LaGrange swimmer brings home the medals
By Kevin Eckleberry
LAGRANGE – She’s not slowing down.
LaGrange’s Rocio Lancaster has been swimming competitively for more than a decade, and at the age of 84, she is still going strong.
At the National Senior Games that were held last month in Birmingham, Lancaster showed off her prowess in the pool by bringing home six medals, including one for first place in the 200-yard breaststroke.
While Lancaster views swimming as a way to stay fit and healthy, she also enjoys the chance to test herself, to see how she stacks up against other elite swimmers in her age group.
Turns out, she stacks up just fine, as evidenced by the pile of medals she accumulated in Birmingham.
The two-week event, which is modeled after the Summer Olympics, brought senior athletes together from across the country to compete in a number of different sports, from track and field, to tennis, to horseshoes, and to swimming.
“I do enjoy the competitive part,” Lancaster said on Friday morning at the Mike Daniel Recreation Center where she and her husband John often swim. “And there’s a lot of good people. I’ve made a lot of good friends, a lot of good memories.”
In addition to her win in Birmingham, Lancaster finished second in the 100-yard breaststroke, the 200-yard freestyle, the 100-yard freestyle and the 100-yard backstroke, and she was third in the 200-yard backstroke.
Lancaster swam competitively as a teenager, but after attending Georgia Tech, she got married, had a family, and swimming was put on the back-burner.
When the family moved to LaGrange nearly four decades ago, Lancaster did begin offering swim lessons, but it wasn’t until she was in her 70s that she decided it was time to begin competing again.
She started working with Tom Fraenkel, who at the time was head coach for the Troup County Sharks, and she has been amassing medals and awards by the truck-load since then.
“I started competing, and I really enjoyed it, and it kept me going,” she said. “I’ve been swimming competitive now for about 10 years.”
At the moment, Lancaster works without a coach, although she said technology helps her in that respect as she looks to the Internet for tips.
“I’ve been following on the computer, following the instructions, and that has helped me immensely with my strokes and everything,” she said. “All of those things I didn’t know that people have learned throughout the years have helped me.”
She added that having proper technique is a key to staying healthy.
‘It’s not so much (improving times), as it keeps you from injuring yourself,” she said. “Because you can injure yourself swimming. You really do, especially on the shoulders.”
Lancaster has no intention of letting up.
While at the Senior Games, she observed one of the male competitors eschewing the offer of help during the medal ceremony following one of the swimming events.
“A man was 98-years-old from New York, and they were trying to help him get up to the podium, and he said no, I can do it, and he jumped to the podium to take his medal for first place,” she said. “I said, that’s what I want to do.”
Age, after all, is just a number.
“God gave me the ability to do this,” she said. “I’m 84, and I’m still kicking.”