Swim Fort Lauderdale’s Cecilia McCloskey Reflects on 18 Masters Records to Start 2020


Cecilia McCloskey was hoping to be on top of the world in swimming.

An Olympic trials qualifier in 1964 and 1968, she was hoping to make the Olympics and perform at the top of her sport.

It didn’t quite happen as she hoped. McCloskey, formerly Dougherty, missed the Olympic team by one spot in 1968.

But more than 50 years later, she is still one of the world’s elite swimmers.

McCloskey broke 18 national age-group records and seven Masters World Records this year, in a span of less than two months in the 70-74 age group.

“I did have a good start. I was preparing for turning 70 when I could hit the ground running. When I was 69, I started looking at what meets to go to and see if I could try and do this,” Cecilia McCloskey told Swimming World.

Her first Olympic trials were in 1964, when she was just 14, where she swam the 100 and 200 backstroke events. Four years laster at the 1968 Trials, she finished fourth in the 200 backstroke and fifth in the 100 backstroke, just one spot away from a spot on the team in Mexico City.

“I finished fourth when they took three,” she said. “I had made the PanAmerican Games that year and what is now the World University Games the year before.”

The year was extremely difficult for McCloskey and her family. A year before the 1968 trials, McCloskey’s mother died, leaving her father to care for 10 children. Cecilia was the third-oldest of the bunch and then barely missed the Olympics.

“It was a bad go for my family,” she said.

Cecilia McCloskey moved to the shores of the Atlantic Ocean after that, competed in a couple of open water events, then stopped swimming for about 20 years. When she was in her 40s, she got into Masters swimming for a bit, setting a few age-group records, before quitting to enjoy her own children’s swimming careers.

She always stayed in shape, whether that be from swimming, running, boxing or lifting weights.

“When I was 64 (2014), I came back into swimming. I went to the nationals in Maryland to be on a relay. I swam three events because I was allowed to since I was a relay swimmer. I won the 50 back in my first meet back. I was very surprised,” she said. “My brother asked me to do relays with his team, the Colonials from Philadelphia. Then we went to Croatia and did the swim trek, and it blossomed from there. I turned 65 and broke a lot of records right off the bat. Then I broke the world records in the long course during the summer.”

Along the way, she was named one of Swimming World’s Top 12 Masters Swimmers of the Year in 2015. She is on her way to another honor after dominating the first part of 2020, bringing her career world record total to 21.

The record assault began on Jan. 18, in San Francisco. McCloskey broke the USMS records in the 400 free, 800 free and 1500 free, with the 800 free and 1500 free also being Masters World Records in SCM.

“We got there the night before. I had never gone to a meet that late before. I knew the time I had to beat,” she said.

Just a few weeks later, she participated in the 28th Annual Valentines SCY meet in Clearwater, Florida, and set 70-74 age group records in the 50, 100 and 200 backstrokes as well as the 50 fly, 100, 200 and 400 IM and the 500 free.

She wasn’t finished.

Three weeks later, McCloskey participated in the 2020 Albatross SCM Open in Bethesda, Maryland. She had five swims in the meet and broke five masters world records.

And the meet was just one day – Feb. 29. Here is a breakdown of her productive day:

  • 50 Back: 36.68 (old World Record 37.50)
  • 100 Back:  1:17.36 (old World Record 1:22.15)
  • 100 Fly: 1:20.34 (old World Record 1:24.03)
  • 100 IM: 1:21.09 (old World Record 1:23.23)
  • 200 IM:  2:55.56 (old World Record 3:09.58)

Just a week later, McCloskey was participating in the Snag Holmes SCY Invitational in Jupiter, Florida, and set national records in the 1650 free, also capturing the 1000 free mark leading off her 1650.

That gave her 18 national age group records and seven Masters World Records in less than two months.

Marty Hendrick (left). Photo Courtesy: Swim Fort Lauderdale

“All of this was done in just 15 swims,” Swim Fort Lauderdale Masters Coach Marty Hendrick said. “Fourteen individual events, 1 relay lead off.  Records in every distance, 50, 100, 200, 400, 500, 800, 1000, 1500, 1650. Only discipline she had not set was individual Breaststroke. She had not swum them yet. This was all part of a year plan. No taper, no rest. And a whole new approach to how she prepared for each event including changes to travel schedule (not getting to event three days early to acclimate.) San Francisco, we flew out the day before. Maryland she arrived the day before the swim.”

