It’s just after 8:30 a.m. and the 7 a.m. Masters Program session at the Arlington Park Pool is winding down.
On the far side of the pool, swimmers from Booker High School are warming up for the simulated meet that they are about to complete. And on the other side of the pool, one Masters Program swimmer keeps pushing through her training schedule, methodically going back and forth across the width of the pool. As she finishes another lap, she stops for a breath, smiles and says that she would love to talk.
Her name is Helen Vetter, and she says she has been working hard on her butterfly stroke this morning — a stroke that many swimmers of all ages avoid because of its difficulty. In October, Vetter, 69, will be having her fourth hip replacement in the past 15 years, but that’s not stopping her from swimming 120 laps each day, six days a week. She has also placed nationally for her age group in All-American relays and has remained enthusiastic and positive about what she loves to do.
“My famous hips,” Vetter jokes about her continuing surgeries. “The swimming is easier for me than walking. And it makes me feel good — it’s a goal for me. I love the camaraderie between all of the people here.”
The routine swimming keeps Vetter resilient, as well as feeling, looking and acting young, which landed her the nickname “Mademoiselle Duracell,” given to her by her doctor.
Vetter, who spent 30 years as a teacher in Europe, began swimming in 2000 and now swims in the Masters Program at the Arlington Park Pool. Members of this program range in age anywhere from 13 to 69 years and have joined for a variety of reasons; some want to stay fit and in shape, some compete at local, state and national meets and some want to avoid getting rusty in-between swimming seasons on school teams.
Whatever the reason and whatever the skill level, all are invited to join the program, coached by Peter Hegwein, which meets five days a week and operates on an interval-training schedule that changes daily. For more information, contact Hegwein at 924-6908 or the Arlington Park Pool at 861-5000.
BY THE NUMBERS
9 — number of years that Vetter has been swimming
4 — number of hip replacements that Vetter will have had after October
90 — average number of minutes Vetter works out daily