Records Tumble on the First Day of Masters Short Course Nationals

By Phillip Whitten & Michael Collins

SANTA CLARA, May 17. With some 1,849 of the nation's top Masters swimmers gathered at the George Haines – Santa Clara International Swimming Center for the 2001 USMS Short Course National championships, one thing was sure: there were going to be fireworks.

And fireworks there were on Day One of the meet, with records devastated like trailer parks in a tornado.
Here's a brief summary.

The middle age group were hot, as four USMS marks fell in the five age group between 35-39 and 55-59.

UCLA's Randy Eickhoff, 35, notched his first-ever national record when he touched in 9:39.41. The old record, 9:41.12, was set in 1999 by Danish Olympian Franza Mortensen, swimming for Santa Clara. Mortensen did not swim the event this year.

Brett Phillips, 43, became another first-time record-setter, when he touched in 9:45.97, taking almost two seconds off the old record for men 40-44: Hess Yntema's 9:47.73 from 1994. George Tidmarsh, who finished second, swam 9:59.37, the fourth fastest time all-time.

In the 50-54 age group, Jim Clemmons, Multnomah Athletic Club Masters, took 9-1/2 seconds off his previous best time to dip under Tod Spieker's record of 10:30.05 set two years ago. Clemmons touched home in 10:24.04.

The oldest record-setter was also the most spectacular. The Olympic Club's Tim Birnie, hacked almost a full half-minute off the men's 55-59 standard, clocking 10:52.60. Dru Gallagher owned the old record, 11:22.13, set four years ago.

In the men's 45-49 age group, Sandy MacDonald swam 10:09.24–the second fastest swim ever in the age group, and barely more than a second off Jim McConica's standard of 10:07.92 set last year.

The women's record book remained virtually unsullied this day, as only one national mark bit the dust.

In the women's 50-54 age group, Celeste Miller, 51, Sierra Nevada Masters, lowered her own record of 11:54.13 set last year. Miller clocked in at a stunning 11:41.46.

Two winners recorded the second fastest times in history in their age groups. Diane Graner Gallas, 37, SLUG, clocked 10:25.07 in the 35-39 division, just off Karlyn Pipes-Neilsen's 10:22.60. In the 40-44 division, Walnut Creek's Margee Curran posted a 10:56.20, second only to Suzanne Heim-Bowen's 10:40.82 from 1999.

Three records fell in the men's "mile," with the record-setters pretty well scattered along the age continuum.

The youngest record-setter was Ventura County masters' Mike Shaffer, 35, who took Bobby Patten's 1999 mark of 16:02.13 down below the 16-minute barrier. Shaffer clocked 15:56.73, which was the fastest time swum in any age group this day. Shaffer 1000 split of 9:39.22 also broke the 35-39 age group record set only hours ago by Randy Eikoff.

The amazing Jim McConica, 50, also from Ventura County Masters, blasted Jim Clemmons' mark of 17:30.33, set only last year, by some 48 seconds. McConica's 16:42.70 (the second overall fastest time of the day) was also faster than his own 45-49 record of 16:44.67.

The equally-amazing Graham Johnston, Team Texas, slashed Bill Phillips' standard of 22:05.90 set three years ago. The 70 year-old Johnston, a 1952 Olympian for South Africa, touched in 20:29.18. Only two men his age have swum within two minutes of that time–Phillips and Frank Piemme.

Several other swims, while not national records, were noteworthy. Arizona Masters' Scott Shake won the 40-44 event in 17:01.99, storming from behind to beat SCAQ's Craig Nadel (17:08.97), who was unable to maintain his early torrid pace. Tim Harvey, USF, won the 45-49 race in 17:21.16, third fastest all-time in that age group.

SCAQ's Sandy Galletly, a British swimmer, clocked 19:05.56 to win the 55-59 age group. His time fell just short of his own record of 19:01.09 set two years ago. In the 60-64 division, 1776's David Harrison's 19:59.81 made him only the second man over 60 to crack 20 minutes. Johnston, of course, was the first.

Finally, at 90 the event's oldest swimmer, Joe Irvine,
won the 90-94 event in 52:02.79. his time was well off Gus Langner's national mark but is still a remarkable achievement.

Only one record fell in the women's mile, but there were several other outstanding performances.

Suzanne Heim-Bowen, 42, lowered her own women's 40-44 national record by a good 10 seconds down to 17:41.97. The Walnut Creek standout's old record, set two years ago, was 17:51.95. Second place went to Susanne Simpson, 41, INWM, whose 17:57.65 was probably the second best swim overall in the event. It also makes her the second fastest woman all-time in her age group.

Eighty-six year-old Maria Lenk-Zigler, who splits her time between the US and Brazil, clocked 38:07.20 to win the 85-89 age group. Her time makes her the second fastest woman ever in her age group. Only Jean Durston, who swam almost precisley one minute faster one year ago, has negotiated the mile faster.

Suzanne Dills, Pacific Northwest, won the 55-59 division in 21:40.40–her fastest time by 24 seconds. Dills, 56, whose time ranks her third all-time, becomes only the third woman in her age group to swim the mile under 22 minutes.

For full results and splits visit the
real time results
section of the United States Masters Swimming web site or click the events below. Remember to keep checking back here for the latest stories from our reporters at the meet.
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