One month before the AKMS state meet, Clare Hiratsuka was concerned that if she swam in the meet she would only hurt the team. It was clear to me, with her being so new to swimming, she did not understand how meets are scored. As I looked at the statistics posted on the AKMS website, however, I could easily see how anyone new to our sport could come to that conclusion. SWAM, with the highest number of individuals entered, scored only slightly higher than average. While some coaches may have seen this as a disappointment, I am proud of this statistic because it indicates that we encourage and properly train swimmers of all levels and ability, which reflects the goal of United States Masters Swimming.

If our goal as a team is to score the highest number of points per individual, we would simply have someone like Rick Abbott, who can win almost every race that he enters, swim six events and have no one else participate. But Rick is no more important to our team than Clare, who struggles to complete 50 yards in a time that many of our fastest swimmers can complete 200 yards. Clare, in her sixties, is an inspiration to me because she is willing to try something new.

When she asked me if she should swim in the meet, I said with certainty that she should. But it wasn't just me that said so; several individuals said they would be thrilled to watch her compete. I believe that the welcoming atmosphere at SWAM is one of the most important reasons we have been successful at attracting all levels of swimmers. SWAMers can count on each other when issues larger than swimming come about. For this I am more proud to be associated with SWAM than any other reason. Whether the issue is illness, pregnancy, marriage, divorce, or even death, SWAMers can be depended upon to support each other as much as anybody outside of family.

SWAMers did very well in this meet. Many goals were met and I have to say that we were definitely motivated by Buckner Masters results from last year. Our hats go off to Juneau and Ketchikan for bringing such large and strong squads all the way from Southeast and to teams being represented from as far away as Nome.

On a final note: I'm sure that Clare was scared when she got into the water for her 50 yard freestyle and 50 yard backstroke. Though they were still not stellar, her swims saw huge improvement from last summer. Afterwards, Clare was overjoyed with her accomplishment. What she wanted to know from me was when she was going to get to do it again, but even better next time!

Andrew Billings, Coach

Swimming With Alaska Masters

Copyright 2004 - AKMS
Last Update: 2:18 PM on Sat, May 18, 2002
Please send corrections/suggestions to Web Guy