had finally “Lettered” while accumulating the third most points on the team and had improved my 200-yard butterfly time by more than 20 seconds or about 20%. My relay split unofficially rivaled or broke the Tech school record for that time in that event. My “split” time never broke a minute, but came within a tenth or two of a second of doing so. At that time very few Western Pennsylvania swimmers in Division Three colleges were able to break a minute for the 100-yard butterfly distance, a fact of which I am still proud and from which I still get inspiration to continue swimming those hundreds of thousands of yards each year and competing in swimming meets.

The momentum of competing for seven-plus consecutive years in high school and college came to a sudden halt after my fourth year at Tech. However, I felt that I still wanted to work out. I volunteered to be one of Tech’s assistant swim coaches during my senior (fifth) year at Tech. I got to continue working out, offer advice and help with the team, and stay in contact with some of my buddies from previous years. Coach Sofield was happy to have me participate and help “time” workouts and meets. This period helped me greatly with the transition period after graduation.

CHAPTER THREE: POST-GRAD YEARS; A CAREER; MARRIAGE AND MASTER’S SWIMMING
After graduation, my life focuses changed greatly. I had a career in Architecture to pursue, a state licensure exam to study for, and a military service obligation to fulfill. Dating, marriage, children, apartments and homes came in sequence. Many of my high school swimming buddies had moved out of town or were pursuing their own agendas.

My quest for exercise shifted to bowling, golf and occasional skiing. These recreational activities, or “sports,” as most people call them, at my level of participation, gave me minimal levels of aerobic or cardiovascular benefits and were largely social activities. Occasionally I would try jogging or power walking for periods of time. Domesticity put time demands of dozens and dozens of do-it-yourself projects and property maintenance, yard work, and snow removal. Occasionally opportunities to access a lap pool for periods of time surfaced, especially in the summer or on vacation, and I participated by trying to pretend I was in my teens or early twenties again, but they usually quickly expired. I missed the feeling of exuberance after a workout, the extravagance of eating most foods I wanted and not gaining much weight. I did not miss the constantly sore muscles and intensely burning eyes. For 24 years after college, my life focuses, priorities and demands kept evolving. The lack of availability of excess time for recreational sports and the financial pressures of upcoming college years for our 3 children once again changed my focus. Golf, bowling and skiing gradually disappeared from my schedule. Gradually, I put on weight, several pounds some years. Before I knew it, I was almost 80 pounds heavier than I was in high school and 60 pounds heavier than I was in college. I was generally under a different kind of stress and did not feel well.

During the mid to late 1980s, I ran into Jimmy Goldman from my early college years, and Ira Rubin, my good friend from Tech, a 5 year architectural classmate and fellow swimming team member. Both were practicing Architects in Pittsburgh. I ran into each of them several times, separately or together. Each mentioned that they were lap swimming in a Master’s program at the Squirrel Hill JCC under the tutelage of Al Rose, a former teammate of mine from the Oakland “Y” and high school swimming days. Al was an awesome swimmer in high school and now was a coach and swim tutor. They urged me to join them. I didn’t want to commute ½ hour to Squirrel Hill each way, each day. I didn’t have the needed money for an annual membership to join an exercise facility and I certainly didn’t want the burning eyes, sore muscles, etc; all the excuses I could come up with. I still enjoyed swimming, but, but, but . . . .

After pondering and weighing the pros and cons, I decided to try a compromising situation: lap swimming at my then local high school at night for one hour two times a week. The fees were reasonable, about $3 to $4 per hour if I attended all the sessions available in a semester. I was pretty much forced to attend the vast majority of these sessions if I wanted to get even minimum benefit from the exercise. Travel times were minimized and so were the required time commitments. For three or four years I kept up this routine in different high school “adult education” programs, supplemented with outdoor season pool passes to keep in minimal swimming shape, but not in nearly good enough shape to compete in meets with and against the likes of my friends, Jimmy and Ira.

