Midcoast masters’ swimmers experienced strong national times/places and recent success in the pool and open-water competitions, despite the continued affects of the pandemic.

Most recently, Ashley Zuorski, 33, of Rockport and Martin Turecky, 55, of Camden competed with Maine Masters in the Lake George Open Water Swim on Saturday, Aug. 21 in Hague, N.Y.

It was a United States Master Swimming-sanctioned open water 10-kilometer swim.

The two placed second in their age groups.

Zuorski finished in three hours, 15 minutes and 36 seconds, for second in the 30-34 division, four minutes and 18 seconds behind the winner, and  25th overall.

Turecky finished in 3:34:11 and second in the 55-59 division, 3:39 behind the winner and 35th overall

Turecky said a 10K (6.2-mile) swim “is a seriously-challenging event and its called marathon of open water swimming.”

Turecky said after racing in the pool in May 2021 in the first USMS meet in New England after a COVID-induced pause, Maine masters’ swimmers changed focus and tackled open water.

He said Maine masters’ swimmers practically daily — and sometimes twice a day — in the waters of Norton and Hobbs ponds, as well as Megunticook Lake.

In July, Turecky and Zuorski swam a 10K race/fundraiser in Newfound Lake in New Hampshire to raise money for the families of American soldiers killed in action. Turecky, Zuorski and Doug Roth, 59, of Warren also completed a swim across Torsey Pond to raise money for boat patrol to protect the pond from invasive species.

After a summer of hard training came the pinnacle of the open water season, Turecky said, namely, the Lake George 10K.

Lake George open water swim has a 10-year tradition. The first race was organized in 2011 and Turecky was there. There was no swim in 2020.

Turecky said swimmers received a highly-visible swim cap, put an electronic chip band around the ankle and got their body marked with number for easy identification.

“Everyone grabs the last power bar, takes the last sip of water to fuel for the race,” he said. “Safety briefing is held just prior to start to assure that everyone understands safety protocols, available help etc. … After a busy time on the beach, chatting quiets down and everyone gets in a ‘zone.’ … It’s arms and legs everywhere around you and a lot of chop, but relatively soon the swimmers started to spread along the course. One of the challenges of open-water swimming is sighting, there is no black line on the bottom of the pool to guide you.”

Turecky said the course is marked by inflatable buoys spread about 400 yards apart.

“[A] swimmer is, of course, low in the water and waves do not help either,” he said. “However, it is important to stay as close to buoys as possible as any ‘mistake’ adds to the swimming distance. Lake George course is diamond-shaped 2.5K long so you swim four laps (4 times around to complete the race). First 2.5K doesn’t hurt adrenaline of racing, natural beauty around you (not that you have time for sightseeing), and refreshing water you are immersed in — all that gets you through first lap ‘easy’ and you feel good.

“The second lap is just work, your body still functions well, you are making good progress and you are turning in the third lap thinking, ‘I got this.’ Somewhere there between 5 and 7.5K you meet your demons or, as marathon runners say, you ‘hit the wall.’ Your shoulders hurt, shortly after everything hurts, you feel lonely, somewhat cold … yeah and you start to doubt if you can finish, actually it would be so nice to give up, stop the pain, get dry warm and wrap your palms around cup of coffee …

“However, if you prepared well and trained enough you get to the end of the third lap and its only one to go, last 2.5K. Trust me, it is a long one. Let’s just get from one buoy to another and next and next. It somewhat seems that someone moved them further a part … And then you finally turn and head to finish chute 1.25K left. [The] racer in you wakes up, you pick up the speed. Stroke frequency goes up. Fight is on. There is nothing more rewarding than swimming from the last buoy to the finish chute. Now you know. Yes. I will make it and you sprint to the finish line. Then you are out, you are done, the sun is warming your body up, the world is so beautiful … and you start to think I should have gone faster.”

Jones’ report

Masters’ swimming, throughout Maine, has remained mostly in its “COVID-induced moribundity,” said Bill Jones, 84, of Hope. There has not been a masters’ meet in Maine since January 2020, he said.

The masters’ swim movement is not all about competition, he said, but about fitness. Lots of area masters are still staying fit, even as the state organization is moribund. Most of the 48 states west and south are doing better, he said.

The Maine Masters’ competitive core is significantly kept alive by the activity at Penobscot Bay YMCA of retired US Navy officer Roth.

