In March 2009, Diane Jones of Washington suffered from an injury which led to her breaking several toes. This triggered a very rare neurological condition which causes constant and often severe pain with no physical cure. At her son’s graduation, Diane was in a wheelchair.
In March 2014, however, Jones is aiming to swim 500 meters in a distance challenge which draws even the competitive swimmers from St. Louis.
Swimming has increased her mobility and her confidence in her physical capabilities, and it is her own experiences which have led her to organize a unique event which she hopes to introduce to others as to what swimming can do.
The first adult swim meet will be held at the Four Rivers Area Family YMCA March 29. It is unique in that the event is open to both competitive and recreational swimmers, and one must enter themselves in only one division.
The first age group is 18-24 and the last is 100-104, and the range of abilities will be similarly spread.
“The event is designed to allow swimmers of all abilities to participate in a meet without feeling intimidated by the pressure of competition,” said Jones.
The distances and the optional strokes have therefore been adjusted for less able swimmers and the times will not be posted for all to see. The idea is, as Jones says, for this meet to introduce people to swimming in a fun and relaxed environment.
The competitive side will still be strong, with 11 events and with events seeded by entry time (with age and gender combined).
The results will be made available on the smart-phone app Meet Mobile. The event will be United States Masters Swimming (USMS) recognized so that the times can be used as qualifiers for bigger USMS meets such as nationals.
USMS is a national membership-operated organization and despite the name, one does not have to swim at a certain level to be a member. Masters means simply 18 and older.
This meet is being promoted to any swimmers who wish to compete from the US Masters Swimmers in the Ozark region, as well as the St. Louis Area Masters swim club.
The St. Louis metro Y’s are pushing to expand masters swimming programs to all the local branches, and the organizers hope that many masters swimmers come to compete in Washington.
It may seem strange to claim swimming as a team sport as during the race, heart pounding in your ears and water streaming from your raised arms, you are alone. This is where Jones’ favorite phrase comes in useful, however: “We are all equal at the wall.” When the swimmers in all four lanes — from the semiprofessional to the novice — reach the end of the race and are clinging to the wall exhausted, they are all equals. The sense of community is strong here, with swimmers helping one another along to whatever goal they might have.
The man who has helped to make this possible is Lane Page, who has been coaching the Four Rivers Area YMCA Penguins for four years now and causing it to grow bigger and better. His close attention to every one of his students means that he is able to teach like no other instructor and he is loved by kids and masters swimmers alike.
Jones says that proof of his teaching ability is her learning the butterfly after 50 years of refusal.
“He always has a smile,” she says, “and is a remarkable man.”
Page and Jones created the adult swimming classes together, and Jones says that teaching adults is “awesome” – with no pressure and with no competitive edge, everyone has fun at the same time as working out and relieving stress.
Swimming is the ideal sport for those who have been physically active for all their lives and who now need to find a sport which is easier on the joints while exercising the whole body.
But perhaps the most important aspect of the meet is that it is fun. People will come together to push themselves to their physical limit or to experience something new, but all will be doing so to have a good time.
Swimming is a physical and mental painkiller. It is also addictive – and the organizers of this event want to get as many people hooked as possible.
Registration forms are available from the Y, Washington, or one can visit the Facebook page for Fray Adult Swim Meet.