Who’s In That Lane? (March, 2024)

March 31, 2024

There’s a story in every lane. That’s what showcase as we introduce our Conejo Valley Multisport Masters (CVMM) swimmers each month. In this third edition of Who’s In That Lane?, I am proud to highlight all of us who participated in CVMM’s CVMM 9th Annual Matt Biondi Short Course Yards Masters Meet on Saint Patrick’s Day – March 17th.

So who’s in that lane for March, 2024? A lot of awesome swimmers and volunteers! 

CVMM 9th Annual Matt Biondi SCY Masters Meet on Saint Patrick’s Day – March 17th was a huge success. In the six weeks leading up to the event, Coach Nancy challenged all CVMM swimmers to either swim in the event or volunteer for it. While I don’t know the exact numbers, I would say that at least 80% of our club members met that challenge.

Many of our club swimmers and our family members volunteered to be timers for the event. We had swimmers in charge of the snack bar. And every item in the snack bar was donated by our swimmers. The snack bar gave swimmers and spectators needed nutrition, provided some revenue for our club, and was the source of happiness as our snack cart provided very popular and very free snacks for our volunteer timers and our officials. Perhaps our most popular volunteer was Patti Lownes –, our meet leprechaun decked out in green St. Patrick’s day garb! Several people commented that the leprechaun made the event much more festive, that kids loved the little trinkets she passed out, she made the pictures of pentathlon medal winners way better, and her luck of the Irish brought out a lot of smiles. My wife was a former college team mascot (Go Josie Bruin!), and she says that one of the keys to a mascot role is to fully embrace it, to make big moves, and to smile the entire time. I would say that Patti did all of that and more.

We had 158 swimmers in the meet. It seemed like more as the sun rose, the fog lifted, and the lanes opened for warmups. There were 8-10 swimmers in each lane, all of us trying to get loose and warm in the perfect water temperature, and the sunny but still cool March weather. All of our team swimmers were festively decked in a St. Patrick’s Day green swim cap. A far cry from the full day meets or even three day meets, this meet only had five individual events. It was a pentathlon format, with 50 yard events in Butterfly, Backstroke, Breaststroke, and Freestyle, then a 100 yard IM. All of the times were added up, and for those who competed in all of them, there was a Pentathlon contest. 

The meet started right on time – at 8:30 AM, moved very quickly, and was over by 12:30. Many swimmers loved how quickly the meet moved, though CVMM’s Calley Prezzano said, “I wish there were more swimmers – so I’d get a little more rest between events!” No rest for anyone at this meet, Calley! As Dori said in Finding Nemo, “Just keep swimming!”

There were lots of shoutouts for Craig Eisenberg, AKA, “The Swim Guy.” One of our guest swimmers, David Johannsen, found the perfect goggles for the Special Olympics swimmers he coaches, and he bought 20 pairs. Craig is at almost every meet in Southern California. He feeds off the energy of the meets, his presence makes every meet more festive, and he lends credibility to each meet. I try to buy something from Craig at least once a year, and I did walk away with a new suit this time.  In talking with him afterwards, he told me he loved the short meet, and that he would do anything for coach Nancy. I love seeing these two legends supporting each other and building up our swimming community. Please check him out at https://theswimguy.com

There were also shoutouts for longtime race official Virgil Chancy. One of our guest swimmers said, “I keep telling him to look the other way and that there’s nothing to see when I swim but he never listens!” Virgil is a highly respected leader, volunteer, and race official in the US Masters swimming community, recently winning the 2023 US Masters Dorothy Donnelly Service Award. And unlike the commenter, I made sure to have two-handed touches in butterfly and breaststroke. It’s not that hard! Thanks for making our meet better, Virgil!

Seeing old friends is one of the things that’s very cool about masters swimming. Matt Biondi said it when he welcomed all of the swimmers to the meet. I would say that every single person on the pool deck stopped what they were doing and listened to the 8-Olympic-gold-medal-winner as he expressed his appreciation for all attending the meet, then shared his love of reconnecting with old friends at this and all masters swim meets. Matt made everyone feel special and welcomed with his sincerity, humility, and humor. Everyone laughed when he ended by saying he was looking forward to the 50-yard freestyle event, but he wanted nothing to do with the next event, the 50 yard breaststroke, which was in his words, “something I know nothing about.”

One of the cool comments was from Jill King, who had not seen coach Nancy Reno since the 1970s. She said, “Nancy and I competed as 13-14 year olds in Northern CA in the late 60s early 70s. This was our first time meeting once again on the pool deck! Quite surreal! The competition is great and stimulating for all, yet some of the most memorable and touching moments happen between the races!” That’s beautiful, Jill. Thank you.

The highlight of this annual meet is always the 50-yard freestyle. Lex Higlitt, in the 40-44 age group, from Oregon, was the fastest female swimmer with a time of 26.14. And Ralph Porazzo, in the 30-34 age group, from the Rose Bowl Masters, was the fastest male swimmer at 21.42. Everyone loved swimming in the same race as Matt Biondi. Beata Konopka, a CVMM swimmer, said, “I am grateful that I can compete with Matt Biondi and hear his stories.” Me too, Beata! And while a few younger swimmers can brag that they beat Matt in our meet, his 23.96 time won his age group, and every single person in the pool had their eyes glued on his race. If I had just swam my 50-yard freestyle a mere five seconds faster, I could have been one of the few to beat him. If I had been in his heat, I would have finished five body lengths behind him – but the good news is that he would not have lapped me in that two-lap race! As Lloyd Christmas said in Dumb and Dumber, ‘So you’re telling me there’s a chance! Yeah!”

So many swimmers expressed appreciation for the little things that made this meet so special and enjoyable:

  • One of our guest swimmers said, ‘I know it’s silly, but I do love the medals! I’m over 70 and I feel “glee,” like a kid, when awarded one!’
  • Walt Jiminez from UC33 said, “Well run, highly professional coaches, meet officials, starters, refs…everything was top-notch!”
  • Lots of swimmers loved that they set PRs!
  • Bill Marshall commented that because of all of his CVMM teammates’ help, we had an “amazingly quick setup and take down that was very efficient and organized.”
  • CVMM’s Tom Pani added, “It was fun: the gift baskets, green swim caps, high point awards, Matt Biondi trophy, relays, the team spirit, seeing all our team mates there, both as volunteers or competitors.  Everyone seemed to be having a good time.”
  • My sometimes lanemate Maria Calhoun added, “My first meet in 45 years!! Loved being back competing!”
  • And for me, it was the first time I swam butterfly, backstroke, or breaststroke in a meet in over fifty years! If you saw my times, that fact would not surprise you.

So thanks to all who swam in the lanes, to all of those who supported the swimmers, and of course to Coach Nancy Reno, for all she did, and for all of us smiling the whole time. CVMM’s 9th Annual Matt Biondi swim meet was a great success because of all of you!

Photo Credits;

  • Foggy Sunrise Picture by Debbie Siemer (Beautiful!)
  • Thanks to Beata Konopka, for her constant smiling, her reminders of how lucky we are to swim together, for the “drink up bitches” picture and the happy timers picture, and for all of her teammate selfies.
  • All other photos taken by Brad Stanley. Brad’s professional and beautiful pictures make everyone happy, and I’m grateful for his dedication and artistry.
  • All of these photos were posted on CVMM’s Facebook Page – Thanks to all who contribute!

Who’s In That Lane? – Post #3

To see all Who’s In That Lane? posts, please click here!


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