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Kingdom Swim 2014

Kingdom Swim 2014 – Recap

Lake Memphremagog –  Kingdom Swimmers from as far away as Ireland and California, Texas, Florida, Ontario and Quebec City descended on Newport and joined our celebration of open water swimming and summer in The Kingdom.  All in all, Ireland, Canada, and 18 of the United States were represented by swimmers whose ages ranged from 6 to 75.  Mighty Memphremagog laid down her defenses.  The water warmed to 72 degrees, the winds were relatively light from the south, the skies were sunny all day long

Congratulations to our two, new WOWSA 10 Mile World Champions, Jeffrey Stuart, 53, of Manchester, CT, posting a time of 4:24:17 and Eileen Mullowney, 23, of Burlington, VT who crossed the line at 4:37:23.  Just last week, Jeff was hoping to win his age division!!!  There was definitely a horse race in the men’s ten miler, as Jeff fended off a stiff challenge by 22 year old Cole Gindhart of Cibolo, Texas who finished just one minute behind with a time of 4:25:17. 31 years and exactly 1 minute separated these two ten mile contenders.   Amazing and timeless.  Only in the open water.  Eileen finished 45 minutes ahead of her nearest competitors, Karen Scherer, 39 of Waitsfield, VT and Abigail Fairman 37, of New York City.  Eileen’s longest open water swim this year was 2.5 miles.  Hate to think what she could do if she actually trained for this swim!

Kevin Sullivan, 53, of Chelmsford, MA, swimming in a wetsuit, knocked down the fastest 10 mile time of the day, 4:20:58, shutting down a strong challenge by David Polatty, IV, 43, of Narragansett, RI.  4:23:23.  10 years and 2 minutes and 25 seconds separated these two.

Maureen Rohrs, 58 of Severna Park, MD and leader of the Arundel Breakfast Club (a tribe of Crabby Nation), won the women’s ten mile wetsuit division with a time of 5:17:50.  With Patricia Clark, 54 of Worcester, MA claiming second, and Cynthia Needham, 65 of Hyde Park, VT, taking the third spot.  Last year, Cynthia did her longest swim ever in the 6 mile course, which actually turned out to be 7 miles.  She tried to complain, but you could see the smile on her face that her longest swim was that much longer.  I told her, “Now we know you can do ten miles.”  Sure enough.

Speaking of horse races, two-timing, double-crossing, Sarah Thomas, 32, of Conifer, CO took down the 15 mile Border Buster in just 7 hours and 10 minutes.  But she had to overtake 54 year old Bill Shipp of Mitchelville, MD who set the pace and ultimately finished just 20 minutes behind Sarah with a time of 7:33:32.  Bill took an early lead and held it until the swim turned south after Buoy 16 at Bullis Point in Ogdon, Quebec.  What fun to see these two bring it on.  Along with her husband, Ryan Willis, Bill crewed for Sarah during her historic 50 mile double cross of Lake Memphremagog last September.  To see them swimming together in this all new course was a pure joy.  22 years and 23 minutes separated these two.  And, not far behind them was the indefatigable Kiwi, Charlotte Brynn, 47 from Stowe, with a time of 7:52:49.  Charlotte was fresh off a successful 28 mile swim around Manhattan and is headed for Catalina Channel later this summer.  Looking to collect some more shark teeth, Charlotte?   The Border Buster lived up to its name.  We developed an expeditious protocol for going north.  And coming south into the US, we were cleared without reporting in because we never touched land, never touched a Canadian boat, and had nothing to declare but the sheer joy of an international swim.  Special thanks to the officials who worked with us on both sides of the border to make this crossing possible.

In the six mile swim, Jennifer Olsen, 43 of Natick, MA was first overall at 2:28:26 with Bennett McCarthy 51, also from Natick, MA, first among the men and  less than 4 minutes behind at 2:32:04.  Must be something in the Natick water supply to explain these fiendishly fast times.  Finishing first in the wetsuit divisions were Brian Dwyer , 53, of Middlebury, CT and Francine Amyot, 50 of St-Romauld, QC.  Francine is one of the leaders of the wonderful Quebec Nordiques that runs, bikes, swims, and tris many of our events throughout the summer.  They are also excellent paraders, winning the team prize for best costumes.

But the real story of the 6 mile swim is the participants in our new Assisted Division.  Victor Yannessa, 58, of Elkins Park, PA hurt his neck and now swims with a snorkel, guided by a rope dragged from his kayak escort.  And Laurie Stober, 50, of Oregonia, OH, an amputee, who swims with one arm and fins.  Last year we added this division in the hopes of attracting a variety of swimmers including those with special challenges.  We are thrilled that Laurie and Victor were able to join the parade and celebrate a great day of open water swimming.

