The Origins Of The 1-Hour Postal Swim

Courtesy of WOWSA, Huntington Beach, California.

One of the most interesting cross-border rivalries among masters swimmers in the United States is the competition between the New England Masters (NEM) and the Davis Aquatic Masters in the 1-Hour Postal sanctioned and supported by U.S. Masters Swimming.

We have an NEM 1 Hour Swim coordinator who starts rallying the troops in December,” explains Tracy Grilli about the long-running rivalry between the two large East Coast and West Coast teams. “The New England Masters has consistently had great club participation, recruiting even those who are injured and have to kick to complete it.”

Recently, NEM has gained the upper hand after Davis Aquatic Masters won the large team division of the Hour Postal Swim championship 5 times since 1998 (1998, 1999, 2009, 2010, 2011).

But swim or kick, fast or slow, the name of the game was participation.

The event was first organized by Dale Petranech (shown on left) in 1978, modeled after a track & field event,” recalls Ann Svenson formerly of the DC Masters and now with the Adirondack District Masters Swimming. “It helped make a reputation for DC Masters. After Dale moved to New Jersey in 1981, Art Smith and the late Dave McAfee took over running the event.”

Started on a small scale by visionary Dale Petranech, the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame Honorary Secretary, its growth has been phenomenal. Hosted by the DC Masters until 1993, the Speedo USMS 1-Hour Postal National Championship went out to bid and is now rotated around the country. It has grown to become the most popular and largest U.S. Masters Swimming championship event.

In 2009, there were 2,577 participants hosted by Ohana Swim Team in Washington. In 2010, the Tamalpais Aquatic Masters in California hosted 2,961 participants. In 2011, there were a total of 2,834 participants hosted by the Tualatin Hills Barracudas in Oregon. In 2012, there were 2,668 participated hosted by Blue Wave Aquatics in Washington. In 2013, there were 2,493 participants hosted by the Davis Aquatic Masters in California. The Indy Aquatic Masters in Indiana will host the event in 2014 and the Chicago Smelts in Illinois will be the host in 2015. In addition to Americans, there are always a handful of other swimmers from FINA-affiliated masters swimming federations including Australia, Japan and Canada.

Meticulously organized on a national scale by U.S. Masters Swimming, the Speedo USMS 1-Hour Postal National Championship was inspired by the track and field community and limitations on conducting national championships during World War II.

The first few events were conducted without a computer,” explains Petranech who was instrumental in administrating open water swimming at the USA Swimming and FINA level back in the 1980s. “I’d get 3 x 5 cards and separate them by gender, age group and then arrange by distance. Then I would ask someone to type the results. That worked fine as long as the total number of swimmers was fewer than 200.


But now with the entries in the thousands, the old fashion methods just could not work.”

Joann Leilich of the DC Masters (shown on left) recalls the early years. “Like Art Smith, my living room and hall were covered with mailing envelopes when I was the meet director. Every swimmer received printed results, many ordered T-shirts, and age group winners received medals. When the DC Masters was the host, we included interesting facts in the printed results; someone swam butterfly for one hour, which was noted in the results.”

But Petranech’s vision has melded quite well with the dawn of computers and the Internet. He recalls, “Art was the first person to start using a computer to tabulate results.”

Susan Kirk also recalls the early years, “The 1-Hour Postal started as a club swim and was run locally for a number of years before it went national.”

I started the 1-Hour Postal while a member of the DC Masters,” explains Petranech. “The event was a spin-off of a track event that was conducted as a National Championship AAU event. The postal concept was used in both swimming and track and field, particularly during the war years to cut down on costs and save petrol.”

Over the years, it smoothly transformed itself from a locally run masters event to a national championship event, built on the dedication of hundreds of volunteers and thousands of participants – and it is sponsored by Speedo. “We originally tried to make it an AAU Championship event for the younger pool folks, but the AAU and U.S. Swimming felt that to be designated a championship event, the contestants must have direct contact with each other,” continued Petranech.

Through social media, the U.S. Masters Swimming website and the Internet, the contestants now have plenty of virtual contact with one another.

Record-holders for the Speedo USMS 1-Hour Postal National Championship include:

*Men 18-24 Robert J Margalis, St Pete Masters Inc: 2007, 6135 yards
*Men 25-29 Dan Veatch: 1994, 6115 yards
*Men 30-34 Blake Porch: 2003, 5750 yards
*Men 35-39 Mike G Shaffer, Ventura County Masters: 2003, 5905 yards
*Men 40-44 Mike G Shaffer, Ventura County Masters: 2009, 5910 yards
*Men 45-49 Jeff T Erwin, Sawtooth Masters: 2010, 5755 yards
*Men 50-54 Jim McConica, Ventura County Masters: 2002, 5620 yards
*Men 55-59 Jim McConica, Ventura County Masters: 2010, 5445 yards
*Men 60-64 Jim McConica, Ventura County Masters: 2011, 5285 yards
*Men 65-69 Tom Landis, Oregon Masters: 2008, 4680 yards
*Men 70-74 Graham M Johnston, Masters of South Texas: 2002, 4515 yards
*Men 75-79 David A Radcliff, Oregon Masters: 2010, 4520 yards
*Men 80-84 Aldo Da Rosa, Rinconada Masters: 1998, 3650 yards
*Men 85-89 Clarence Ross: 1985, 3240 yards
*Men 90-94 E Ole Larson, North Carolina Masters Swimming: 2013, 2330 yards
*Men 95-99 Gus Langner (shown above): 1999, 2175 yards

*Women 18-24 Sarabeth Schweitzer, Sierra Nevada Masters: 2000, 5550 yards
*Women 25-29 Lisa Hazen, Los Altos Mountain View Masters: 1994, 5560 yards
*Women 30-34 Lisa Hazen, Los Altos Mountain View Masters: 1995, 5625 yards*
*Women 35-39 Heidi George: 2012, 5645 yards
*Women 40-44 Susan Preston, Stanford Masters Swimming: 2006, 5550 yards
*Women 45-49 Susan Preston, Stanford Masters Swimming: 2008, 5550 yards
*Women 50-54 Suzanne Heim-Bowen, Walnut Creek Masters: 2010, 5180 yards
*Women 55-59 Laura Val, Tamalpais Aquatic Masters: 2010, 5090 yards
*Women 60-64 Laura Val, Tamalpais Aquatic Masters: 2012, 4920 yards
*Women 65-69 Lavelle Stoinoff, Oregon Masters: 1999, 4135 yards
*Women 70-74 Lavelle Stoinoff, Oregon Masters: 2003, 3960 yards
*Women 75-79 Ronnie Kamphausen, Maine Masters Swim Club: 2010, 3525 yards
*Women 80-84 Betty Lorenzi, Florida Aquatic Combined Team: 2010, 3250 yards
*Women 85-89 Rita Simonton, Golden West Swim Club: 2004, 3005 yards
*Women 90-94 Rita Simonton, Golden West Swim Club: 2009, 2720 yards
*Women 95-99 Mary Lathram, DC Masters: 2011, 1360 yards

Top photo shows Gus Langner, record holder in the 95-99 age division when he swam a total of 2175 yards in the 1999 event.

Photo on left shows Lisa Hazen who swam a total of 5625 yards in 60 minutes, averaging 1:04 per 100 yards and finished first overall.

After retiring from competitive swimming, she returned to the pool and defeated all the male and female participants in 1995 as she prepared for her open water races on the 1995 FINA Open Water Swimming Grand Prix circuit.

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