Most masters’ swim competition nationwide is 25-yard course. That is what most American pools are. That is even more so in Maine where there are no 50-meter pools. As of this writing, the new one at Colby College in Waterville was not open to the public. The second most significant deal, though, is 50-meter or “long-course” pool competition. That dominates international competition.

For Maine masters’ swimmers who want to establish a national “long-course” rank, the least impractical option is the annual Jenny Thompson Meet in Dover, N.H. That city’s outdoor 50-meter pool is not elegant or fast, Jones said, but it is something Maine does not have. Back in 2017, when Jones tried for national ranking in all swimming events, he had to travel to Washington, D.C., Sarasota, Fla. and Santa Barbara, Calif. to get in all 50-meter events.

Usually, Maine has a substantial representation at the Jenny Thompson meet in August. This year, the state was represented by four swimmers: Roth and three others.

Roth swam five events in the Saturday morning meet, starting with the bracing 400-meter freestyle and concluding with the punishing 400-meter individual medley. Sandwiched between were the 100- and 200-meter breaststrokes and the 50-meter butterfly. In the meet, Roth won the 200 breast and 50 fly, came in second in the 400 IM, and third in the 400 free and 100 breast.

In the big picture, Jones said, it is interesting to see where these accomplishments stand in national terms. The long-course year is the calendar year. It cannot be known what national rank Roth will have by year’s end. But as of now, based on results of the 69 meets reported (only two in the New England jurisdiction), Roth is seventh nationally in the 400 IM. His current rank in the other four events ranges from 16th in the 400 free to 30th in the 100 breast.

The Pen Bay Y pool has welcomed another notable masters’ swimmer this summer, Jones said. Mark Keil of Andover, Mass., who spends summers in St. George, is prepping for next year’s world championships in Japan. He missed the Salem N.H. meet, but used the Jenny Thompson event to measure progress.

In the next age group above Roth, Keil won the 200 fly, 200 backstroke, 400 IM and 100 back and placed second in the 50 back. His current national rank in those events is eighth, ninth, 10th, 14th and 19th.

The results for area swimmers in the 2021 Jenny Thompson meet, with swimmer, age group, event, time, place and current national rank listed, were:

Doug Roth, 60-64, 400 free, 6:43.85, third and 16th; 100 breast, 2:04.90, third and 30th; 200 breast, 4:35.10, first and 20th; 50 fly, 1:02.22, first and 28th; and 400m IM, 8:34.48, second and seventh.

Mark Keil, 65-69, 50 back, 46.85, second and 19th; 200 back, 3:32.32, first and ninth; 200 fly, 4:37.48, first and eighth; 200 IM, 3:39.60, first and 14th; and 400 IM, 7:53.90, first and 10th.

The other news is the tentative national 25-yard-pool (“short course”) rankings reported earlier can now be replaced by US Masters official rankings. They became official by mid-June. These are for the 280 official US Masters short-course meets from June 2020 through May 2021, Jones said.

Four PenBay Y swimmers competed. Three achieved national top-10 rank. One gained a national championship.

Turecky clearly would have ranked among the national top 10 had he swum the longer events in which he excels instead of four shorter races, Jones said. Nationally, his 1:09.53 100 IM ranked 15th, 33.69 50 backstroke 20th, 30.18 50 fly 26th and 1:01.26 100 free 31st — very respectable, but nothing compared to what he could do in longer events, Jones said.

Roth made national top 10 with 7:41.71 in the 400 IM. It was seventh nationally. In other events, Roth’s 50 back in 49.22 ranked 25th nationally; 14:37.6 1,000 free 28th and 7:22.70 500 free 59th.

Zuorski placed fourth nationally in the 1,000 freestyle in 13:14.93, ninth in the 50 back in 35.49 and 10th in the 100 back in 1:18.53 for three national top 10s. In the 200 IM, her 2:45.70 ranked 12th, missing top 10 by 5.76 seconds, and she ranked 15th in the 50 fly in 32.24.

Jones, ready to join the next age group as is Roth, made national top-10 in his four events and earned a national championship. He was fourth in the 200 IM in 4:51.37, third in 400 IM in 11:18.78 and second in the 1,000 free in 24:09.89. He appeared to have won the 1,000 free when the season ended in June, however, a significantly faster time was reported later from Florida. Jones was the only 80-84-year-old in the country to compete a 200 fly this year, thus, also the slowest, he said. He last completed a 200 fly 28 months earlier.

MaineStay Media/VillageSoup sports staff can be reached by email at sports@villagesoup.com.

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