Recent high-schooler beats dad, other vets in Foster distance swim

Daniel Paulling

U.S. Masters Swimming Writer

Abbey Erwin spent much of the U.S. Masters Swimming 2-Mile Cable Open Water National Championship with several people drafting off her.

Fortunately for her, she managed to hold on during a last-second sprint to earn the overall win with a time of 41 minutes, 41.1 seconds on June 24 at Foster Lake in Sweet Home.

“The last 200 was rough,” said Erwin, who swims for Sawtooth Masters in Boise, Idaho. “I was definitely pushing it.”

Erwin edged out her father, Jeff Erwin, by 1.1 seconds and Oregon Masters swimmer Hardy Lussier, who finished second on the men’s side, by almost two seconds.

Jeff and Lussier both swam under the USMS record for the men’s 50-54 age group.

They broke a 13-year-old mark belonging to Ventura County (Calif.) Masters swimmer Jim McConica, who finished 16th overall Saturday and set a USMS record in the men’s 65-69 age group.

But Erwin and Lussier didn’t have enough speed at the end to pass Abbey. Nearing the finish, they came upon a group of swimmers being lapped. Abbey went to the left, Jeff and Lussier, who had been right behind her, to the right to set up the sprint to the finish.

Jeff, though, won’t fret over losing to his daughter.

“That last 200, I was trying to keep up with Abbey, but half the time I was worried about Hardy,” Jeff says. “I was just trying to drop him, but he was right on my feet. I was fine with Abbey beating me. She’s faster than I am. I was happy to be close to her.”

Jeff can take some credit for his daughter’s win. He was Abbey’s high school coach and serves as a volunteer on her club team, the Boise Y Swim Team.

Jeff, 53, brought her to Masters practices he coached while she was growing up, which led her to decide she wanted to join the club team so she could swim laps. He also took her to several Masters meets he competed in, including ones in Canada and Florida.

Although she’s focusing on Junior Nationals in August and starts her University of Minnesota career this fall, Abbey, 18, decided to swim in Oregon for a number of reasons.

“I like swimming open water, and I think I need more practice with it,” she says. “I’ve never done a cable swim, and it sounded like something that I would enjoy, so I wanted to try that. Plus, [my dad and I] got to race together, something we don’t get to do a lot.”

Saturday certainly ended better than a previous time the two raced against each other. Jeff vividly remembers when he stumbled while exiting the water to run to the finish line. If he ever forgot, there’s a photo of Abbey pointing and laughing at him to remind him.

Abbey hopes to do more open water swims once she finishes her career at Minnesota so she can have more time to focus on the discipline.

Her father would love for more open water swims like the one Saturday.

“It’s a fun swim, a beautiful swim,” Jeff says. “I’d encourage people to do those things.”