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Volume 77, Number 14 | September 5 - 11, 2007

Sports

Villager photo by Jefferson Siegel

After winning a 200-meter freestyle race, the Hamilton Fish Pool swim team came up for air. From left, James Sheehan, Jorge Sarmiento, Jennifer Kuipers and Kayla Dorsey.

Swimmers lap up the end of the outdoor pool season

By Jefferson Siegel

As the sun rises each day in the summer, while a good portion of city dwellers either bolt for work or sleep late, there is a contingent of dedicated swimmers who head straight for more than a dozen outdoor city pools to participate in lap swimming.

To recognize swimmers’ efforts and commemorate a quarter-century of lap swimming, the Parks Department celebrated the 25th Annual Citywide Lap Swim Awards Party last Wednesday night.

The awards ceremony was held at the Hamilton Fish Pool at E. Houston and Pitt Sts. Before the evening’s festivities, swimmers took advantage of a perfect late-summer evening to participate in a 200-meter freestyle relay race.

The winners were members of the Hamilton Fish Pool lap swimming team.

“It’s an eclectic group, artists, teachers, media people,” team member Matt Malina, of the East Village, said. Malina, 33, has been swimming laps with the group for five years. “It’s glorious, it’s magical, it’s essential,” James Sheehan, another team member, enthused.
The group is part of the Early Birds, swimmers who dive in during mornings between 7 a.m. and 8:30 a.m. The other lap swimming group is the Night Owls, who stroke through the dusk from 7 p.m. and 8:30 p.m.

City Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe acted as the evening’s master of ceremonies and awards presenter.

“To see all of you people, who could be home watching TV, going to parties or a fancy book reading, you’re out here in a public park at night enjoying a public pool, this is really so heartwarming to me,” Benepe said in his opening remarks.

One of the evening’s presentations was a synchronized swimming routine by Jane Katz, a professor at CUNY’s John Jay College of Criminal Justice. “We swam here 60 years ago,” Katz recalled, “while I was in college.”

“The water’s democratic, it helps everyone equally,” Katz added. She was part of the 1964 U.S. Olympic synchronized swimming team that demonstrated their skills at the Japan games.

Katz’s father, Leon, 86, who is a noted swimming coach, cheered on his daughter as she performed last Wednesday.

“At 10 years of age, I learned how to swim by watching people in city pools,” the elder Katz said. Raising his family on Rivington St., Katz started coaching a children’s team at the E. 14th St. Y in 1967, then started coaching adults. As awards were presented, swimmers young and old stopped by to say hello to Katz, many to thank him for the years of coaching he gave them.

The city’s outdoor pools opened June 29 this year and closed on Labor Day.

The Hamilton Fish Pool was built by the Works Progress Administration during the Great Depression. The U.S. Olympic Team used the pool for practice sessions as they prepared to compete in the 1952 Helsinki Olympic Games.

After a $14 million restoration completed in 1992, the pool was enlarged to the Olympic standard of 50 meters.


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