Kenai’s Nate Olson hasn’t turned back the clock — yet.
But Olson’s performance at the 2014 U.S. Masters Swimming Northwest Zone Championships shows that he is getting pretty close to swimming as fast as he did in his teens.
The meet was held April 12 and 13 at The Weyerhaeuser King County Aquatic Center in Federal Way, Washington. It featured 344 swimmers from ages 18 through 83 from nine different states, plus British Columbia.
There were three swimmers from the Alaska Masters Swim Club, including two from Top of the World Swimming, which trains at Skyview High School.
Olson, swimming in the 35 to 39 age group, took first in the 100-yard freestyle in 51.35 seconds and first in the 100 butterfly at 58.51.
He also was second in the 50 fly (25.72), second in the 50 free (23.06), third in the 500 free (5:50.04) and third in the 100 individual medley (1:01.69).
“I was very happy with my times,” Olson said. “I haven’t swam in a meet environment in a long time. I haven’t been able to swim fast, and know how fast I’ve been swimming.
“They were actually pretty close to what my high school times were.”
Joanne Wainwright, the coach for Top of the World Swimming, also won some events. Unlike in the case of Olson, these were not her first Masters Zone triumphs.
Wainwright, a former swim coach at Skyview High School and current instructor in an age-group, learn-to-swim program, took first in the 400 IM in 6:05.19 and first in the 1,000 free at 14:00.98.
In the 55 to 59 age group, she also was second in the 200 free (2:30.97), second in the 100 fly (1:17.34) and third in the 200 breaststroke (3:11.01).
Wainwright said she was fighting an injury at the meet, but added that attending the meet was still worth it.
“I wasn’t thrilled with my times, but I was happy to still be swimming,” she said. “I had an OK meet, but it’s not always about you.
“It’s not about me, it’s about everyone else having fun and inspiring other people.”
One of those people clearly enjoying themselves was Olson.
Olson swam in high school, then did a little swimming while in college in Montana.
He started dabbling in swimming again in, of all places, Galena about five years ago.
“It’s a very small community, a Bush community, and it’s unique in that it has a pool,” Olson said. “We had four that would swim there pretty regularly.”
But Olson never entered any meets. That started to change when he moved to the Peninsula in February 2013 and started training with Top of the World Swimming.
“It’s nice to be in a coached environment with swimming,” Olson said. “It’s allows you to not get bored just from working out by yourself.”
Olson started swimming with Top of the World two nights a week, and augmented that with one to three additional sessions in the pool.
He entered a February meet in Anchorage before entering Zones.
“I’m going to now try and work on some technique to get faster,” Olson said. “Next year I will try and compete at the national level and see how I do.”
Olson has even decided to start swimming year-round.
“It’s pretty much the only thing I can be competitive in anymore,” he said. “I might as well just go with it.”
While Wainwright is thrilled with Olson’s success, she doesn’t want people to be intimidated by the term “Masters.”
She said Top of the World gets up to 25 people in the pool at one time, but it is more fitness swimming for adults.
“Masters just means you are 18 years old,” Wainwright said. “Some are competitive, some aren’t.”
Wainwright said she hopes her injury will relent in a month or so, allowing her to get back in the pool.
“Winning comes in a lot of forms, and it was just a joy being down there with Nate and Melinda from Anchorage,” she said.
Melinda Greig-Walker of Anchorage, also in the 55 to 59 age group, was first in the 50 back (36.32), first in the 100 back (1:15.51), first in the 200 free (2:23.62), second in the 100 free (1:04.85), second in the 50 free (29.84) and second in the 500 free (6:26.45).
Those interested in Top of the World Swimming can contact Wainwright at 262-5308.