Danny Prear was a busy man at the Ridge Park fieldhouse on Dec. 21 as a competitor in a Chicago Park District adult swim meet.
The 60-year-old Roseland resident swam in 11 events, winning 5 individual titles, including the 25-yard butterfly, his favorite swimming stroke.
However, Prear’s day wasn’t just about competing in those events. When he wasn’t in the pool, he was up on the deck, yelling encouragement to his teammates from the Kroc Center as well as his competitors. Prear appreciates the medals he earned, but personal goals weren’t his priority.
“I love the competition and the camaraderie with all the different swimmers,” Prear said. “It’s huge. Everyone helps everybody. I swim, and I coach some, too. I try and help everybody.”
Ridge Park finished first with 679 points, beating the Kroc Center (479) and Portage Park (449) for the team title.
The meet welcomed about 50 swimmers from the Chicago area, ranging in age from 20 to 91.
Prear, swimming for the Kroc Center, started swimming when he was 14, and he has also been a lifeguard. He typically swims four times a week for about an hour each session.
At the meet at Ridge Park, Prear also won the 25- and 50-yard breaststroke, the 50-yard free and the 100-yard individual medley in the men’s 60-64 age division.
“It’s all about being healthy, having fun and staying in shape,” Prear said. “It isn’t about winning for me. I do all these events. I’m just swimming and staying in shape.”
In the women’s 60-64 division, 61-year-old Elizabeth McClain, a longtime Beverly resident, brought home 4 first-places finishes from her 6 individual events, winning the 25- and 50-yard breaststroke and the 25- and 50-yard butterfly.
McClain said swimming for her is all about peacefulness.
“It’s the sense of being free when you’re swimming,” McClain said. “You’re not stuck in traffic or anything. There is peace and clarity. I love it. It’s not even exercise.”
McClain is a long-time runner and swimmer, but she added more swimming to her workouts about 10 years ago.
“I’d been swimming my whole life but more the last 10 years,” she said. “I was a runner. I ran half marathons, but I had a client who was a swimmer. He said he swam a mile, and I laughed at him. Then I swam a mile.”
Beverly resident Nancy O’Donnell was the only entrant in the women’s 70-74 division, and she, of course, brought home gold in all 8 of her events.
However, considering where she was a year ago—rooting from the stands as she recovered from hip surgery—being the only swimmer in her events didn’t keep O’Donnell from soaking in the excitement of the meet.
“Swimming this year, it’s all the difference in the world. It’s good for the ego, too,” O’Donnell said with a smile. “For all us women out here, all the retired people, we could care less if we beat someone else. It’s the fact that we’re here. We get to race, and it’s the camaraderie and all the little things.”
To stay fit, O’Donnell swims at the Kroc Center two to three times a week, mixing in Pilates and cycling.
“I was in high school before Title IX, so they didn’t have girls sports yet,” O’Donnell said. “Title IX went into effect in 1972, and I’d graduated before that. This is a second chance.”
The Chicago Park District will hold swim meets on Jan. 25 at Dyett High School, Feb. 15 at Shabbona Park and March 21 at Welles Park. Dates are still to be announced for meets at McGuane and Harrison Park.
For more information, visit the website at chicagoparkdistrict.com.