Stanton Craigie is 75 and has been swimming since 1912. Elsa Mattila is 71 and has been swimming since 1920. Although neither swimmer competed much in early years, each has become a highly regarded masters swimmer.
Craigie and Mattila each set two national records yesterday at the D.C. Masters spring meet at the Colesville/White Oak Swim Center in Silver Spring.
For Craigie, who swims unattached, it was his sixth national record since October. Mattila, who has been swimming with the Naval Academy Masters for five years, has set four national marks since January.
Craigie and Mattila were two of 125 swimmers who competed yesterday and believe in the goal of Masters Swimming, Inc.: "Fun, Fitness and Competition." D.C. Masters, under the newly formed Potomac Valley Masters Swimming Association, has attracted a number of swimmers who still enjoy competition.
There are 15 age groups, beginning at ages 20-24 and continuing to 90 years of age and above. Gail Dummer, 31, who chairs the D.C. Masters, noted that many of the participants are over 40, and "there are quite a few in their 60s and 70s."
"The swimmers are very dedicated," Dummer said. "They work out every day for at least an hour wherever they can find a pool. Some have coaches, while others help one another. They're a very close-knit unit."
Mimi Lee, 61, and Kelley Lemmon, 69, who are ranked in the top 10 nationally in their age groups, were honored at yesterday's meet as the top female/male swimmers in the Potomac Valley Association.
"When you're at the bottom of an age bracket, you have an edge over the older people," Lee said. "So, when I'm 69 (and at the top of the 65-69 age bracket), it may be tough to set records. But when I'm 70 (and at the bottom of the 70-74 age bracket), watch out."
The swimmers also enjoy the social contacts they make.
"I've run into people I haven't seen in 40 years," said retired Delaware swimming coach Harry Rawstrom. "Of course," he added, "I have to look up their names in the program to identify them."
Bill Campbell, who started the swimming program at the University of Maryland in 1955 and who currently is a member of the Terrapin Masters, said, "I haven't felt this good since I was a kid."
Many swimmers plan to go to the National Championship meets in Houston and Gresham, Ore., this summer. They must pay their own way however, which "can be very rough when you're retired," Mattila said.
She makes and sells crafts to help finance her planned trip to Houston. She already has her plane ticket and accommodations. The expense is worth it, she said, because "there's more competition to challenge in Houston."