By Phillip Whitten
CORAL SPRINGS, Fla., May 11. THURSDAY was “D Day” at the USMS Short Course Nationals in Coral Springs, Florida. That’s “D” as in “Distance” — the day when all the distance-heads get their chance to shine.
It’s the day when the going gets tough, and the tough get going. And no one was tougher or got it going any better than 90-year-old Austin Newman. The Garden State Masters ace was one of eight swimmers who won both distance races contested in their age group today, but he was the only one who set national records in both efforts. Not only that but the records he broke belonged to two of the most celebrated nonagenarians in US Masters history.
Four Records Fall
Swimming in the first heat of the 1,000-yard freestyle, Newman punched in at 20:31.68, more than two-and-a-half minutes under the former men’s 90-94 mark of 23:06.53, set by Woody Bowersock in 2004.
Later in the day, Newman sailed through the 1,650-yard freestyle in 33:59.81, more than a minute-and-a-half quicker than the legendary Gus Langner’s 35:31.28, a record that had stood for 13 years.
Newman accounted for half of the four national records that fell today. Jeff Erwin, 41, of the Sawtooth Masters, eased under Bobby Patten’s two-year-old 1,650 standard of 16:13.92 for men 40-44, when the former Cal standout touched in 16:05.13. Erwin now holds the national record in the metric mile in three different age groups simultaneously: the 30-34, 35-39 and now 40-44 divisions.
The fourth record set this day fell to the inexorable assault of Ventura County Masters’ Jim McConica, who took the 1,000 yard free in the men’s 55-59 age group in 10:07.36, well under Tod Spieker’s old mark of 10:36.43 from 2004.
Besides Newman, seven other swimmers took both the 1,000 and 1,650-yard races in their respective age groups. Susann Simpson, Inland Northwest Masters, turned the trick in the women’s 45-49 division. The 46-year-old distance star stroked to victory in the 1,000 in 11:01.15, edging Denise Brown, Michigan Masters, by two seconds. She then came back to take the 1,650 in 18:22.74, again nipping Brown, this time by about 10 seconds.
Nancy Steadman-Martin, Garden State Masters, had an easier time of it in the 50-54 age group, taking the 40-lapper in 12:11.28 and the 66-lap event in 20:15.34. UCLA’s Laurie Dodd swept the distance events in the women’s 30-34 age group, clocking 10:55.17 and 18:14.01. Larry Krauser, Inland Northwest Masters, was a distance-doubler in the men’s 50-54 division with times of 10:36.80 and 17:58.13.
David Harrison, 1776 Masters, was another two-fer, taking the 1,000 in 12:39.40 and the 1,650 in 21:22.12, tops in the 65-69 age group. In the 75-79 division it was Michigan’s Don Korten who took both gold medals today. The 79-year-old stroked to times of 18:54.87 and 32:20.06 for his wins.
One age group up, Rob Sigersmith of the Florida Aquatic Combined Team (FACT) duplicated that feat with times of 19:10.52 and 32:27.82. Charlotte Peterson, 41, of the St. Petersburg Masters, had the fastest 1,000 by a woman, 10:46.40, while Laurie Hug, also 41 but representing the 1776 Masters, was the quickest woman over 1,650 yards at 17:52.14.
Thirty-six year-old Ethan Saulnier of New England Masters was the fastest man in the 1,000 as his 9:34.14 just missed Jeff Erwin’s national standard of 9:31.89. Erwin’s 16:05.13 was the quickest mile of the day.