Owl swimmers take to the open water in Florida
KEENE, N.H. 1/9/12 – Always looking for different and unique ways for his team to train, Keene State swimming coach Jack Fabian couldn’t resist the opportunity to have his Owls compete in the Swimming Hall of Fame rough water race off the coast of Fort Lauderdale in Florida on Saturday. “It’s a great way to train and build endurance,” said Fabian.
Although the majority of Owl swimmers had never competed in an open water race, they took to the water like fish with four Keene State swimmers finishing among the top four in the college division. Sophomore Drew Ledwith (Keene, N.H.), a member of the U.S. national open water junior team, won the men’s race with a time of 22:07.09, finishing over two minutes ahead of the field in the one mile race that included swimmers from around the country who were training at the facility.
Keene State swept the top three places in the women’s race with sophomore Stephanie Murray (Haverhill, Mass.) finishing first (25:43.4). Freshmen Diana Pimer (West Haven, Conn.) and Caity Shea (Salem, N.H.) was right behind. Pimer placed second (26:00) while Shea took fourth (26:46.2).
Pimer is no stranger to open water swimming. “My family grew up near the water in Connecticut and we’d swim across the sound,” she said. “I loved swimming in the warm Florida water. It was the best open race I’ve ever done.”
Some of the KSC swimmers were a little hesitant to enter the water. “The day before the race, we did a practice swim at another beach and I got stung by a jelly fish, so I was scared,” said Murray. “I just tried to stay calm and finish.”
“I was really nervous because you don’t know what’s underneath the water, said Shea. “But once I got going I was fine. I didn’t see anything so it made me swim faster.”
“I’m a lifeguard at Hampton Beach, so I’ve done some open water swimming but never raced, said Chris Avery, a senior from Merrimack, N.H. “I wasn’t looking at the shore, so it was hard to stay on track. I kept on swimming out.”
Despite winning the race, Murray also had a tough time navigating the course. “There was a jet ski that went along with us and you’d get hit by the waves, “she said. “It was hard to stay in line. I was zigzagging all over the place.”
Open water swimming isn’t for everyone. Owl swimmers were on different sides of the lane when it came to deciding their water preference. Pimer opts for the ocean. “I like open water better because you can just swim,” she said. “You don’t have to worry turning and stopping.”
Murray prefers the pool. “I don’t think I’d do it again,” said Murray. “I’m glad there aren’t any fish in the pool.”
Returning to Keene Saturday night, the Owls were back training in the Spaulding Gym Pool on Sunday. The Keene State women’s team has a couple of LEC meets this week. They will be at Plymouth State on Wednesday (1 p.m.) and at Eastern Conn. on Saturday (1 p.m.)