Donner Swim a success from start to finish | SierraSun.com
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Donner Swim a success from start to finish

BAY KELLEY

Sierra Sun

The west end of Donner Lake, 2.7 miles from the east end (if you go straight), was host to a slew of stories at the completion of the 20th annual Donner Lake Swim.

A tie for first place simply served as the prologue to the multiple achievements of various swimmers as they emerged from the frigid waters this past Saturday.

“I was in eighth place with about a quarter of a mile to go,” explained 40-year-old Robert Placak, a member of the Olympic Club in San Francisco, “but after I made a few passes and caught up to [Brad Winsor], we went stroke for stroke for about the last 100 meters. It was like synchronized swimming at that point.”

“We were both trying to win,” continued Winsor, a 27 year old on the Davis Aquatic Masters’ team and winner of the swim in 1995, “and it was a sprint to the finish.”

The two swimmers tied for first place with a 57:25.3 final time.

Suzanne Heim-Bowen, in her first time competing in the race, was the top female finisher with a time of 1:00:30.5.

Heim-Bowen is a master’s world record holder in several events, including, now, the Donner Lake swim, beating the previous 40-44 age bracket record by more than three minutes.

Less than an hour later, at 1:53:48, Susan White got her footing and began to make tracks to the finish line.

After collapsing once, she carried herself to the banner, where she was told that she had to make an emergency call home.

As it turned out, White, the winner of the 55-59 age bracket, had completed the race with a fractured hip.

She fell in practice the day before the race and, after a trip to the hospital, was told that she would probably be ok to swim. It wasn’t until after the race that she heard of the broken bone.

“It was all upper-body,” said White, describing the swim, “I had to pull myself through the race. I’ve never had to do that before.”

Mary Cantini, who finished in second place in the same bracket, broke her back on Dec. 31, 1998, at which time she was unable to walk or even move.

Oldest competitor

The race also featured Fred Rogers, who at 76 years old, was the oldest competitor in the event.

Rogers, on Aug. 24, 1955, – his daughter’s birthday – was the first man in the world to swim Lake Tahoe.

The Tahoe swim took him 19 hours and 6 minutes.

“I always stress the six minutes,” said Rogers, “because it was a very long six minutes.”

Truckee local Claudia Zischke swam Donner Lake on Monday to see if she would be able to finish this Saturday.

“Heck,” said Nancy Rose, Truckee’s top finisher at 1:02:57.6 and one of the event’s organizers, “I only swim this lake once a year and she’s swimming it twice in a week.”

The 39-year-old Zischke completed the race with a 2:06:13.2 time.

Mike Andre, a 32-year-old from Truckee, finished the race


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