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East County Wednesday, Jun. 9, 2010 7 years ago

Swimmer competes at Masters Swimming Nationals

by: Jen Blanco Sports Editor

GREENFIELD PLANTATION — From the moment he stepped onto the pool deck at the United States Masters Swimming National Championships, Greenfield Plantation resident Ed Mench was at a loss for words.

No matter where he turned, Mench found himself face-to-face with another past, current or future Olympian.
He swam in the same warm-up lane as 2008 Olympic gold medalist Cullen Jones.

He talked to 2004 Olympic gold medalist Mark Gangloff, who holds the American Record in the 100-meter breaststroke — Mench’s best event.

And he competed against former Olympian Roque Santos, who lit up the field in the 100-yard breaststroke.
“It’s pretty humbling,” Mench said of competing against former Olympians. “There’s always someone faster out there, and he’s (Roque Santos) an example of that.”

Nearly 2,000 swimmers, ranging in age from 18-89, competed in the USMS Nationals May 20-23 at the Georgia Tech Aquatic Center in Atlanta — site of the 1996 Summer Olympics.

Mench competed in four events in the 40-44 age group, including the 50- and 100-yard breaststrokes, the 100-yard individual medley and the 50-yard freestyle, and set personal bests in each of his events.

Mench won his heat in the 100 IM (0:57.58), finished 12th in the 100 breaststroke (1:03.53), 20th in the 50 breaststroke (29.09) and 24th in the 50 freestyle (23.34).

“I tend to do very well in my age group around here locally, but I was ecstatic with 12th place because there were some really fast swimmers,” Mench said. “They’re so smooth in the water and they make it look effortless. They just glide and eat up chunks of water with each stroke.”

Mench began swimming competitively when he was 13 years old after his mother forced him to join a local AAU team in New Jersey. Mench struggled for nearly the first two years, but gradually his stroke improved, and he began to enjoy the sport.

Mench swam in high school and spent two years swimming for Johns Hopkins University before transitioning from swimming to water polo.

“In my (town) I was a big fish in a little pond,” Mench said. “I was a good swimmer for my high school area, but once I got out I was just (average).”

After taking a nearly 20-year break from swimming, Mench made his way back into the pool after his 11-year-old daughter, Makayla, began swimming with the Lakewood Ranch YMCA WaveRunners.

Mench began swimming a couple times a week at the Lakewood Ranch YMCA before joining the Sarasota Sharks Masters team under the tutelage of Rick Walter about a year ago. Today, Mench trains with about 10 other Masters swimmers six mornings a week — four at the Lakewood Ranch YMCA and two in Sarasota.

On average, Mench tries to compete in at least one swim meet every two months. With his first USMS Nationals meet behind him, Mench is now preparing for the 2010 USMS Summer Nationals Aug. 9-12 in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

“I love competing and being able to measure myself against other people and my previous times to see whether I’ve improved or not,” Mench said. “I just want to keep improving on time, improving my stroke and get faster.”

Contact Jen Blanco at [email protected].

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