Taking swimmers outside their natural habitat, open swimming competition necessitates a myriad of skills.
Once again, the Donner Swim Club landed representatives on the Team Indiana squad that performed at the Central Zone Open Water Championship on June 30 at Pleasant Prairie, Wis. The meet features teams from 15 states.
“When you go to a pool, the lanes are crowded,” said Jennifer Brinegar, Donner’s age group elite coach. “In the open water, you never know what you’re going to run into. Currents, waves, you have to adjust to the changing environment.”
Six Donner swimmers took the challenge.
“It was a great experience,” Brinegar said. “There was a clinic for the kids that helped them work on their techniques, a lecture and time spent in the lake.”
Open water swimming is beginning to gain traction in the state of Indiana as well as across the country. Jennifer Morlok is the assistant coach beside Brinegar, and she said that open water swimming simply wasn’t an option before.
“Growing up as a swimmer myself, it was never on the plate of competition,” Morlok said. “Really in the past couple of years it’s become an event.”
At the moment, open water swimming is neither a high school nor collegiate sport. It is, however, an Olympic sport, and it is growing in popularity nationwide.
“Open water is becoming a bigger deal for the kids,” Brinegar said. “It’s a chance for kids to really excel at something that’s more endurance than sprint.”
The Donner swimmers represented a quarter of Team Indiana roster in Wisconsin. As Brinegar said, open water swimming is something that they enjoy doing.
“Donner has historically always had a strong swimming program,” she said. “It is probably one of the top six teams in the state as far as open water swimming competition is concerned.”
Of the six Donner participants, Michael Brinegar finished the best, winning the age 13-14 boys 1½-mile swim. It was Michael’s third consecutive Central Zone Open Water victory in the event.
“I just like swimming in lakes,” said Michael, 13. “I like not stopping, not having to do flip turns.”
Other swimmers representing Donner and Team Indiana were Emma Wyke, Alexandra Nusawardhana, Olivia Morlok, Jennifer Gutman and Nicholas Green.
Green was third in the 10 and under boys half-mile swim. Morlok placed 20th in the 11-12 girls one-mile swim. Gutman was 41st and Nusawardhana was 42nd in the 13-14 girls 1½-mile swim. Wyke was 28th in the Open 5K swim.
Open water swimming isn’t binding. The swimmers aren’t constricted to a single lane. For the Donner swimmers, it is more enticing than lap swimming.
“Open water swimming is more attractive to kids who can and want to swim free,” Jennifer Brinegar said. “It’s for the people who run marathons, not one hundred yard dashes.”
Morlok shared a similar sentiment with Brinegar.
“Open water competitions tend to be a bit of a rush for these swimmers,” Morlok said. “Swimming in a lake forces the swimmers to confront so many new challenges that they do not experience in a pool competition.”