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Masters Studettes, Merlino and Simonton, Set World Records in the 1500 -- August 2, 2003

By Karlyn Pipes-Neilsen

LA JOLLA, Calif., July 27. SOMETIMES you just have to wonder…how do they do it?

Have ninety-one year old Maxine Merlino and eighty-five year old Rita Simonton discovered the Fountain of Youth? What is their secret? Better yet: why do they do it?

The answer? (Now listen up, you "young" folk): Swimming keeps you young!

When most "senior citizens" are content to play a game of cards or maybe a few holes of golf, these two legendary Masters swimmers are breaking records almost every time they hit the pool. Just last weekend at a long course meters meet held at the Coggan Family Aquatic Center in La Jolla, both Merlino and Simonton smashed FINA world and USMS national records in the grueling 1500-meter free.

Competing in the 90-94 age group, Maxine Merlino got the ball rolling when she swam an amazing 45:53.54, obliterating the previous listed world and national record of 50:26.55 set by Julia Dolce in 1999.

Merlino swam the 1500-meter event last year in Santa Barbara and swam a faster time of 44:46.30. However, the meet director failed to turn in the appropriate documentation and record application within the 60-day time limit and the record was lost. Merlino’s time from 2002 is considered a pending USMS national record.

Forever fit Rita Simonton set six new records (three world and three national) for the 85-89 age group with just one swim. At the 400, Simonton split a 8:33.37, slashing almost a minute of the previous world best of 9:31.21 set by Japan’s Ume Wada in 1999. Continuing on, Simonton hit the pads at 800 meters with a 17:18.01, smashing the world and national record of 19:12.10 set by USA’s Jean Durston in 1999.

Simonton’s final time was a stunning 32:33.60 taking over four minutes off Durston’s national and global standard of 36:42.65 done in 1999.

Look for more FINA world and USMS national records to tumble during the Southwest Regional Championships to be held August 10-12 at Mission Viejo, California. You can bet Merlino, Simonton as well as a host of other top swimmers will be ready to swim fast and smash a few records.