Kenyon's swimming tradition continues beyond Gambier

Ever since Kenyon's swimming program began in 1936, the College has been building nationally acclaimed dynasties in the sport, first for its men's teams and then, beginning in the 1970s in the early years of coeducation, for its women's teams as well.

The Kenyon dynasties expanded in April 2000, when a small group of graduates and friends of the College formed the Kenyon Masters Team.

The current roster of swimmers lists only eight women, but Kristina Kennard Caldwell '84, the College's director of donor relations and one of three team members to compete in August's U.S. Masters Swimming (USMS) competition, says she hopes eventually to have as many as fifty men and women on the team.

While there were only three competitors representing Kenyon at the USMS national meet, the results were impressive. Jennifer R. Luker '78 took first place in her age group for the fifty-meter butterfly, beating former Olympian Sandy Neilson-Bell. Luker, a forty-four-year-old mother of one who now clocks times that are better than those she compiled as a member of the College's first team for women, began swimming again about ten years ago. At a local USMS New England championship held in April at Harvard University, her time in the 50-yard butterfly was faster than any of the other women in any age group, which for the year 2000 is a record for her age division, qualifying Luker as a USMS All American.

In addition to Luker, Caldwell competed at the national meet, placing eighth in the 50-meter butterfly. Kenyon Professor of Women's and Gender Studies Laurie Finke also swam, placing third in the 200-meter backstroke. All of the women competed within their age groups, which are organized in five-year increments from the age of nineteen to those over ninety-five.

Caldwell says former varsity swimmers shouldn't let a fear of not performing as well as Luker discourage them from returning to the pool. "You can't compare the swimmer you are today with the swimmer you were when you competed at the College," she says. "You probably aren't going to meet the times you had as a student, but that doesn't matter. This is for fun."

Luker, who is vice president of sales and marketing for the MuShield Company in New Hampshire, agrees. "It's got to be fun," she says. "I get satisfaction from watching my times improve, but there's also a great camaraderie about it. I see a lot of friends when I swim, and the masters group serves all ages. It's wonderful to have friendships that span such a broad range of ages."

Caldwell, who was a member of the Ladies team from 1980 to 1984, has been swimming regularly since she graduated from Kenyon, although not competing until now. She says the competition last April has been a driving force in motivating her to swim.

"I always felt I wasn't ready to compete again," Caldwell says. "But I'm over that now. My advice to any former swimmers, who don't know if they're ready to get back in the water, is just do it."

Luker, who like Caldwell works out during her lunch hour, says she's motivated to swim because it makes her feel great. "And I don't look so bad in a swimsuit for my age," she says of the benefits of exercise.

USMS is an organized program of swimming for adults, which holds two national competitions each year. The grass-roots organization is divided into smaller groups, called Local Masters Swimming Committees, which in turn are composed of smaller groups such as the Kenyon Masters Team.

The next national USMS meet will be held in May 2001 in Santa Clara, California. To learn more about joining the Kenyon Masters Team, contact Caldwell at 740-427-5582 or Visit the Kenyon Masters Team site at For more information about USMS, visit its World Wide Web site at

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