In the three mile course, women totally ruled the roost, placing 1, 2, 3, and 4 overall.  Katie Dickerson, 34, of West Chester, PA knocked the socks of the field with an impressive time of 1:23:46.  Second overall and just 3 minutes behind Katie was Lauri Berkencamp, 50 of Hanover, NH.  1:26:32.  Third overall was Keone Weigl, 51 of Manlius, NY. 1:31:59; Fourth overall was Heidi Brynn, 14, of Stowe, VT swimming in the very first open water event of her life.  1:32:28  First among the men was 13 year old Aiden Haggerty of Jackson, NH with a time of 1:34:58.  Joining them was 16 year old Laddy DeLuca of Aurora, ME completing her swim in 2:12:10.  Cool beans to see Aiden, Heidi and Laddy make such strong statements this year.  As between Katie and Lauri, 16 years and 3 minutes.

And speaking of statements, Galen Broido, 19 of Hinesburg, VT, swimming in a wetsuit, smashed through the field with a time of 1:04:07.  WOW.  She was followed in the women’s wetsuits by Joan Gamso 56, of Bonita Springs, FL and fisherwoman extraordinaire (1:30:3) and by Laurie Damianos, 50 of Waltham, MA. (1:38:33)  Laurie recently “retired” as president of the Boston Triathlon Team which has been a HUGE supporter of our Aquaman and Ollie Even Up Triathlons.  But not that far behind 19 year old Galen was 68 year old Bruce Mohl also of Bonita Springs, FL with a time of 1:13:26 and 52 year old Ian Thomas of Naples, FL clocking out at 1:17:07.   The difference between Galen and Bruce: 49 years and just 9 minutes.  Sweet.  Very sweet.  Thank you, Bruce, for your fist in the face of age.  It is much appreciated by those of us who are also in our “golden” years.  The trick, I’m told, is to keep the mind of a ten year old and the heart of a teenager.  And to Joan and Laurie and Ian, some fine times posted by the Naples Scalawags.  Thanks for bringing your good spirits north and for representing the “mature” open water swimming community so well.

Geezers made us proud this year.  Turning 60 this year, Paula Yankauskas of Hyde Park, VT  swam the 15 mile Border Buster, sans wetsuit.  72 year old, Rob  Madell of Brooklyn, NY did the 10 mile swim (for the fifth year in a row if I’m not mistaken) along with Albert “Chip” Bruchac, 67 of Worthington, OH and Cynthia Needham, 65 of Stowe.  The most “mature” Kingdom Swimmer this year was Dominique Amyot, 75, a retired police detective from Riviere du Loup, QC, swimming the 3 mile course.  And Curtis von Kann, 71 of Washington DC and Cove Island took on the 1 mile course for the second year in a row.  Earlier in the day, we caught a pic of Curt and his wife ringing the bells of Cove Island as 10 and 15 milers swam by their shore.  Delightful.  Pure delight to hear the sound of bells on a glorious summer day filled with good swimming.

Hard to believe it could get any better, but it did in the afternoon with “Da Yute” taking on the short courses.  Lovin the excitement and nerves and anticipation of the kids as they took on their first open water swimming events.  Watching 6 year old, Claire Jaubert, figuring out that she should run and swim toward Susan Watson our perfect floating buoy (Kayak) in the 100 yard event.  The excitement of 10 year old Becket Jewell who travelled from Monroe, NH  for the 100 yard swim.

Three girls took on the 1/4 mile event Ella White of St. Johnsbury, VT.  Vera Rivard of Springfield, NH, and Naia Tower-Pierce of East Burke, VT.  And the great good spirit at the award ceremony.  And, four girls took on the 1 mile distance:  Vera Rivard, 10 of Springfield, NH  laid down an impressive time of 0:28:50, followed by Talyn Dean, 9, of St. Johnsbury, VT (0:42:49) and Josephine Sestito, 9 of St. Johnsbury (0:46:18) and Lillian Jaubert, 9, of Towson, MD.    Congrats to St. J. Swim Club Coach Brennan Dean for fielding such a strong team of youngsters.  And here’s to the next generation of Jauberts.

Special thanks to our growing flotilla of boat people led by Rear Admirals Bruce and Karen Lippens.  And to Greg O’Connor for travelling up from Natick to pilot the lead boat for the Border Buster expedition.  The communication was great out on the water.   The response was fast and effective when we had to respond to a call for help.

Our pool of local kayakers filled the bill, stepped up to the plate and delivered some great escort support.  Special mention to Jennifer Copp, escorting for her very first time and guiding Chip Bruchac from start to finish in 9:03:59.  Loved your good spirit, Jennifer, especially when you came off the water, had some lunch, and said, “That was great.  I’ll do this again anytime you want.”

Thanks also to Liba Hladek, Hayley Joseph, Genieve Channell, Erica Flickenger Sheckler, Ann Creaven, and Patrick Mahoney our volunteers on the beach and in the timing tent.  And to Newport Natural Café for their excellent chili and Derby Village Store for supplying us with the rest of the lunch fixings.  A great job all around.  If we made errors, they were mine.  If we were successful it was because of them.

Our sponsors’ support of Kingdom Swim and our entire series of events makes them possible.  Special thanks to our major underwriting sponsors Community National Bank, Newport City Renaissance Corporation, North Country Hospital and to our many other sponsors for their support  (see below for the full listing).  They share the vision, value these games, and help us welcome you to our community.

