Simonton, Mench Set World Masters Mark in California Meet

By Karlyn Pipes-Neilsen

EL CAJON, Calif. June 20. THERE are few certainties in life.

However, in the Masters swimming world, one thing is for certain: If you host a meet anywhere in Northern or Southern California, you can be guaranteed that at least one major record will fall during the meet.

Swimmers in San Diego did not disappoint as a total of five FINA world and four USMS national records were set at the Heartland Masters Short Course Meters Meet on Sunday, June 8.

Leading the way was lively eighty-five year old Rita Simonton of Golden West Swim Club. Simonton took top honors, setting the majority of records for the day: four world and three US national records (yes, you read it correctly!) for women in the 85-89 age group.

The speedy Simonton actually swam one race (the 800-meter free), but her electronic splits at the 200 and 400 established new world and national bests in three events.

The 4:06.61 split at the 200 slashed the national record of 4:37.83 set by Maxine Merlino in 1998 and the world record of 4:10.40 established by Hisako Koga from Japan in 2002.

Simonton’s 400 split of 8:21.36 destroyed the existing national and world records of 8:45.92 set by Marjorie Sharpe in 2002.

Her final time of 16:49.43 for the 800 smashed the national and world records of 19:41.58 set in 1998 by her close friend, Maxine Merlino.

Showing her versatility, Simonton later swam the 100-meter individual medley in a time of 2:21.11 bettering the world record of 2:22.10 set by Maria Lenk of Brazil. However, the current national record for this event is 2:12.85 set by Jewell Cooke in 1995. There was no explanation for why the national mark was faster than the global mark, but Simonton's swim will go in the books as a new world record. Cooke will retain her American standard.

Heartland Masters swimmer Lee Mench, 50, established his first-ever individual FINA world and USMS record for the men's 50-54 age group in the 100-meter free. Swimming virtually uncontested, Mench swam an outstanding time of 55.37, shaving almost half a second off the previous best established by Jim McConica in 2001.

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