Dare senior swimmers dominate

Published 11:35 am Monday, October 2, 2023

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Twenty-two dedicated swimmers from Dare County have taken first place overall in the North Carolina Senior Games for the fourth or fifth year running. The statewide meet was held at the Triangle Aquatics Club in Cary on Saturday, Sept. 23.

The Outer Banks athletes train year-round for the games and most if not all of them practice at the Outer Banks Family YMCA in Nags Head. They qualify for the “states” during a small local meet at the “Y” each spring.

Why do they do it? It’s fun and motivational, they say.

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Outer Banks team leaders and former college swimmers Harry Schiffman and Robert Trivette keep it all going. Schiffman constantly recruits swimmers and Trivette helps by teaching Sunday clinics.

Schiffman swam at UNC Chapel Hill in 1959-60; Trivette at Wake Forest in the 70s. A few other team members such as Dave Tonneson and Greg Florence also have roots in college swimming while the rest just love the sport.

“It’s fun, that’s why I do it,” John Donlan said. “It gives me a goal and keeps me swimming towards that goal.” He swam and “finished” five events.

“My times were ok, they are what they are,” he said while lifeguarding at the Outer Banks YMCA indoor pool. “I was third in 500 free for my age group.

“This is a great pool to swim in – swimming helps my surfing, but surfing doesn’t help my swimming,” Donlan joked.

Donlan, Trivette and the rest of the team are all inspired by Charlie Erwin, who at 92 years old raced in six events during the Cary meet. His daughter Debbie was in town from Atlanta again this year to cheer him on.

“Charlie is the most amazing inspiration,” Trivette said. “Some days you’re not that excited to practice and then you think, ‘If Charlie can do it, I should just shut up and swim.’”

Trivette also tips his swim cap to Schiffman, who remains a fixture at the pool and captured three golds and two silvers at the meet.

“Our success is based primarily on Harry’s efforts over the years to build up the team with his relentless enthusiasm and support,” Trivette added. “He’s like our general manager, in that he keeps us informed about practices and meets.

“He’s also our chief recruiter – if he sees a good swimmer, he educates them and encourages them to try senior games,” Trivette said. “He’s our best cheerleader – he’s extremely supportive of everyone.

“We’ve got a great base of committed swimmers now and we’re always excited when someone new decides to try it,” he added. “And now after so many years our team has gotten closer, which makes us even more supportive of each other.”

Schiffman had a phenomenal meet by coming in first place in three of his five events and second place in the other two.

“We had a good turn out,” Schiffman reported. “I got three golds and two silvers. K.E. [Morgan] did well. The girls did really good – they did great!

“Tonneson broke several records and Robert did well,” Schiffman said. “Everybody did well!”

Trivette aced two of his six events and placed second in the others. His older brother, Paul, another Wake swimming alumni, took home five gold medals for Piedmont Plus.

“Greg Florence had a great meet, I think he medaled in six events,” Trivette said. “Rick Jones medaled in five, Lisa Minerich had a great meet winning several medals.”

Trivette also mentioned six first-time swimmers: Brian Tress and Mike Bryant, who medaled, Laura Cortez, Karen Anderson, Danielle Foster, who medaled several times and also competed in the senior games biking events the next day along with Gracia Dipace.

Ironman Charlie grabbed gold in four of his six events and silvers in the remaining two. He and his daughter looked so happy sitting on the sidelines throughout the day.

Additional Dare swimmers in the meet were: Rita Ayers, David Henzler, John Kenny, Brooke Kirk, Kathleen Morgan and D. Law.

Qualification for next year’s state finals will be held in the spring of 2024 at local Senior Games for athletes 50 and over, which are held across North Carolina. Call 252-475-5635 for more.