Alaska's water fine for local swimmer

Swimmer Suzie Aldrich breaks three Alaskan records and wins all during the International Senior Games.

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WALLA WALLA - Suzie Aldrich smoked her way through some Alaska swimmers.

The 68-year-old swimmer participated in the Alaska International Senior Games Aug. 14 in Fairbanks, Alaska, winning throughout.

"I broke all their state records," Aldrich said proudly.

She finished the 50 meter backstroke in 41.78 seconds, more than 30 seconds ahead of the previous age group record of 1:12.68. She went 1:33.00 in the 200, while the previous record was 2:18.28. And she raced in the 200 freestyle, also in the backstroke, in 3:31.65. The previous record, in any style, was 5:09.84.

"I smoked ‘em," Alrdich confirmed.

About 20 swimmers competed in all, mostly from Alaska, Aldrich said. The pool is in the public school compound in the northerly city, where the weather was in the 40s and rainy throughout the weekend.

"It was fun stuff," Aldrich said. "They were just such nice people. It was well-run and a beautiful pool."

Aldrich, who is 6-foot-1, intimidated some of her fellow swimmers.

"We were all in the locker rooms early on, and all of the women were looking at me," Aldrich said. "One gal finally came up to me and asked ‘How old are you?' without introducing herself or asking my name! I told her and she said ‘Oh, good, I don't have to swim against you.'"

From there, introductions were made and Aldrich made herself at home. The people were very friendly and welcoming, she said.

"Everyone wanted to know about Walla Walla, and where it is, what we grow and everything," she said. "They were very interested in what we do, so I got to promote Walla Walla and be a little ambassador."

Alrich represented Walla Walla on her trip, but she met someone else who represented England. One morning in her hotel, a family sat down to dine with her. Through conversation, she discovered that the father was a diplomat from England who calls the other Washington home.

She also got to do some touring of her own. One of the game's swimming commissioners took her to see the oil pipeline, which Aldrich managed to touch from her tip-toes.

"I didn't realize that Fairbanks is the only city it comes near, then it goes back to bush country," she said. "I felt really fortunate to see it. I was impressed over that."

Aldrich will be back in Alaska soon. She has an Inland Passage cruise coming up, then heads to her 40th Wa-Hi reunion. In the meantime, the YMCA pool, where she trains, will be closed for routine maintenance for about a week.

She plans to be back in full training by October.

"I want to get my body more efficient, and be ready for the Eastern Washington and Washington State games next year," Aldrich said. "I'm going to qualify for Nationals in 2013 at the Washington games, so we're still on schedule."

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