SARASOTA - As the YMCA and the Selby Aquatic Center prepare for the gargantuan task of hosting the Pan-American Masters Championships in June, the Sarasota Sharks Masters swim team has some things to take care of before then.
The Masters team heads to Fort Lauderdale next week for the YMCA National Championships -- a meet they have won 7 straight times. That is no small feat. "We're very organized because we have done it a long time. People like to come and swim with us, so we usually have a pretty good time over there in Fort Lauderdale," says head coach Rick Walker.
When they go, they will bring their ace in the hole: 80-year-old Bumpy Jones, who is coming off a weekend in which he set 7 national records all by himself. "Oh, I'm fine. These will be good meets to get ready. The real swimming is done long course, like the Olympics and all other national championships. And the other ones are just things that you just get ready to swim long course."
But Bumpy is not their only weapon. The team is 90 strong, and when they walk onto the pool deck, heads turn. They are the New York Yankees of the Masters swimming community. “We are pretty confident because we have great swimmers, but we also have the largest team, so it makes it hard to beat us," says Walker.
Masters swimmers seem to be the best combination of mind, body, spirit and wisdom, and that makes it a different experience from when these swimmers were mere tadpoles. "I come here almost every day just to be with my teammates mainly. Swimming is what I am here for obviously, but being with the group is just wonderful," says team member Kelly Carpenter.