Ken (right) with yet another trophy—

Ken (right) with yet another first place trophy—4/2000

I kept thinking about my late father, who as an adult hardly exercised at all, except for walking three or four blocks to his car or to his office once a day, or bowling one night a week for part of the year. Dad died of heart disease in 1974, at the “young” age of 66, after appearing to be relatively healthy most of his adult life. I had conversations with Jimmy Goldman and Ira Rubin whose fathers passed away early in their lives, I believe from heart-related problems. Jimmy and Ira had decided to do something about it. I had not acted yet. (Today, although all three of us have had some physical setbacks, all three of us are into or just about to enter our seventies, still swimming laps regularly, and/or are still “competing.” We all have outlived our fathers by several years.)

I yearned to compete again. I wanted to be able to eat relatively freely without gaining “gobs of” weight. I wanted to feel GOOD again and have fun achieving that feeling. Swim goggles were perfected enough now so that the eye-burning problems from my school days were gone. The Jewish Community Center was available six to fourteen hours a day, seven days most weeks, year around. The cost was less than two dollars a day (if one used the facilities every day). Our children were finishing high school and starting college. More of my time was available. SO WHY NOT? I joined the JCC in about 1987. Twenty-some-odd years later, I’m still a member and work out a minimum of three times a week most weeks. About a year after I joined the JCC and started working out regularly, I was ready for “competition.”

Jimmy Goldman was the local swimming GURU for the South Hills YMCA Masters Swim Team, which he co-founded with others. He was the ACE RECRUITER, having signed up or helped to sign up most of the team members, which in its heyday numbered 50 to 75 men and women, aged from 18 to their 90’s. Jimmy put me in touch with the South Hills “Y” team chairman, and I signed up for the 1988-89 season, when I was at the young age of 48. I have had a life and life-style change ever since.

The “South Hills Y” team initially was the largest team in a league of teams later and now known as AMYMSA (Allegheny Mountain Y Masters Swim Association), largely encompassing the western half of Pennsylvania. Teams in the league came also from eastern Ohio, West Virginia, Maryland and southwest New York. We were and are still part of the National YMCA-YWCA Masters Swim program, the second largest Masters Swim Program in the United States. The USMS (United States Masters Swim) is the “big leagues” of the Masters Programs in the U.S.A. (There currently are rumblings of these two organizations combining in the near future.) Costs for each team member are very nominal: $20-plus for an annual Y membership, $15 for an annual team membership and $7 to enroll to swim up to 4 events per each of the league meets. The league season runs from early September through early April, with meets scheduled almost every other Sunday during each season. Teams in the league take turns hosting a meet at their home pool or vicinity. Depending on the location of a meet, one could travel a few blocks or a few hundred miles to a meet. Most people do not end up staying overnight while traveling, except for the annual two-day championship meet which terminates the season.

Morris Shratter and I befriended each other early in the 1990’s from the Master’s Swim Team. Morris, who is 15 years my senior, was a teacher, coach, and administrator in the City of Pittsburgh High School system. Morris only swims the breaststroke events due to physical limitations, but he is one of the very best in the country for his age and stroke. In the Senior Olympics in 2005, for example, he swam three breast stroke events. He finished first in one event, setting a national all-time record for the Senior Olympics and finished second in the other two, just missing first place by less than a second in each one. For more than 15 years, we travelled together to all of our distant meets, including the championship meets, usually four to eight meets a year. We sat together at all of our meets and had almost all of our meals together. We were original members of “ the Pancake Bunch,” a group of gentlemen and occasionally, a lady or two, who would drive or carpool together to meets and stop for breakfast along the way. When we started going together, most of us ordered “pancakes” (to load up on carbs, I guess). Later on as our numbers dwindled to mostly just the two of us, our breakfast menu choices became more varied. Morry and I never stopped talking when we were in each others company. We talked in detail about anything—our families, friends, teammates, sports (any of them but especially our local school and pro teams), politics, economics, business, culture, media, humor, entertainment, etc.,etc. Morry and I each swam the breast stroke events. I usually called it a good day for me when I could nip him in a short sprint. After all, I was 15 years younger. I really don’t ever recall beating him in the 100 or 200. In the 200, he usually beat me by a half-length or more. We never competed against each other officially, because we were three age-groups apart. Morry claimed he was retiring from competition just before the championship meet this year, at the age of 85, because he was getting too tired competing. He nonetheless plans to work out at least five days a week at the JCC. I will miss him and our swimming meet routines greatly. He is a great friend and a true inspiration to me. I will continue to talk on the phone with him and/or email him. I’m sure my wife and I and Morry and his wife will meet socially from time to time, as we have been for the past number of years.

