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Swimming at the crack of dawn - and loving it

Oregon City Tankers are making waves in Oregon Masters Swimming


by: JOHN DENNY - Assistant coach Bryan Watt (back, left) and seven of his stronger swimmers on the Oregon City Tankers Masters Swim Team take a break at a recent practice to pose for a group photo. Pictured with Watt are (front, left to right) Sonja Skinner, Amanda Metz, Britta Daubersmith and Tom Phipps; and (back, left to right) Alex Crooks, Byron Olsen and Jose Bolivar. Skinner, Metz, Daubersmith, Phipps, Crooks, Olsen, Bolivar and Tankers swimmers Tessa Reeves and Tim Waud will be headed to Santa Clara, Calif., in early May for the Spring Short-course Nationals.The Oregon Tankers, Oregon City’s Masters Swimming program, is growing like gangbusters.

The club started in 2011 with just a handful of swimmers, according to Bryan Watt, who first put the team together under the name “Tankers.”

Today the Tankers have 52 registered swimmers. They get up before the crack of dawn and meet at the Oregon City Municipal Pool for workouts from 5 to 6 a.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, and from 6:30 to 8 a.m. on Saturdays.

“We average 26 swimmers at practices,” said Tankers head coach Tim Waud. “It varies, depending on schedules.”

They come from as far away as Sherwood and Newberg, and they come for a variety of reasons. Some come just to keep in shape; some come for the camaraderie; and many come because they’ve still got their competitive juices flowing.

And they are competitive. Very competitive.

They took a team of 23 swimmers to the recent Oregon Association Masters Spring Short-course Swimming Championships at the Mt. Hood Aquatic Center and made huge waves, capturing state age-group titles in 34 individual events and in three relays.

The Tankers scored 932 points and placed second only to the Multnomah Athletic Club in the Medium Division (ages 19-to-29) of the state meet, and third overall, trailing only Large Division (ages 30-and-over) champion Oregon Reign Masters (1,817 points) and Multnomah Athletic Club (1,035 points). Twenty-one Masters teams from around the state participated.

“Wow! It was exciting!” said Waud. “Everybody had personal records, in every event. Some even beat their personal records from years ago.... It just goes to show that hard work pays off....”

The Oregon City Tankers have nine swimmers who have met national qualifying standards and will make the trip to this year’s Spring Short-course Nationals, which run May 1-4 in Santa Clara, Calif. Training hard and planning to make the trip are: Waud, Alex Crooks, Byron Olsen, Tessa Reeves and Britta Daubersmith from Oregon City; Sonja Skinner from Milwaukie; Jose Bolivar and Tom Phipps from West Linn; and Amanda Metz from Lake Oswego.

“We’re excited!” said Waud. “I think it’s going to be interesting at nationals, because we have a lot of swimmers who, if they swim the same times they swam at state, will be top 10 at nationals.

“Top 10 means you’re in the finals and when you’re in the finals you can score points. It’s going to be an amazing week of swimming. Everyone’s all fired up and training hard, and ready to go.”

Waud took part in the Masters National Short-course Championships last summer and placed in nine events.

Winning titles in individual events for Oregon City Tanker women at the recent short-course state meet were: Reeves. in the 35-39 200-freestyle (2:16.63); Daubersmith in the 45-49 100-backstroke (1:17.37) and in the 200-backstroke (2:43.35); Skinner in the 35-39 50-freestyle (26.10), 100-freestyle (57.42), 50-butterfly (28.76), 100-butterfly (1:03.36), 100-individual medley (1:07.27) and 200-individual medley (2:24.67); Metz in the 30-34 50-breast stroke (34.75), 100-breast stroke (1:15.31), 200-breast stroke (2:43.18) and 100-butterfly (1:09.94); Katherine Tilton of Oregon City in the 35-39 100-backstroke (1:10.54); Melissa Arata of Lebanon in the 35-39 200-backstroke (2:37.23); and Renee Rother of Oregon City in the 25-29 50-backstroke (29.91), 100-backstroke (1:04.29), 50-breast stroke (32.82), 100-breast stroke (1:12.34), 50-butterfly (28.00) and 100-butterfly (1:03.72).

Winning state titles in individual events for Oregon City Tanker men were: Waud in the 45-49 400-individual medley (5:04.43); Phipps in the 60-64 500-freestyle (6:05.72), 1,000-freestyle (12:34.31), 1,650-freestyle (20:49.09) and 200-butterfly (2:49.76); Bert McVay of Newberg in the 55-59 200-freestyle (2:18.45) and 500-freestyle (6:17.08); and Robbert Van Andel of Sherwood in the 35-39 500-freestyle (5:14.13), 1,000-freestyle (10:51.99); 1,650-freestyle (18:14.82), 50-breast stroke (30.70), 100-breast stroke (1:06.93) and 200-breast stroke (2:23.81).

