Senior Swim Testimonial from ACAC Midlothian

Article by Liz S. – acac Midlothian, Aquatics Director

Johnnie Detrick is a swimming rock star! The 82 year old swimmer practices with the acac Midlothian Masters Swim Team, and as recently as 2016, was ranked number one in the world in her age group for multiple events! This past summer, she broke three meet records in the 50, 100, and 200 meter freestyle at the Masters Pan American games held in Orlando. She swam those events in 40.60, 1:41.10, and 3:57.10 respectively. Try as I might, I cannot picture any 82 year old body, even a body as lean and strong as Johnnie’s, swimming down the pool that fast; yet she discusses these feats as casually as one might rattle off a grocery list. I, personally, would be shouting those accomplishments to anyone who would listen, but Johnnie is a humble woman.

It was not until the end of our interview that she even remembered to tell me she is a Masters swimming All-Star, and has been for three years running. To be an All-Star, you have to have the most number one rankings on the top ten lists for all three types of Masters swim meets; short course yards, short course meters, and long course meters. “They gave me a t-shirt (as a prize) the first time I was an All-Star, but it was too small” Johnnie tells me. She did not bother to ask for a bigger size. She also doesn’t always bother to pick up the medals she wins at each meet. Johnnie keeps the medals she does have in a box for her 11 grandchildren and 3 great-grandchildren. When they excel in something, she lets them pick one out to wear. “If my grands enjoy wearing my medals, I hope that will motivate them to go out and win their own.”

How Johnnie Started Swimming at ACAC Midlothian

Motivating others in the community and promoting a healthy lifestyle is one reason Johnnie agreed to talk with me. “Swimming just makes me feel good. I get grumpy if I don’t get to swim.” People of any age can start swimming by learning to swim or taking aquatics classes for exercise. Johnnie did not join the Masters team until age 46 when she and her family moved to Richmond from Wisconsin and she saw an advertisement for the acac team. As a child she swam in the summers, and as a teen she did water ballet with her sister, but serious competition did not start until a year before she first became a grandmother. Johnnie’s daughter has followed her lead and joined a Masters swim team in her own hometown of Denver. Asking how fast her daughter swims, Johnnie smiles, “I can beat her!”

Of course, Johnnie can beat most people. Head Masters coach Dr. Jim M., who started acac’s Master’s team in 1983 and has coached Johnnie ever since, tells a story highlighting Johnnie’s speed. “At one meet another coach asked me why I kept putting an older athlete in the younger age groups for relays. I answered, “Because she’s faster than the younger ones!’”

It turns out Johnnie is a favorite of all of her Masters coaches. Coach Stann B. says, “She is in the 80-84 age bracket, but she is still working to improve. She is always asking me, ‘How does this look?’” Before meets Johnnie comes to the acac Midlothian pool outside of the regular Masters group to practice turns and strokes, making sure she is prepared for competition. “She is amazingly motivated. She truly has the spirit of fitness through competition,” says Coach Jim M. Himself a huge proponent of health through fitness, Coach Jim says, “Johnnie has a degree in nursing. She really gets it.”

Johnnie’s Fitness Routine 

When not swimming, Johnnie keeps fit doing group exercise, pilates once a week at acac Midlothian, taking walks, and enjoying stand up paddle boarding on the lake in her neighborhood. Her nonchalant mentioning of regularly paddle boarding at age 82 again floors me. I ask if her husband paddle boards alongside her. “No, he hates water!” Johnnie says. Her husband does not swim with her either. He prefers to bike and circuit weight train, but he is Johnnie’s biggest fan. He travels to all of her swim meets and keeps detailed records of her stats.

At meets, Johnnie enters the sprint and shorter distance events, with freestyle and breaststroke being her best. “I swam the mile (1500 meters) in one meet, but I quit in the middle. The referee came up to see if I was o.k., and I said, ‘Yes, I was just bored!’” Johnnie swam the 500 yard freestyle event in a meet once too, but miscounted the distance and ended up swimming 550 yards. “They stopped the timing system after I touched the wall at 500 yards but then everyone watched me keep going!” These stories don’t seem to embarrass Johnnie at all: she tells them with a giggle and a shrug of her shoulders. If only we could all embrace life the way Johnnie does.

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To join acac’s Masters swim team and practice alongside Johnnie Detrick, or to learn about adult swim lessons or other aquatics offerings at acac Midlothian Aquatics or email Aquatics Director, Liz.