Swim Fitness Articles
NT Masters in the News - Jane Birkhead
Arlington Nurse is Making Splash in Masters Swiming
A 62-year-old woman who took up competitive swiming two years ago is now rankied 10th in the nation in her age bracket.
By Mark Agee
Star Telegram Staf Writer
ARLINGTON - It's 6am and Jane Birkhead is diving over and over at Hugh Smith Recreation Center practicing race starts,
Too flat; try again.
Too much splash; try again.
Not enough push; try again.
"Come on, let's get some spring out of those legs," shouts U.S. Masters Swimming teammate Bob Carter, whom Birkhead calls the team cheerleader.
She took a little time to laugh at him, but in a few seconds she was out of the pool and back on the start blocks.
The 62-year-old began swimming for exercise two years ago after she tore a ligament in her knee and needed a workout with less impact.
But she met some Master members at the pool, and they talked her into joining their team, Birkhead took to the sport like a fish to water. She's now the lOth-fastest woman in the United States in two events in the 60-64 age bracket, which includes an estimated 10,000 competitors. Her specialties are the 50-and 100-meter freestyle, and she swims in about 10 meets yearly around the country.
"People say I'm too old to compete, but you're never too old to get better," Birkhead said.
Coach Andres Rizo said that there are about 120,000 U-S, Masters swimmersnationally and that being ranked is prestigious.
"You have to be really disciplined to work out with us.' Rizo said, "You'd never guess she's 62; she's got so much energy. In the water, there is no age"
The Arlington nurse works hard on her swimming, pracicing from 5:45 to 6:45 a.m-five days a week.
She feels the need to put in a lot of effort because many other Masters swimmers swam in college and a few even in the Olympics, she said.
"The competition is tough,"Birkhead said, "But I'm very competitive, I like to take on new things."
Birkhead's husband, Tim, said that after she began swimming regularly he wasn't surprised that she began competing.
"That's her personality," Tim Birkhead said. "I would have been surprised if she didn't."
Swimming is Jane Birkhead's most recent hobby, but she has also played competitive tennis, and it was in an athletic event — a "Joggling" competition that she tore an anterior cruciate ligament at age 60, Joggling is where contestants jog and, juggle simultaneously.
"That's a sport!" Birkhead defended, "There's some serious joggling going on."
Even though she's been involved in competitive sports most of her life, Birkhead still gets nervous before a race.
"Every meet as I get up on those blocks I say, 'Why am I doing this to myself?' " she said. "I guess you never know where life is going to take you."
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