By Karen Yanson
Peter DeWitt of the Duneland Masters swim team competed at the USMS short course championships on April 28th through May 1st in Mesa AZ. He set new state records in the Men’s 60-64 age group in each of the 5 events he swam. He took first place in the 50 yd. fly (26.94), 50 yd. free (24.39), and 100 yd. free (53.53). He placed second in the 100 fly (1:01:09) and placed 3rd in the 100 yd. IM with a time of 1:03.07.
In addition to being a standout swimmer, Peter coaches Special Olympics. His daughter, Natalie who is a physical therapist, got him involved. All 52 members, whom he coaches, signed and delivered a good luck card one week before he left for Nationals in Mesa, AZ. They also gave him lots of hugs. The card included the Special Olympics motto: “Let me win and if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.” Coincidentally, the Arizona Summer 2011 Special Olympics were being held in Mesa the same weekend as the Masters nationals. To Peter’s delight, the majority of the people staying at the hotel were special Olympians.
Before swimming the 100 fly, Peter had thought about scratching the event because he was seeded 10th and he wanted to concentrate on his 100 free later in that day. However, when he went through his bag and found the good luck card he thought to himself, “The swimmers I coach would never scratch this event.” So Peter decided to swim it and go for the win. Not only did Peter get a second, but he dropped 6 seconds from his seeded time; and then won the 100 free three hours later by dropping two seconds from that seed time.
Peter had to win the 50 free twice because there was a false start and he didn’t hear the recall, stopping the first race.
Peter’s inspiration comes from both his dad and the Special Olympics kids. His Dad and Mom came to watch him swim in Mesa and he really wanted to win for his Dad. The last time his Dad watched him swim the 100 free was in high school and he failed to win his event because he hadn’t been conditioned and tapered correctly.
He also wanted to win for the Special Olympics kids because they give back to him so much more than he can ever give them.
His son, Eric, surprised him by flying in from Denver, CO to watch him swim. When Peter arrived at the pool on Saturday morning, he was carrying a Styrofoam cooler and a handsome young man came up to him and said “Can I help you with that old man?”. Peter looked up and was so surprised to see his son that he crushed the cooler before dropping it to hug his son.
He swam one year (freshman year) for Doc Counsilman. He was a walk on and (in his words) he was the slowest swimmer on the team which included Olympic gold medal winners Mark Spitz, Gary Hall and John Kinsella. He stopped after his freshman year, 12 years (7-19) after he began.
In the recent Indiana State meet in April, he swam his last meet in the 55-59 age group and barely lost in the 50 and 100 free to Joel Stager, DOC, and another National Champion.
Joel was such a trooper that he let Peter trade lanes with him so he could hear the start, switching places from lane one to ten. Due to hearing losses in both ears, Peter has difficulty hearing the start commands and the starting tone if he’s not near the starter.
Peter is essentially self-coached, but he was so driven this year to go for a win at Nationals that he reached out for help. Peter sat down with his son, Jeff, who is a nationally ranked Xterra triathlete in Denver, and developed a workout plan which consisted of pushing hard for two weeks, followed by a recovery week.
In addition, while in Colorado on a ski trip with Jeff, he attended Swim Lab in Denver and attributes Michael Mann’s stroke program with helping him make improvements in both his free and fly. His daughter-in-law, Jeff’s wife, Melanie taught him Pilates so that he could improve his core strength.
Lastly, the Valparaiso High School coach and friend, Zach Hall, worked with Peter on his starts the weeks before Nationals. Ironically, Peter lives close to Lake Michigan but he doesn’t swim open water events.
However, in the summer, he spends weekend morning’s water skiing with his family. All of his family enjoys skiing and swimming.
Another standout Indiana swimmer at the USMS Nationals in Mesa was Siphiwe Belaka (unattached from Muncie). He won the 50 free (22.03) and the 100 free (48.42) in the men’s 40-44 age group. He took 3rd in the 100 breaststroke, dropping 7 seconds from his seed time with a time of 1:01.63. He placed 6th in the 200 free with a time of 1:51.47.
Other swimmers from Indiana who attended the USMS Nationals are; Duneland Masters Karen Yanson (55-59), 7th in the 100 breaststroke (1:25.66), 10th in the 50 fly (36.01) and 12th in the 100 IM (1:19.02)
DOC Peter Finn (55-59), 5th in the 100 breaststroke (1:07.67), 6th in the 50 breaststroke (29.86), 18th in the 100 IM (1:04.23) and 29th in the 100 free (58.81) Jutta Schickore (45-49), 5th in the 1650 free, 7th in the 200 fly (2:28.59), 10th in the 500 free (5:50.83), 10th in the 100 fly (1:06.41) and 10th in the 400 IM (5:28.82)
GRIN LouAnn Dixon (45-49), 4th in the 200 breaststroke (2:38.01), 6th in the 50 breaststroke (34.09), 8th in the 100 free (59.56), 10th in the 100 breaststroke (1:13.36) and 12th in the 100 IM (1:07.39)
ISF Ben Christoffel (35-39), 2nd in the 50 free (21.43), 3RD in the 100 breaststroke (59.06), 5th in the 50 breaststroke (27.52) and 5th in the 100 IM (54.86)
NASTI Christopher Sikich (30-34), 21st in the 200 free (2:00.51), 23rd in the 100 free (53.63), and 27th in the 50 free (24.39)
NASTI Kirk Dixon (50-54), 22nd in the 50 breaststroke (32.54), 24th in the 100 breaststroke (1:11.97), 26th in the 100 free (56.88) and 33rd in the 50 free (25.81)