By PATTI SCOTT-BAIER
For The Union Democrat
Tuolumne County Aquatic Masters swimmers joined over 1,300 senior athletes at the 2013 State Senior Games held May 18 at the Stanford University campus in Palo Alto.
More than 20 team and individual sports were contested in the two-week long event including swimming, cycling, running, track and field, golf, tennis, soccer, basketball and volleyball. The games were open to athletes 50 and older.
Sixteen TCAM swimmers posted impressive numbers at the meet and were the largest team in competition. The team amassed a total of 85 medals, 17 team records, 17 personal bests and numerous seasonal best-time performances.
TCAM's Bob Garretson, swimming in his first meet since turning 80, set team records and raced to gold medals in all six of his events. He competed in both sprint and long distance events.
Garretson showed his versatility hasn't diminished with age as he swam all four strokes including the butterfly. He swam a personal best in the 200 back (4:06.36) and was 14 seconds faster in his 500 free (9:07.97) than he was last year at the Senior Games meet. His other records were in the 100 free (1:31.32), 100 back (1:58.43), 50 free (39.29) and 100 IM (1:57.11).
Susan White and Gail Rodd, both 70, rewrote the TCAM team record book in the 70-74 division, setting seven team marks between them. Both women scored four gold medals and one silver each.
White's backstroke swims were her strongest and her times were faster than she swam last year at the same meet. Her new records were in the 50 back (56.08), 100 back (1:59.08), 200 back (4:20.87) and 50 fly (1:03.31).
Rodd, a strong freestyler, set records in the 100 free (1:45.54), 200 free (3:39.30) and 500 free (9:13.41). She also challenged herself to swim other strokes and was successful in winning both the 100 and 200 IM event.
For the third time at a meet this year, TCAM swimmer Toni Wivell, 76, shaved time off her 50 fly. Her personal best (1:47.75) in the event was also a team record in the 75-79 group.
Wivell also swam to seasonal bests in the 50 free, 50 back and 100 back.
TCAM men competing in the 70-74 division dominated the field in most of their swims. Dick Todd, 71, focused his efforts on the longer events, while Karl Kleman, 72, scored well in the sprints and Dave Fairfield, 73, raced all free swims.
Todd's most impressive swims came later in the meet when he worked on pacing and finishing strong in his races. His approach was successful in the 500 free, 200 IM, 200 back and 200 breast.
Todd set a new team record in the 200 IM (2:49.73) and placed first in six of his swims.
Kleman had strong swims in both the breast and IM and showed his toughness by competing in his last three events after breaking his toe near the starting blocks.
However, Kleman's final event, the 200 breast, proved to be one of his best paced swims of the meet. He also swam seasonal best times in the 50 free and 100 breast, winning a total four silver medals in the process.
Bronze was the color of the meet for Fairfield, who raced to third place in all four of his free events. Swimming from the sprint 50 to the 500 free, Fairfield set seasonal bests in all four of his swims.
The TCAM women in both the 60-64 and 65-69 all raced to gold and silver in their total fifteen swims.
Ruth Garretson, 67, continues to improve in all of her strokes over last season. Swimming in three different strokes, she finished the meet with four first-place and two second-place finishes.
Cheryl Harms, 62, swam to three personal best times and two TCAM team records. The team records she set were in the 100 free (1:14.50) and 200 free (2:44.17).
Harms swam to third place in the 500 free (7:33,33), but earned gold medals in the longer events and silvers in the shorter races.
Swimming in her first travel meet, Char Wrighton, 65, recorded personal bests in four of her five swims. She won all of her free events and finished second in the breast.
TCAM breaststroker Kirby Smith, 66, set three personal best times in the 50 and 100 breast and the 100 IM. He won two gold, one silver and two bronze medals.
First-year swimmer Gary Johnson, 62, kept busy competing in seven events, posting bests in five. However, his most improved swim was in the 100 IM, where he dropped 11 seconds.
Johnson won two of his events and finished third in three.
In the 55-59 division, TCAM's Laurie Perry, 59, swam the distance events in all four strokes, while teammate Don Wells, 58, competed in the sprints.
Perry scored a personal best in her 200 IM by more than a second. She also had seasonal bests in her remaining five events and left the meet with two second-place and four third-place finishes.
Wells sprinted faster than his 2012 times in both the 50 and 100 free, but his best swim of the day was the 100 IM where he had fast splits on all four of his strokes. He finished with a complete selection of medals - one gold, silver and bronze.
Rounding out the TCAM team were its youngest competitors: Jenny Van Blaricom, 53, and Kelly Thalman, 50.
Van Blaricom continues to shave time off her freestyle and cut 19 seconds off her best time 500 free. She earned most improved swim at the meet by a TCAM member. She finished second in the 50 free and narrowly missed her bests in her remaining three events by less than a second.
Van Blaricom medaled with one gold, two silvers, and one bronze.
Thalman, competing in her first senior meet, scored well in the sprint events. She finished with two second-place finishes and one first- and third-place finish each.
TCAM will host a team mini-meet in June before traveling to San Mateo in July for the Pacific Masters Championships.
Swimmers will compete regularly throughout the summer on the open water circuit, with a large contingent expected to participate in the Pinecrest swim in early-September.
Patti Scott-Baier is the TCAM director. She can be reached at Sonora Sport and Fitness.