Sun City swimmers stay fit, compete in meets

"Barbara never sleeps,'' says Master Swimmers coach Joe Bongiorno of Sun City master swimmer, Barbara Eisele. Eisele, who is fit and toned in a swimsuit, says she took up swimming at 68; now 82, Eisele says swimming has definitely helped her toward good health.Three times a week, on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, Eisele and Sandy Hineline, 65, arrive at the Old Town Bluffton indoor swimming pool, where they are put through their paces by Bongiorno, a former speech therapist and high school swim coach in Long Island. BonGiorno is Sun City resident and a swimmer, and has competed in both county and national competitions. The two Sun City residents swim from 6 a.m. to 7:30 a.m. Eisele says she awakes at 4:45 a.m. to get to the pool in good order; Hineline rises a bit later, around 5 a.m. Hineline, who started swimming at the Old Town pool last November, says she was inspired by her niece, an All American swimmer at Pennsylvania State University. "I said, "Hey, I used to swim and I liked it; I should do that again,'' Hineline remembers. Although Eisele competes, Hineline hasn't decided whether she will swim in competition. "I started swimming here to improve my time and strengthen my stroke. Joe says I have improved and I like the idea of being coached and drilled.''

Eisele, who grew up in Durham, N.C., says she began swimming regularly when she moved to Sun City; the majority of her workouts are done at the Old Town pool but she occasionally uses the new Lakehouse pool as well. She has been swimming since her youth. "I was lucky because I had the head of the Duke University swimming team as my coach so I learned all the correct basics.'' She competes in national meets and recently won two gold medals and four silver medals. She had eight firsts and one second in the 80 to 84 age group category. Eisele also swims in both the Beaufort-Jasper Active Adult and Sun City challenges; she has had 94 Top 10 honors.Sun City resident Nana Whalen, 74, is another master swimmer and recently was named an All-American for a long course 400 medley relay race in her age group. The swim took place in Auburn, Ala., in the U.S. Masters Long Course Championship for the Georgia National Team (GAJA) team.

Whalen was the fastest in the race, with the butterfly leg of the relay. The team placed first in the race in Alabama at the Nationals. That first place finish was ranked first place in the U.S. for 2011, making her and the team All-Americans. Then in the FINA World Championships, the team was ranked fourth in the world. Whalen trains with the Master Swimmers at the Old Town indoor pool, which opened in 2000 and has six lanes. On a recent morning, the master swimmers were working on a regimen BonGiorno had devised of 3,000 yards. The team is a registered United States Master Swim Team, offering swim training and competition for swimmers and triathletes, ages 19 and older.

Bongiorno, 78, started coaching at the Old Town pool 10 years ago. He swims regularly. "Swimming has definitely made me healthier and stronger, and you make a lot of friendships. We go to four or five meets a year and there's a lot of camaraderie at the meets. We've traveled to Atlanta, Charleston, Greenville, all over the place.'' Because his time can be as good or better than swimmers years younger, on occasion Bongiorno has competed against 50 year-olds at these meets. "People swim in our program for lots of reasons: to compete and to train, or to improve their swimming. Then you have people who want to stay physically fit.''

Master team practice days and times are 6 a.m. to 7:30 a.m. and 7:30 a.m. to 9 a.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Drop-ins are welcome. Cost is $30 a month, or $4 for each visit. Details: 843-298-4491.