It was absolutely terrific seeing The Tribes of Kingdom Swim gather once again for the parade and swim: Red Tide, CIBBOWS, Quebec Nordiques, The Knuckleheads, The Naples Scalawags, Crabby Nation, St.J Swim Club, Upper Valley Rays, and the Green River (Stowe) Mermaids and Mermen.   Largest team this year was Green River, fielding 11 swimmers.  They each won an entry to another event this year, transferable to a friend if they already have a season pass. 

The George Hunihan For the Love of the Swim Award goes to Charlotte Brynn, who’s contagious good spirit is just about everywhere and who’s now starting to make the rounds of Manhattan, Catalina, and the EC to Git ‘er Dun, after narrowly missing completion at each.  Nothing but positive.  Working on her discipline of creamy after miserable creamy to fatten herself up a bit and ready herself for the colder waters.  Manhattan’s done and down and Catalina is now in her sights.  I know there’s one shark in those waters who won’t tangle with this feisty Kiwi a second time around.  $100 gift certificate to The EastSide for you, Charlotte.  They have excellent hot fudge sundays!!

The Last One Back to the Barn Award doesn’t always go to the last one back.  It does go to that person who best reflects the “fist in the face of reality” attitude so prevalent among the local inhabitants of the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont.   This year’s winner is ieona McCormack of Navan, Ireland.  In 2002 she suffered a spinal injury, is a parapalegic, and walks with crutches.  She swims with a wet suit and without other assists.   She completed the 6 mile course in 3:59:33. Seeing  Fiona finish strong to the beach, rise with the assistance of Erica Flickinger Sheckler, put on her braces and grab her crutches ,all with a smile on her face and a glint in her eyes, I knew that this year’s award goes to her.  The prize: A full set of the works of Howard Frank Mosher.  It’s taking a while to gather them, now that our local independent book store closed (like so many others recently).  Fiona, we’ll ship you what we have and send along the rest as we get them.  

This is the first time in many years that Rob Madell has not won the prize for the “most mature” Kingdom Swimmer.  He was edged out by Dominique Amyot, our 75 year old, Quebec Nordique swimming in the 3 mile course.  The prize for swimmer with “the most potential” goes to 6 year old Claire Joubert, the daughter of “lifer” Kevin Jaubert, of Towson, MD.  Kevin has swum each and every year since we started Kingdom Swim in 2009 as has Laura Malieswski.   Earlier this year they were recognized and offered a season pass to all of our swims.  Dominique and Claire also win free entry to next year’s Kingdom Swim to defend their “titles.”

The very first to sign up for next year’s 10 mile course is Hadar Aviram, 39 of San Francisco.  She was forced to pull out after 7.5 miles because of back spasms.  She felt better on Sunday morning and went back out on the lake and quietly did 2.5 miles to get her ten in.  She accepted our invitation to get back on the horse and plan to return in 2015.  Love that spirit, Hadar.  A quiet determination and steady gaze.   Love your blog on the Marathon Swimmers Forum.

What a great celebration.  The weekend started on Thursday when Billy Connor and Sarah Thomas were honored by the Mayor of Magog with a formal ceremony recognizing their historic achievements with a small gathering afterwards.  Press was all over the place. Later on Thursday, NEKOWSA’s first annual pizza party aboard the Northern Star was lovely.  We inducted Billy into the Order of the Knights Memphre.  The glint in his eye as he bit into his woodal shows the spirit of a man who can swim 25 miles, through a thunderstorm, encounter a lake creature, and still complete his swim.   That 50 miler Sarah Thomas could join us for the evening made it even more special.  Her swim last year in the face of fierce headwinds for the first 8 hours was the most inspiring thing I’ve ever been part of, ‘cept maybe the very first year of the Search, or the return of Bill Shipp to finish the job in 2012, or ….

And then the parade, the joyful, flukey, Fellini-esque  parade through down town Newport.  Billy, Sarah, and crew in the carriage provided by Missisquoi Valley Arabians leading the parade, followed by pets, then swimmers, then some floats, Memphremagog Watershed Association, VFW, Captain Radical, the balloon man, Shriners, Newport “Barks” and Recreation, the Session Band, and Cars of Yesteryear.  Quebecsters won the look-a-like contest for their crazy rendition of what they think John Belushi would look like if he came from the great city of Quebec.  Best dressed pet had to be the shepherd with the Sons of Anarchy blanket.

But, in the end, it’s all about the joy of the swim.  Saturday was just a lovely day from the 5 am Border Buster start to the final “landings” as the crowds dissipated.   Thanks for bringing your energy to the beach and for joining us for a “dip” in the waters of Mighty Memphremagog.

All our best,

Phil, Kristian, Peter, Erica, and the rest of The Clubhous Gang.

PS – Got the final list of donors from the hospital so we can have our drawing.  We’ll keep you posted.

PPS – Tentative plan is to move the swim back to where we started, the last weekend in July, i.e., July 25th, 2015.  Hope you’ll save the date.  We’ll keep you posted when the decision is finalized.


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