By Phillip Whitten
TEMPE, Arizona, July 21. MASTERS swimmers from Arizona, California and Colorado braved 108-degree temperatures to compete at the Arizona State Masters Long Course Championships in Tempe, Arizona this weekend.
Two Masters world records were set during the three-day affair, one by Jane Swaggerty-Hill, 51, the other by the indomitable Ron Johnson, 71.
How hot was it in Tempe, site of the 2003 USMS Short Course Championships (which will be held in the much balmier month of May)?
Hot enough that meet officials volunteered to do double-duty. Not only did they time, watch starts and turns, and judge strokes, but every several heats they took turns washing down the starting blocks so the swimmers would be able to stand on them without burning their feet.
Jane Swaggerty-Hill, a bronze medalist in the 100m backstroke at the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City, broke one of the youngest records in the books — the 50 meter backstroke mark of 33.67, set last weekend at the Pacific Masters Championships in Santa Cruz by Laura Val. Swaggerty-Hill clocked 33.52.
Later, the Phoenix Swim Club ace attempted to break Val's standard of 1:14.63 in the 100m backstroke, but fell just short, touching in 1:16.35.
"I'm so excited," Hill said after breaking the 50-meter mark. "This is my first long course record and anytime you break one of Laura's records, you know you've had a good swim."
Johnson took more than a second off the world mark of 3:26.27 in the 200 meter breaststroke for men 70-74, set by Germany's Karl-Heinz Knops in 1996. The recently-retired coach of the Sun Devil Masters clocked 3:25.09.
Johnson, who has broken dozens of long course marks, was characteristically modest about his latest achievement. "The 200 breast was probably the weakest record in the 70-74 age group," he said. "I figured if I could just stretch it out, streamline and take as few strokes as possible, I could get under the German's mark."
Hill and Johnson were not the only swimmers turning in outstanding performances. Phoenix Swim Club's Greg Dozer, 45, came within tenths of a second of breaking both individual medley standard for men 45-49. Unshaved and untapered, Dozer clocked 2:22.77 for the 200 and 5:09.26 for the 400.