Masters Club Has Arrived

The following article was reprinted with the permission of the Bozeman Daily Chronicle.

March 28, 2008

Swimming
MASTERS CLUB HAS ARRIVED
Defending its state title, Team Bozeman shows off its growth

By MIKE KIEFER
Chronicle Sports Writer

 Masters Club Has Arrived 

DEIRDRE EITEL/CHRONICLE
Chris Depner is followed by Art Thompson during a masters swimming practice Thursday evening at the Bozeman Swim Center.

 

At the Hosaeus Pool on Montana State’s campus, there are more coaches than lanes during the two weekly Bozeman Masters club practices.

The newly renovated pool overflows with team swimmers, 20-something college students and octogenarians, beginners and former collegiate athletes, transplants and natives of Bozeman.

With all this abundance, sometimes Jen Masquelier just has to sit back and remember as her team hosts the Montana Masters State short-course championship, Saturday and Sunday.

She can easily recall the days before the MSU and Bozeman Masters clubs were consolidated. She also remembers the days before Nike’s Grant and Olympian Aaron Peirsol’s clinic in 2005.

That’s when one guaranteed practice spot was victory.

“We’re not exactly a starter team anymore,” said Masquelier, a longtime coach of the program that has expanded drastically in the last few years. Now the team has sponsorships, a dry-land weight program, and also plenty of parties.

“We want to make it fun,” Masquelier said.

Last year, Bozeman hosted this meet by default, taking over for Helena when there was a facility problem. Hosaeus plays host again, now ensconced in the impressive digs of a remodeled athletic center.

Bozeman hopes to repeat as the Masters state team champion this year, flexing the point-scoring muscle of its sheer numbers. Ninety-one swimmers, including 16 from South Dakota, will compete in the championships. With 48 swimmers competing, Bozeman outdistances the second-largest team, Missoula-Bitteroot, by 26 competitors.

“I’m impressed with how much they’ve grown here,” said Jeff Bahr, an MSU sophomore from Seattle whose team back home paid for him to join Bozeman’s club.

Masquelier and her co-coaches (there are nine) say that their roster is evenly divided between competitive swimmers, triathletes and recreational lap swimmers, all interested in gaining experience and the group dynamics. The triathletes have also formed an offshoot club under the umbrella of the Masters team.

Masters swimming consists of any willing participant, regardless of experience, who is no longer competing at the high school or college level. Bozeman’s club reflects that inclusive, big-tent philosophy.

The MSU chapter endured a tentative existence that came and went with the availability of Hosaeus. Newly remodeled, the 25-yard, short-course venue had been closed for long periods of the year twice during Lisa Lee’s four years as a physical chemistry graduate student.

She had to resurrect the club when the club’s leadership would turnover as students graduated. Now supported with the town’s team, the college club is growing and includes 16 swimmers.

The college in turn provides the pool, which helps the team with more practice times outside of the packed Bozeman Swim Center. It’s also a short-course venue that makes it easy to practice flip turns.

But the growth for Bozeman Masters is more than sheer numbers and new facilities.

The team now combines several strains of the town’s swimming tradition, which is strong for what’s usually flyover country in the sport. Along with the endurance athletes that love to cross train in the off-season, the high school team has won 20 out of the last 34 Class AA state swimming titles. Many former Hawks have found a home with the Masters program

Lee and Jake Cook met each other while swimming on the high school team. Both went on to swim in college and, having married, returned to Bozeman where they found the Masters program eager for their experience. Both are now coaches.

“It gives us a chance to swim,” Lee said about the volunteers that develop workouts and teach stroke technique. “We also do some in-water coaching.”

Elizabeth Gilje also is a former Hawk, who went on to swim at Concordia (Minn.) College. She was happy to be trying out her new swim cap, a state championship gift from her father, who is also a member of the team.

Gilje says she didn’t struggle with the burnout typical of high school and college swimmers to join up. This weekend she’ll serve as the record keeper.

“I love it here,” she said.

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