Except for the first two seasons I was in the league, our championship meets have been held at Clairion University, Clairion, PA, about 90 miles northeast of Pittsburgh. Competition starts for the main part of each day’s events, Saturday and Sunday, at noon, with an hour of “warm-ups” preceding each day’s events. There are 11 to 12 events each day. Each event is comprised of one of the four basic competitive strokes and distances. Individual medleys (all four basic strokes), team relay events, and distance freestyle events are part of the agenda each day. Men and Women compete together in event heats, placed according to seed time (the time one feels that the event should/could take), rather than in “age groups”. Computer tabulations then place each swimmer’s time into a sex and age group category, for individual placings in male and female age groupings for award ratings. On Saturday evening of each year’s meet, the league has its annual dinner and awards buffet banquet at a local Clairion venue. Teams are usually seated in groups to get to know each other better (with street clothes on!), and to support fellow teammates when they receive awards for individual and team accomplishments for the previous season. The “Banquet” is the “highlight” of the season’s schedule.

In-season meets are run much the same way as the championship meet. There are approximately 11 events in a meet alternating with an “A” or a “B” meet program (different strokes, different distances). The meets run about 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 hours, starting at noon, on basically alternate Sundays during the season, with an hour’s warm-up at 11 A.M. In order to stimulate individual interest and competition during the season, several competitions are held with awards being given at the annual banquet. The “Marathon” competition measures the practice and meet yardage individually swam during the year. In order to qualify for the top award class, the Century award , an individual has to swim an average in practice of about 7,000 yards a week for the six consecutive months of the season. A point system accompanies the yardage requirement to swim at least 100 miles (176,000 yards) and get 100 points in six months. Other competitions include the “Ironman” for which an individual has to swim each event, each stroke, at least once in the season, the “1650” competition, a timed event which is 1,650 yards long (66 lengths of the pool, or one metric mile). The “Top Ten” competition (swimming one of the ten best times in an age-group stroke and distance of all time in the league) and the ”Points” competition occur automatically during each swim meet.

These competitions especially the “Marathon” and the meet “Points” competitions nowadays keep me motivated to practice regularly and to attend and compete in meets. In earlier years in the league, I participated in the “Ironman,” the “1650,” and the “Top Ten” competitions very seriously. I track and have tracked my workouts yardage and dates for all of my time in the Master’s program. Most weeks I swim in workouts between 5,000 and 10,000 yards (three to six miles). Most years I swim about 300,000 to 350,000 workout and meet yards in a year. My personal annual record was for over 504,000 yards (306 miles) in a year, in 1997. Since I have more motivation to stay in top shape during the swim meet season, I swim about 60% of the annual yardage during that six months. I also have charted my meets times, place, number of points earned, as well as personal “bests” and “worsts”, in each meet and event, during my more than twenty years in the Master’s program, even during the off-season.

