Oak Harbor's master swimmer

"At 72, Harvey Prosser is a record-breaking swimmer.Last year alone Prosser was the top swimmer in the United States for the freestyle 1,500 meters in his Master Swimmers category. He placed second in the world for the 1,500 meters with his time of 25:05:42, and set a national record for the 5,000 meters - that's 3 1/2 miles - with a time of one hour, 29 minutes and 12 seconds. And he was made an All-American for long-distance swimming.Next year, the Oak Harbor man is hoping to set a new record in the 1,500 meter freestyle when the United States Master Swimmers program holds its national long-course meet in Federal Way. And he thinks maybe he'll take up open-water swimming in the chilly waters of Puget Sound. He aims to join other master swimmers in a swim across Penn Cove next summer.Records are nothing new to Prosser. He's set dozens. But last year was my best year, he says, with an aw-shucks smile. Next year could be even better.He's planning to dive in to more long-distance competition against other swimmers in the national Master Swimmers program, which provides organized competition and fitness swimming for people aged 21 to 101, he said.In Oak Harbor, about 20 members of the North Whidbey Master Swimmers meet at the Vanderzicht Memorial Pool three times a week to practice under coach Robert Pease. Most are swimming for fitness, about five are enthusiastic competitors.A couple of swimmers on our Masters team are much better than I am, Prosser said. He names Sally Dillon, who recently competed in the Masters international in Munich, Germany, and Jim McCleery, who is one of the top swimmers in the nation in his age category. Swimmers are grouped in five-year age brackets, such as 50-55 or 55-60, and so on up, Prosser said. And he credits the system with some of his success.You have to realize I'm in an age group that not many people compete in, he said. Particularly as long-distance swimmers. Competitive Master Swimmers look forward to aging up he said. It's some compensation for getting older. You don't have to get better, you just have to get older. And keep swimming. Prosser himself trains five times a week, swimming 10 miles a week. And he goes to about half of the 10 regional swimming meets held each year in Seattle.You'd expect Prosser to have chlorine in his blood by now. He swam competitively when he was a West Point cadet, 50 or so years ago, and was part of the Pacific Air Force swimming team, swimming free-style and butterfly, as always. But since 1964, when he suffered a back injury, he's been swimming for the sake of his back. And it's been effective therapy. His back is excellent, he said. But if I lay off I have problems again.So it's not surprising that Oak Harbor's pool is important to him. He's been a pool commissioner, serving on the North Whidbey Parks and Recreation Board, since he and his wife moved to North Whidbey in 1986. It's an unpaid position, and he's the longest-serving of the five commissioners.He was very much involved in getting the Master Swimmers program started seven years ago, and he helps to organize the swim meets that are held here for Master Swimmers from around the zone. In September, 200 master swimmers competed in Oak Harbor and next September, Oak Harbor will host the annual pentathlon meet for the zone which will draw swimmers from Canada and the Pacific Northwest.Prosser gets excited about Oak Harbor's young swimmers, too. He's particularly proud of Missy McIntyre, a middle school student who already has Olympic aspirations. He'd really like to see Oak Harbor producing some young national champions. That would be a boost for the pool, he said.As for himself, he will keep demonstrating that you can keep right on swimming.We have a some swimmers in their 90s in the masters program, he said. It's an interesting activity for me. I'm reasonably good at it and it certainly keeps you fit.----------------Find out moreAnyone who likes to swim is welcome to join the North Whidbey Master Swimmers. The group meets for an hour of coached swimming training three days a week. Membership is open to anyone over 21. Cost is $35 a month, which includes pool use and coaching. For information call Robert Pease at 675-7665. "

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