Masters Pool Their Resources at Meet

There were some ringers from the New York A.C.
A river raft race — see Heather Caputo and her 4-year-old daughter, Annabelle, above — was one of several offbeat events Tim Treadwell mixed in with 50 to 200-yard age-group races at Bill and Dominique Kahn’s pool Saturday. Craig Macnaughton

Masters swimmers who participate in Tim Treadwell’s classes at the Y.M.C.A. East Hampton RECenter and at Albert’s Landing met in a competitive meet at Bill and Dominique Kahn’s house in Georgica Close Saturday, the chief winner of which was the Lustgarten Foundation for pancreatic cancer research, which netted $8,000, twice as much as had been raised in the inaugural event last year.

Treadwell, whose mother died of the disease two years ago, made sure that there was an event for everyone — age-group masters swimming begins at 18 — including some unorthodox feet-first sculling, wet T-shirt, and river raft relays.

If there were a prize for the most frequent participant it would have gone to Dr. Charlie van der Horst of the University of North Carolina, who was to have returned to Chapel Hill the next day.

Van der Horst, as was the case with many others competing Saturday, has swum in the open water group Treadwell oversees at Albert’s Landing in Amagansett three mornings a week. “I swam 40 miles in August!” he said before taking part in the first event, the 60-to-70-year-old 200-yard freestyle.

As van der Horst executed a neat flip turn at the end of the first lap, a spectator said, “He’s very competitive.” And then, as the eventual runner-up arrived, “He’s competitive too, but not that good.”

No matter, for, as Treadwell — who assures that “there’s a lane for everyone” in his Y classes — said, “Everyone’s a winner today.”

“What we’re hoping,” said Joe Viviani, a masters swimmer and the meet’s publicist, “is that some day we’ll have a test for pancreatic cancer like the P.S.A. test for prostate cancer. As it is, when you find out you have it, that’s pretty much it.”

The spring issue of Progress & Promise, the foundation’s newsletter, which was on the check-in table, made note of the promising initial results of a CancerSEEK blood test “that can detect the presence of pancreatic cancer as part of a panel of eight common cancers.”

“We know,” said Dr. Anne Marie Lennon of the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center, “that in 80 to 85 percent of pancreatic cancer cases, it’s detected too late. . . . Developing a blood-screening test for pancreatic cancer has been an urgent goal.”

The encouraging results of the initial research, Kerri Kaplan, the foundation’s president and chief executive officer, said, “lays the foundation for a single blood-screening test for multiple cancers that could be offered as part of routine medical checks. . . . This test marks a significant first step toward a new era in how pancreatic cancer is diagnosed.”

When Tom Cohill, whose Y.M.C.A. East Hampton RECenter’s youth swim team, the Hurricanes, continues to feed into and strengthen East Hampton High’s girls and boys varsities, was asked if there weren’t some ringers there that day, he said, “Anyone with N.Y.A.C. [the New York Athletic Club] on their suits.”

One of them, Kristin Gary, identified the others, all recent college graduates, broad-shouldered and slim-waisted: Cameron Hood of the University of Pennsylvania, Brian Hogan of Yale, and Paul-Marc Schweitzer of Texas A&M.

“We swim with Bill all the time,” said Gary. “It’s great out here, and it’s such a worthwhile cause. . . . It’s unique having a fund-raiser in a 25-yard pool.”

In fact, this writer could think of none other like it, at least hereabouts.

As for swimming, Gary said, “It’s a sport that brings together people of all walks of life, people who share a passion, something bigger than themselves.”

Swimmers at their best were “in the zone,” agreed Cohill, who was reminded of the masters runner John Conner’s view that “you are your toughest competitor.”

“You forget about everything else, everything you can’t control, and focus on what you can, on executing and doing your best.”

As for his Hurricane girls, he’ll be missing Maggie Purcell, Caroline Oakland, and Isabella Swanson this season, all of them college-bound, and all “big personalities.” There were, however, “a talented group of boys and girls going into the 13-year-old group,” Cohill said.

Spencer Schneider, a long-distance swimmer who’s expected to try a Montauk-to-Block Island crossing in the coming weeks (he made it halfway there last year), was a no-show, having apparently been pressed into lifeguard duty in the absence of some fellow guards who had to go back to college. 

But Lori King, who stands at about 5 feet 2 inches and has swum around Bermuda, around Manhattan, and around Key West, and has conquered the Catalina Channel, was there.

She would do the Bermuda 10K soon, and she was wait-listed, she said, for Gibraltar. 

While in Bermuda, King said she would, armed with some fun facts supplied by Woods Hole scientists designed to pique their wonder, talk again with junior and high school students about the appeal of open water swimming. 

“I’ve told them it’s not as if you’re leaving the planet earth or anything,” she said with a smile. “All you have to do is put your face in the water.”