Dream Team Breaks Records at YMCA Swim Meet
With more than 150 years of competitive swimming between them, this Severna Park relay team keeps on chugging.
As the saying goes “Age is a state of mind” and never has that been more true than for the four members of the relay team from the Mid-Delmarva YMCA Swim Team who competed in the National YMCA Swim meet in Florida last month.
Coach Nancy Brown knew she had something special when she began pulling the relay team together. Nancy’s Dream team consisted of Sarah Allnut, Chuck Eremchuk, Doris Russell and because she needed a fourth and he knew it, her own husband Geoff Revett.
“Nancy conned me into this swimming thing about 11 years ago,” Revett said.
Revett, who had sailed competitively and won world wide championships in sailing, admits that he has come to enjoy his time in the pool but he doesn’t get a lot of joy out of the process leading up to it. The waiting in between meets and the warm-ups are not his cup of tea.
But even he will admit that this meet was special. The group that coach Brown had pulled together formed the relay team in an 85-90 age group. There would be no other teams to compete with in this age group, but there were still records to break. And break them is exactly what this group did.
With Allnut swimming the backstoke, Eremchuk the breaststroke, Russell the butterfly and Revett the freestyle, the Dream Team smashed the US record for the 200 Mixed Medley Relay by well over 15 seconds in 4:39:13 and went on to smash the 200 Mixed Freestyle by close to 10 seconds in 4:04:35. Because there had never been a team in this age group at Y Nationals, these two times will go down in the record books there as well.
Though Revett is a relative novice when it comes to swimming, the rest of the team practically grew up with the sport. Between them Allnutt, Eremchuk and Russell have well over 150 years of competitive swimming experience.
Russell, who will turn 91 this month, started swimming when she was in her early teens.
“My dad was a coach,” she said, “and he signed me up for my first meet. I have been swimming ever since.”
Continuing through the years was not always easy. Russell and her husband, a competitive diver had eight children and though she became a little less competitive during their childhood, that competitive drive never left her.
Russell’s daughter, Gale Mackison said, “It really bothers her that she loses time by not being able to dive anymore. She loses seconds because of that.”
Russell uses a wheelchair to get around these days. She gets herself over to the edge of the pool and starts her laps from inside the pool as opposed to from the deck. During the meet in Florida last month she felt like she lost even more because she had to get into the pool on one side and swim to the other before starting her event wasting energy she wouldn’t have had to use otherwise.
This competitive drive is something 87 year-old Allnutt understands well. Like Russell, Allnutt has competed since she was 14 years old. As an adult she has competed all over the world, including, Japan, China and Australia.
In addition to the relay events at the YMCA Nationals last month, Allnutt competed in the 100 Backstroke and broke the YMCA National record in 2:14:25.
Outside of swimming Allnutt lives a full and busy life. She believes it is through swimming that she has gained an edge in life.
“I live in a retirement home since my husband passed away,” she said, “I see all of these people here suffering with arthritis and other health problems and I wish there was a way I could convince them that getting in the pool would make a lot of that pain go away.”
In retirement, Chuck Eremchuk has found a full time job in volunteering. He works with Hospice, The American Cancer Society and Johns Hopkins, all while staying fit and healthy. In addition to his time in the pool, Eremchuk dances.
“I started dancing as soon as I discovered girls,” he said. “Women love a man who can dance.”
Like Allnutt and Russell, Eremchuk swam competitively in his youth but he gave up swimming for almost twenty five years, originally so he could go fight in World War II as a tail-gunner and then as he completed his service in the military.
At YMCA Nationals he competed in three individual events as well as the relays. He swam the 50 breast stroke, the 50 freestyle and the 100 freestyle, taking home 5 gold medals at the end of the week.
“People there came up to us over and over again telling us how we were an inspiration to them.” Emerchuk said, “This relay team has spirit like you would not believe.”
Spirited is exactly how this team can be described and that spirit extends to their coach. Described by one of her relay team members as a “damn good swimmer and damn good woman,” 75 year-old coach Brown shows her own spirit in the pool.
At the same meet last month coach Brown set four of her own records. She set a YMCA record in the 400 IM for the 75-79 age group in 7:20:82, a YMCA record and a national record in the 100 backstroke in 1:27:70, a YMCA and National record in the 200 backstroke in 3:15:04 and a YMCA record in the 50 backstroke in the 41:78.
Mackison, who travelled with the relay team for the event in Florida, says it is amazing to see these men and women still competing.
“They inspired so many people,” she said, “People came up to my mom during the week and asked to have their pictures taken with her so they could use it for inspiration. They all want to be just like her when they are her age.”