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Making Waves

2017 United States Masters Swimming Open Water National Championships Festival

There’s no better way to kick off the summer season than going for a swim. The 2017 United States Masters Swimming Open Water National Championships Festival will be held June 2-4 on the Tennessee River. Hosted by the Chattanooga Open Water Swimmers, Outdoor Chattanooga and the McCallie River Rats, this event is expected to bring an economic impact of $70,000.

There are 385 entries and a total of 271 participants, as many swimmers participate in multiple events. Friday, June 2 will feature a 1 mile swim. Saturday, June 3 will feature 2.4-mile swim, which is the 2017 USMS Middle OW National Championships. Sunday, June 4 will be composed of a 9.2-mile swim, which is the 2017 USMS Ultramarathon OW National Championships.

“We work with a local organizing committee that is comprised of the Chattanooga Sports Committee, Outdoor Chattanooga, City of Chattanooga and representatives from local Open Water swimming groups like the Chattanooga Open Water Swimmers (C.O.W.S) and the McCallie River Rats,” said Ashley Holden, Sports Account Manager at the Chattanooga Sports Committee. “The group uses each individual’s expertise to plan each aspect of the event and create a successful event that benefits the community, local swimmers and visitors to Chattanooga. As with any event it is special to host a national championship as we know that typically brings in all different types of talented swimmers from across the country.”

Ashley Whitney is one the many talented swimmers who will be competing in this year’s event. Whitney was part of the winning 1996 Summer Olympics Women’s 4x200-meter freestyle relay team, as well as a member of the 2009 US National Open Water team. The Nashville native currently serves as Masters/Triathlon coordinator for the Nashville Aquatic Club.

“I can’t say enough good things about the Open Water Nationals being held in Chattanooga,” said Whitney. “Our masters swimmers from the Nashville Aquatic Club are looking forward to a great swim with great competitors from around the region and country.”

Whitney’s especially excited about the course. “The Tennessee River is a gorgeous body of water to swim in, usually with visibility of at least 10,” she said. “The land views are absolutely amazing with golf courses, downtown buildings, fun neighborhoods and gorgeous bridges providing swimming scenery—a welcome switch from lane ropes and black lines! The finish is right across the river from the Tennessee Aquarium in a fantastic riverside park. Inland swim venues don’t get better than Chattanooga.”

Stan Corcoran is the Head Swimming Coach at McCallie School and Coordinator for the 1 and 2.4 mile races. He got his start in open water swimming thanks to the encouragement of longtime U.S. Masters Swimmer and McCallie alum Jimmy Welborn. After years of swimming up and down the Tennessee River together, the idea to host USMS competitions in the Scenic City was born.   

“It draws a lot of different swimmers, so we’ve got a fairly good field,” Corcoran said. “Since it is a national championship, there will be a lot of ex-college swimmers and All Americans. It is a fun venue, and it’s nice that everything is really close. I think Chattanooga is a great venue to run open water races.”

Corcoran hopes that the spectator-friendly viewing areas, such as the Market Street and Veteran’s Bridges as well as the Tennessee Riverwalk, will bring in viewers from all over the city.

“You can watch the race unfold,” Corcoran said.

Additionally, Corcoran believes that the 2.4-mile race will be a great training opportunity for triathletes wishing to race in the IRONMAN Chattanooga event on September 24th of this year.

Whitney praised the efforts of Corcoran, who’s in charge of the 1 and 2.4 mile races, and Karah Nazor, who’s heading up the 9.2-mile race. “[They] have a long history in open water swimming and organizing open water races, especially in this body of water and on this course.”

She hopes that participants will flock to the Scenic City for this special event. “Without a doubt, Nationals will be a safe, well-organized, fun event for all swimmers. One of the things that makes this race so appealing is that Chattanooga is easy to get to [and] easy to get around once you’re in town. Swimmers and their spectators can find lots of great places to eat in this family friendly downtown. The town’s amazing, the water’s amazing, the swim’s amazing!”

Written by: Olivia Williams

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