'Master Swimmers' depart Sellwood in 'Bridge Swim' race
Just after sunrise on Sunday, July 7, exactly 100 hearty "Master Swimmers" – a special class of competitive swimming, for swimmers 25 years and older – assembled at Sellwood Riverfront Park.
They, and their support crews, had come participate in the ninth annual "Portland Bridge Swim"; and Race Director Marisa Frieder, who is also the organizer of the annual swim, was on hand to greet them.
Since this was an official "United States Masters Swimming" sanctioned event, all of the organization's rules applied, including a separate awards category for those donning wetsuits. Propulsive devices, such as fins and paddles, and flotation aids, such as pull-buoys, were allowed; but participants were forbidden to grab onto the support kayak assigned to each swimmer.
Many of the swimmers took on the entire 11 mile Willamette River course, passing under the city's 12 iconic bridges – but others swam in relay teams.
This year, a group calling themselves "Bernardo's All Stars" traveled down from Tacoma to participate. "We coached the 30 people that we brought this time," said co-coach Chad Hagedorn. "We've been training at our local YMCA since January."
Both he and his co-coach Katy Smith have themselves completed the Portland Bridge Swim, he said. "When we're asked why we do this – It's a good question! We've been asking ourselves that since the beginning of January."
In five waves, all the participants – each accompanied by a kayaker – headed into the Willamette River. Each group first swam south, to get under the Sellwood Bridge, passed around the bridge pylons, and then swam north along the east side of the river, eventually finishing under the St. John's Bridge.
The result: Six entrants didn't finish the event. The slowest competitor took a little over eight hours to finish the race. The speediest, 27-year-old Galen Sollom-Brotherton, Assistant Swim Coach at Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington, completed the course in just under four hours.
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