Cecilia McCloskey was aiming for some of these records, and has been pleased how things have turned out.

“I moved to Florida and joined Swim Fort Lauderdale for the winters and that is when it really picked up for me. Marty has been fabulous. He gets me doing things that are good for me,” she said. “I thought I had a good chance at breaking some of these records. I couldn’t taper for four meets, so I just swam with a little rest before. I think I can swim faster. I was happy with the times, and I had more swims than I used to.”

Now, with pools closed across the country because of the coronavirus, Cecilia McCloskey is unsure when she will be able to get back in the water at all, let alone compete. But like always, she is staying active, running the Atlantic City Boardwalk and itching to get back in the water.

“I want to see how much faster I can go and how long I can hold on with this,” she said.

“There was a lot of planning put into 2020 because she turned 70 on January 2.  Here is a copy of the “work in progress” worksheet (see below) we started last year for the first part of season leading up to San Antonio Nationals : Note:  Cecilia is 70, so she wanted everything on paper she could hold!  You will notice the 2/8 Valentines meet was a “workout” meet.  No taper, no rest and 4 events each day.  She executed her plan for the day . Snag Holmes meet was just the 1650 and then relays and fun with her teammates the rest of the meet!” – Coach Marty Hendrick

Cecilia McCloskey


  1. avatar
    Steve Hiltabiddle

    Congratulations to a fabulous swimmer! For a year that will likely be remembered for how little swimming and racing was done, Cecilia showed how to not only get a lot of races in but to prepare to smash a ton of National and Work records in just a few months time. Such an incredible and inspirational series of swims done by someone who never settles for anything but her best.
    Who knows what else would have fallen? Way to go!

  2. avatar
    Chris McKee

    Wow…. Simply Remarkable (and inspiring)
    Way 2 Go Cecilia….. keep up the Great Work.
    From 1 Philly Poolhead Clan 2 Another…..

  3. avatar
    Barbara Burke

    Way to go, Cecelia! You’re my hero!

  4. avatar
    Paul Sweeney

    Never a doubt.

  5. avatar

    Cecilia, when you said “I have to do this for myself…I think I can do it” I knew you would. Congratulations girlfriend! You are my hero!

  6. avatar
    Destin Lasco

    Congratulations to my training partner Mrs. McCloskey! Your accomplishments and accolades are out of this world! Mrs. McCloskey is a great athlete and an even better role model. Behind the scenes, her determination, guidance, and willingness to constantly challenge her limits are inspiring. When we would do double practices at 5:30 A.M. in Pleasantville, you would always beat me to the water first. I would always say to myself “If Mrs. McCloskey can do it, I can do it too.” Thank you for being a great influence on me and the sport of swimming!

  7. avatar
    Glenn Lasco

    Congratulations Mrs. McCloskey! Not only is she an amazing swimmer and athlete, but an inspiring role model. I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to train with her throughout my high school career. And let me tell you she was a fierce competitor in the pool, but always was willing to help my brother I get to the next level whether it was in the pool or in life. I can’t wait to see what the future upholds for you! Much love from South Jersey!

  8. avatar

    Great article! Cecelia and I train together at swim fort Lauderdale. She is such an inspiration. So many days I am tired and then I see how hard she works. I can’t wait to get back in the pool and train with her and watch her break more records!!!

  9. avatar

    Very proud of you Cecelia and everything you have accomplished!

  10. avatar
    Peggy krouse

    What a super great career. Tough at any age to beat, congratulations, Cecelia

  11. avatar
    David McIntyre

    Thank you Barbara Protzman for sending this Swimming World Magazine article. Cecilia McCloskey, as an outstanding master swimmer, and would be a great member of SwimForum,… along with Marty Hendrick. Did Cecilia ever enter a Miss America contest with that thousand watt smile ? David McIntyre

  12. avatar

    Each of your Special Comments meant so much to me. Thank you for thinking of me and taking the time.

    Highest Regards, Cecilia