Inaugural Barbara Gordon Award presented at 33rd Donner Lake Swim |

Inaugural Barbara Gordon Award presented at 33rd Donner Lake Swim

Janet Hill, daughter of Barbara Gordon — who was the first woman to swim the length of Donner Lake, in 1935 — presents the inaugural Barbara Gordon Award to Mary Short after the 33rd annual Donner Lake Swim this past Saturday. Also pictured are Vanessa and Eddie Hill, Dr. Kenneth Hall Fox, who witnessed the historic swim when he was 10, race director Laura Harsh and her daughter Ella. 
Courtesy photo |

TRUCKEE, Calif. — Conditions this past Saturday morning could not have been more ideal for a length-wise swim across Donner Lake.

More than 300 participants in the 33rd annual Donner Lake Swim, most of them from the Bay Area or Reno, took to the east end of the lake for an 8:30 a.m. mass start. Hugging the south shore of the lake, the horde of arms and feet and swim caps splashed along the glassy, windless surface, flanked by volunteers in various support vessels.

Reno’s Michael Weiss, 22, of the Sierra Nevada Masters, which puts on the swim, was the first to reach the West End Beach finish line, posting a time of 54 minutes, 20 seconds. Ben Lerude, 18, was hot on his heels, finishing just four seconds back in 54:24. Wyatt Butler, 21, was third in 55:23.

In the women’s field, 21-year-old Mary Short of Reno raced to victory while finishing fifth overall in a time of 58:14. She was the only woman to finish in under an hour.


A special ceremony was held after the race presenting Short with the first-ever Barbara Gordon Award.

The inaugural award to the top female finisher was created in honor of the late Barbara Gordon, who, on Aug. 18, 1935, at the age of 17, became the first woman to swim the length of Donner Lake. She accomplished the feat in 1 hour, 47 minutes.

Gordon’s daughter, Janet Hill, presented the award while congratulating Short, whose name and race results will be engraved on a plaque to be displayed at Northwest Pool in Reno.

During the ceremony, Hill introduced retired Auburn dentist Kenneth Hall Fox, who at the age of 10 was on hand to watch Gordon’s historic swim almost 78 years earlier to the day.

“I am really glad we were able to work with Janet Hill to find a way to memorialize her mom at the Donner Lake Swim,” said race director Laura Harsh. “Barbara Gordon’s swim was a huge accomplishment and I think she was way ahead of her time in swimming and for women in swimming. It was also neat that someone who witnessed the swim was at the award ceremony.”

In addition to the new award, Hill — with the support of the Donner Summit Historical Society — installed a new interpretive sign near the shoreline of West End Beach, telling visitors of her mother’s swim.

For complete results from the 33rd annual swim, go to

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