Morning swimmers dive in for fun, exercise

Published 12:00 am Monday, July 22, 2002

Lenora Schilling, 21, swims laps at City Pool on Friday during an afternoon meeting of the Vicksburg branch of the Masters Swim Program. The group meets in the morning, afternoon and evening, five days a week, to swim laps at the pool. Below, Laura Callaway, who helped start the program at City Pool in 1996, uses a kickboard to plow through the water during her laps on Friday. The Vicksburg Post/Melanie Duncan)

[07/22/02]They do more before 8 a.m. than most people do all day.

They are the few, the proud, the wet the Masters Swim Program.

Though the name Masters Swim Program may sound daunting to some, the program isn’t just for elite swimmers by any means.

The Vicksburg Masters Swim Program was originally established for people of all ages and swimming capabilities. Some come for therapeutic reasons, others for training purposes, but most are just looking to keep in shape.

Everyone is welcome to suit up for their own agenda.

“I’ve had really bad back problems lately and realized that getting back in swimming would be the best thing for me to do,” said Lenora Schilling, 21. “It’s been the best pain management for me as far as my back goes.”

Co-founder Laura Callaway, a major in the U.S. Army Reserves, uses the program for other reasons.

“I personally am a triathelete, so I try to get in the pool as soon as I can so I can train for a triathalon,” Callaway said. “Swimming is one of the best aerobic events there is. So I keep my weight down and stay in shape.”

Not only does the Master Swim Program offer an invigorating means of exercise, it is one of the few sports in which all ages can participate together.

“There are people age 19 to people who are 100 years old in the organization nationwide,” co-founder Bruce Sabol said. “So you compete against your own potential. You use the people swimming next to you to help motivate you to go faster.”

Speed is not necessarily a requirement within the Masters Swim Program. Everyone is encouraged to swim at their own pace.

“I’m a senior citizen and have been doing it for three years,” Rose Hamilton said. “This year I got a season pass and have been doing lap swimming.

“It’s great exercise, good on the joints, easy on the joints, and refreshing.”

The Masters Swim Program is a “loosely organized group” founded in 1996, coinciding with the opening of City Pool.

Co-founders Callaway and Sabol asked pool manager Sylvia Gurtowski to set up times for swimmers to do laps, and Gurtowski quickly agreed.

For Sabol, swimming laps was natural after watching his children do it for years.

“They were swimmers in the city team in high school,” Sabol said. “They enjoyed it, they were good at it, and when they quit I just couldn’t stand it. I had to have somebody in the family swimming. So I had to jump in and do it myself.”

And he has been, for the last six years.

“Nothing compares to swimming for me,” he said. “I enjoy it, far and away, more than anything.”

The City Pool season cost is $40 and the program offers three different times for swimmers to get in the water for lap swimming: 6:30-to-8 a.m., 12-to-1 and the night swim from 6-to-8.

“As long as people know that they have a place to go,” Gurtowski said. “They don’t have to be a part of a swim team to come out and do their lap swimming.”

The season will continue throughout the summer, and the Masters Swim Program will then use the pool through the fall when the high school swim teams workout.

And for those still sitting on the wall debating whether to get involved, Schilling offered an invitation to dive right in.

“Go ahead, come in,” she said. “The water feels great.”Morning swimmers dive in for fun, exercise Morning swimmers dive in for fun, exercise Morning swimmers dive in for fun, exercise