Although I have tried it both ways, I prefer working out on my own rather than in an organized team workout. I do most of my workouts at a pool of my choice, currently the South Hills JCC. Here the large menu of available days and hours usually can fit my schedule(s). I try to work out a minimum of three times a week, year-round, increasing the frequency to four to five times a week during the competition season. My workouts usually take about an hour and a half in the water. They usually consist of 250 and 500 yard sets (10 or 20 lengths at a time) with shorts breaks in-between to catch my breath or schmooze with other swimmers. My workouts consist of navigating either 80 or 100 lengths, 2,000 to 2,500 yards total, which comes to 1.14 to 1.42 miles; alternating swimming, kicking or pulling and the three basic strokes I can still swim: freestyle (crawl), breaststroke, and backstroke.

After several attempts to resurrect it, I had to abandon my former specialty stroke, the butterfly, in 2005, after I gradually but permanently ruptured my right bicipital tendon which connects the rotator cuff to the bicep muscle. This happened gradually over a period of a couple of years. I also gradually but permanently damaged my right rotator cuff, making swimming the butterfly almost impossible. In order to swim a legal competitive butterfly stroke, without becoming disqualified (DQed), a swimmer has to lift each elbow above the water level simultaneously with each stroke of the arms. Without a “working” right bicipital tendon, I cannot successfully lift my right arm out of the water for too many strokes, or enough strokes to complete even the shortest of events. When I can lift the arm, after a few strokes, the pain is excruciating. The last time I competed in a “fly” event was at the age of 65 in the 100-yard event in the Senior Olympics in Pittsburgh in ’05. With the whole senior swimming world watching, I struggled to a sixth place finish and, later, received a ribbon on the awards stand. During that four day competition, I also placed 10th in the 50-yard butterfly, and 10th, 14th and 16th in breaststroke events. I was extremely pleased with this showing considering that this was the highest level of competition in the United States with the best swimmers from all 50 states and adjacent countries competing in the meet. All the swimmers in that meet had to place either first or second in their respective state meet within the previous year to even enter the meet.

One of the perks of swimming in a sanctioned “Y” league is the option of qualifying to swim in the National “Y” championship meet. In order to qualify, one needs to compete only in a single event in a single sanctioned meet during the year before the championship meet. Our South Hills “Y” team always had quite a few top notch national competitors on their team and encouraged participation in the national meet, not only for personal honors, but for team honors. Over the years on the team I managed to travel to compete in the Nationals, five times: once each in Buffalo, Orlando, Indianapolis, and twice in Fort Lauderdale. The swimming events and venues were always of the world class quality, drawing close to 1,000 of the top swimmers in the country. The events were spread out over four days of competition in male and female age groups, ages 18 to 90-plus, in individual and relay events. In the meets I participated in, I managed to get All-American medal honors, first through eighth place, in more than 20 events, including two first place relay patches. Each meet was a mind-boggling experience, meeting dozens of different swimmers from all around the country and partaking in the local climates, sights, and eateries. Our team gained first and second place team honors in most of the meets. The majority of my highest event places were in the butterfly events, being in the top four in my age group seven or eight times, making all the years of hard workouts and competition seem to be well worth the time and effort. As the years advance, I realized in ’08, at my last meet in Fort Lauderdale that it would probably be my last National. With my ability to swim my mainstay stroke, the butterfly, gone, and the numbers of national competitors dwindling to the “cream-of-the-cream” ex and current national champions and ex-U.S.Olympians, 18th and 22nd place finishes were not all the fun that finishing third used to be. In addition, competing at “Nationals” is very costly money-wise and time-wise.

Its been more than five and a half decades since I swam in my first swimming meet in 1954. As I write this in 2010, after having turned 70 this past winter, hopefully I will continue to at least work out, if not work out and compete for quite a while longer. When I first started, I swam primarily for the challenge of competition and the feeling of accomplishment and achievement of inner peace. Today, these reasons remain, but I am more interested in swimming in order to remain physically and socially active, to stay in aerobic and cardiovascular shape, and to stay as healthy as I can in order to preserve a quality and purposeful life as long as I can. I truly am SWIMMING FOR LIFE in more ways than one.