Four women and the instructor of the Advanced Adult Swim Class at the Fort Meigs YMCA in Perrysburg have qualified to compete in the 2015 Senior Olympics in July, 2015 in Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minn.
The five placed high enough at the Ohio Senior Olympics competition in Canton, Ohio last month to make it to the national event.
Qualifying are Perrysburg residents Marcia Eck, Joan Fechter, Tricia Halstead, and instructor-coach Mary-Chris Kay, as well as Nell Maser of Swanton.
The team earned six gold medals, seven silver medals, and five bronze medals in Canton. The team members take part in the Y’s 100-miles-per-year swim club.
The National Senior Olympics Games are held every two years and have grown from 2,500 participants in 1987 aged 50 and over to an expected 12,000 competitors next summer in 16 individual and three team sports.
It is the world’s largest multi-sport event for senior athletes, who compete in five-year age brackets up to age 100. The National Senior Olympics Games is an organization of the U.S. Olympic Committee. Although each state hosts games every year, senior athletes qualify for the national games in even-numbered years. Regional competitions precede state meets.
Of the four “student” qualifiers, only Ms. Halstead has taken formal swim lessons – a long-ago semester in college – before enrolling in Mrs. Kay’s swim classes four years ago. She explained, “I am an 11-year breast cancer survivor and hope to inspire other breast cancer survivors. Through Mary-Chris’s outstanding instruction, I have won gold medals at the regional and state levels and have competed in the national competition at Cleveland State University.” Ms. Halstead qualified in the 50-yard backstroke, 100-yard backstroke, and 50-yard freestyle events.
Ms.Fechter was inspired to swim by her daughter, Kim, who competed in Special Olympics swimming. Upon starting eight years ago, Ms. Fechter could barely swim a length. But slowly, she worked up to swimming a mile (66 lengths) several times per week. Five years ago, “Mary-Chris invited me to join the Y lap classes, which greatly improved my technique and speed. I had never competed in anything athletic, and needed lots of convincing to enter the 50 Sports Classic sponsored by the Area Office on Aging in 2010. Since then I have competed in several Senior Olympics.” She qualified in two backstroke events, the 100-yard freestyle, and the 50-yard breaststroke.
Ms. Maser also could barely swim a lap when she joined the class in 2012. Last year she began competing. “It’s very exciting to know that this old dog really can learn new tricks,” she declared. She qualified in five of her six events, which included backstroke, freestyle, and breaststroke, plus the 100-yard individual medley.
“I enjoyed the water, but never had taken formal lessons until Mary-Chris’s lap swim classes over the last few years,” said Ms. Eck. “Mary-Chris improved our stroke technique while introducing the competitive aspects of the sport. The striving for style and efficiency, goal-setting, and especially the camaraderie with like-minded aquaphiles has had a valuable impact and serves as a tension-release valve for me. Swimming simultaneously helps me battle my demons, reach a higher fitness level, and have fun.” She placed in all three breaststroke events.
Mrs.Kay grew up as an athlete in southern California and was a college swimmer and volleyball player. All nine of her children swam competitively and she began competing on the Master’s level at age 30. She and her husband, Scott, relocated to Perrysburg in 2008, and she began swim instruction and coaching at the Y in 2009. For the past 10 years, she has competed nationally in the Senior Olympics in swimming, volleyball, and track and field.
Other active older Fort Meigs Y adults who have competed in swimming in the Toledo and Lima Senior Games include Jack Baessler, Sally Goligoski, Patti Hill, Suzanne Gusses, Marsha Smith, Lynn Smith, Dolores Howard, Natalia Syrnichenko, Natalia Mian, and Ann Dulski.