By Phillip Whitten
SAN DIEGO, May 7. AH, the joys and rewards of Masters swimming, where getting older — at least in five-year increments — is something to which one can look forward with eager anticipation. In Masters, you see, you don't actually get older, you age up.
Recently, San Diego Masters swimmer Karlyn Pipes-Neilsen turned 40, thereby moving into the already very tough women's 40-44 age group. Having set numerous 30-34 and 35-39 national and world marks — not to mention an NCAA Div. II record at age 36 that lasted four years — it didn't take long for her to begin rewriting the record book in her new age group.
Last weekend, competing in a USA Swimming meet in Poway, Calif., Pipes-Neilsen set a new national record for the 40-44 age group in the 100-meter freestyle.
Competing in the 13 & over category (and winning the event), Pipes-Neilsen sped to a time of 1:00.14, shaving almost half a second off the previous USMS and world best of 1:00.63 set by 1972 Olympian Sandy Nielsen-Bell (no relation). However, Pipes-Neilsen's time will only count as a USMS record due to a FINA rule that does not recognize times as Masters world records unless they are swum at Masters meets.
Over the past six weeks, Pipes-Neilsen has twice broken the 40-44 USMS record for the 100-yard IM. In March, she swam a 1:00.99, bettering the old record of 1:01.22 set by Beth Baker in 2001. In April, she lowered that record again by over second when she swam a 59.90, becoming the first female over 40 to break the one-minute barrier in that event.
Pipes-Neilsen was not the only 40 year-old woman breaking the one-minute barrier for a 100 yard event.
Swimming at the Colonies Zone Short Course Yards Championship hosted by Terrapin Masters on April 13-14, Vibeke Swanson became the first 40 year-old woman to dip under the one-minute mark in the 100-yard backstroke with a very speedy 59.26. Her time erased SWIM Magazine's "Masters Swimmer of the Year" honoree, Laura Val's time of 1:01.38 set in 1996.
Swanson, 40, representing the 1776 team, also bettered the national record in the 200 back with a 2:11.27, just a tad under the 2:11.40 standard set by Beth Baker in 2001.
Displaying versatility and tremendous endurance, Swanson hacked over three full seconds off the 400-yard IM record with a very impressive 4:34.29, bettering Jill Hernandez's national mark of 4:37.83.