Swimming is a life-long activity, especially for “older” people whose bodies no longer function against gravity and need the support of the water for their exercise.
There are many South Carolina Masters swimmers in clubs from Greenville to Grand Strand. A very large number from the Greater Charleston area swim under the Palmetto Masters banner, yet none can boast older male or female competitors than the Lowcountry (LOCO) Masters.
Some swimmers seem to perform even better with age. Perhaps it’s mostly because others have given up or fallen by the wayside. So it is with two Lowcountry Masters.
Pete Palmer, the LOCOs chief organizer and energizing force, has outlasted the competition (including Father Time). He now dominates the 80-84 age group with 32 of a possible 53 South Carolina records over three pool-length measurements (25 yards, 25 meters, 50 meters).
No other man in his age group has more than five. He also has 23 National Top Tens in the latest USMS rankings.
Pete spent two years as an “undistinguished” college swimmer, but then “not a competitive lap” until he was 65 and had to start again from scratch. He said he doesn’t consider himself a “swimmer,” just a “guy who swims.”
Though Pete’s collection of state records and Top Tens is impressive, it does not match the “Dowager Queen” of South Carolina swimming, LOCO’s own Barbara Eisele. She now holds 42 state records in the 85-89 age group.
No one else has more than two.
Currently, Barbara is ranked among the National Top Ten of her age group in 30 events.
Barbara learned to swim as a child, but started again, teaching herself, at 68. Her goal continues to be “outlive your competition.” Though her records will not last forever, they will last a while, with no S.C. women now swimming in the 80-84 age group.
LOCO Masters has been represented in all the age groups from 18-24 on up. Some 19 swimmers from LOCO (or its predecessors) and four from Sun City currently hold their share (albeit not 32 or 42) of S.C. Masters records.
Indeed, these two octogenarian “Old Masters” are special, proving that it is never too late to start and continue swimming. They deserve recognition for showing us that age is no barrier to physical activity that can extend our lives.
Dr. Bob Colyer of Bluffton is an actively retired college professor, coach and author. firstname.lastname@example.org