Van Andel teamed up with Bryan Watt of Oregon City, Rother and Metz to win state in the mixed 25-and-up 200-medley relay (1:57.30).

The team of Skinner, Reeves, Rother and Metz won the 25-and-up women’s 200-freestyle relay (1:48.32); and the team of Skinner, Reeves, Metz and Tilton won the 25-and-up women’s 200-medley relay (2:02.13).

“I started the ‘Tankers’ in early 2011 with about 10 or so participants,” Watt said. “Before that time it was a group of dedicated swimmers working out without being organized as a team.

“We had our first competition as a team at the 2011 Association Championship meet at Mt Hood Community College. In late 2011, I recruited Tim Waud to join the team and the result has been fabulous. With Tim carrying most of the load of coaching and recruiting, we have gone from 10 to 12 swimmers in 2011, to over 50....

“I chose the name Tankers, because of the early AAU team that began almost coincident with the building of the pool in 1965. The local newspaper, the Enterprise-Courier, coined the term ‘Oregon City Tankers,’ when referring to the kids’ swim team back in the late 60s/early 70s. I thought it would be a great name that spoke of the swimming legacy that Oregon City offers. Bert McVey (late 60s) and myself (early 70s) are two of the “original” Tankers that the newspaper wrote about, and we both continue as “Tankers” to this day, as Masters swimmers.”

Several of the Tankers took a few moments during a recent workout to share the reason why they are willing to get up before the sun rises to take part in a vigorous swim workout.

Tessa Reeves, 36, said, “For the exercise, of course. But also to get back to being involved with a team. I swam age-group here at this pool. I came back a year ago. I hadn’t swam since I was 17, and it’s been awesome!”

Sonja Skinner, Tessa’s 38-year-old sister, said, “I’m a hair stylist and a stay-at-home-mom. I do it because I love it. It keeps me in shape and I get the competitive edge that I need to be nurtured.... It’s been a long time since I swam for the Oregon City Swim Team. I do have a few records that are still left on the board, but this is the first time I’ve made it to nationals. I never made it to nationals [as a youth].”

Bolivar, 44, who works as a juvenile specialist with the U.S. Department of Justice, said, “I like to challenge myself. I like to take it to the next level. And I do it to be a society role model, to encourage those in need to have a healthy lifestyle.”

Phipps, 60, a neurologist with offices in Oregon City and Tualatin, said, “I do it for the company, mostly. For the people. They’re all great people and we have a lot of fun.”

Phipps added, “I swam two years in college for the University of Oregon, but I quit because I wasn’t very good.”

Olsen, 36, said, “I swan when I was younger, growing up. But I’d been out of the pool until two years ago, when a friend told me about this. I love getting up and swimming and hanging out with friends. And I like to compete too.”

Metz, a 34-year-old stay-at-home mom, commutes form Lake Oswego for the break-of-dawn practices.

“I do it because I love it,” she said. “Two of my mom friends, Sonja and Tessa, were doing it, so I joined in. I started swimming at age 8 and went to Cal State Northridge on a swim scholarship.... I’ve got two children, 4 and 6, and this gives me some mom-only time. You get used to [the early hour], and I get to see my friends without the kids tagging along.”

Daubersmith, 49, a teacher at Marylhurst Elementary School in Oregon City, said, “I joined here three years ago. I hadn’t even been in a pool for 25 years. It’s a lot of fun, especially at this hour. I’ve got a daughter in kindergarten and it’s the one free time that I can carve out.”

“It’s really the only time I can come,” said Crooks, 39, a financial planner. “I’ve got young kids and other obligations.... I do it to stay in shape. It feels good, and it’s a fun group of people.”

Crooks, who swam when he was young, says that when he joined the Oregon City Tankers three years ago, it was his first time swimming competitively since 1995.

“I was here at the pool for the lap swim, working out for a triathlon, and I got here a little early,” he says. “I had been looking for a Masters team. “It’s great to be back.”

Crooks has ambitious goals.

“I’d like to keep improving my time,” he says. “It would be really cool to get down to my high school times. I don’t know if it’s possible. But I’m getting closer every year.”

Waud, 46, an Oregon City businessman who first started competitive swimming with the Oregon City Swim Club as a 9-year-old, says, “Swimming’s always been a part of my life. I swam in college for Oregon in 1991. I’ve been coaching in Oregon City since 1991, from USA swimming to a number of Masters teams. Swimming is a lifetime sport. It’s one of those sports you can do for the rest of your life, and I love it!”

Waud coached the Oregon Masters Team to a runner-up finish at last year’s summer nationals. He has been named the Oregon Masters head coach again for this year’s nationals. He’s also been selected as the U.S. Masters coach for this year’s FINA World Championships, which take place in Montreal, Canada, in late July and early August.

Waud said that anyone interested in joining the Oregon City Tankers should contact him at 503-341-3152.



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