Reconnecting: Alumni News, Insights and Advice

Part one of a two-part profile

By Heather Keeler

When Ann Arbor Swim Club alumni from the past fifty years discuss their age-group memories, common themes emerge: A keen awareness and appreciation of team. Lifelong friendships that were forged in training lanes and flourished across time and distance. Deep respect for training partners and competitors. All recall rewards that outweighed the sacrifices.

In this month’s issue, catch up on what’s new in the lives of ten AASC alumni. Read their thoughtful and inspiring insights about training, teammates, coaches, motivation, college, and life. More alumni news, insights and advice will follow in next month’s issue.


I N    T H I S    I S S U E

Jason Wening:
"The will to win is a myth; I believe in the will to train"
Jennifer Merte:
"Choose a school that will make you a better person, not just a better swimmer"
Wendy Shieh:
"(With) the heart and desire to improve, you never know where you might end up"
Kurt Spenser:
"When you think big and strive for excellence on a daily basis, huge successes are inevitable"
Adam Messner:
"It was the ’not giving up’ that was a huge accomplishment"
Tom Bailey:
"Teammates ... influenced me to this day to always think and dream big"
Matthew McVittie:
"(Coaches) built a foundation of mental toughness and a desire to succeed"
Janice Snavely Weber:
"Swimming opened up new worlds for me"
Susie Thrasher:
Rewards are "the friendship of teammates, the recognition and the fun of competition"
Marty Sinn Catalano:
"We were breaking new ground as female athletes and it was a grand adventure"


Jason Wening

AASC Member 1997-2000

When Jason Wening joined Ann Arbor Swim Club in 1997, he was not one of our typical age-group swimmers. Already in his 20s at the time, he came to Ann Arbor to pursue a Master’s degree in Biomedical Engineering at the University of Michigan, so he was as much mentor/assistant coach as training partner to the high school swimmers who shared his lanes. He was also already a multiple Gold medallist from the 1992 Barcelona and 1996 Atlanta Paralympic Games.

Jason is a double below-the-knee amputee. "Swimming provided me something more than the average person," he explains. "Water was freedom from the bounds created by my disability. When I discovered Paralympic swimming it was an opportunity to achieve something that I never could have achieved competing strictly against my able-bodied peers. Being able to set the goals of qualifying for the Disabled National Championships, then qualifying for the Paralympic Games, then setting the world record in the 400m freestyle was the starting point on a journey that has instilled a sense of self, a sense of confidence, and an understanding that I am who I have chosen to be."

Jason Wening and Gretchen
Jason Wening and his fiancé, Gretchen, plan a Summer 2006 wedding.
One of the world’s dominant disabled swimmers, Jason competed in the S-8 category for swimmers with physical disabilities.

His AASC training led to his third Paralympic Games in Sydney in 2000 where he raced to more gold medals and new world records. He then retired from swimming and moved to Chicago to attend Northwestern University.

Jason’s long list of medals, world records and other achievements (see sidebar, right) are not what immediately come to his mind when reflecting on his swimming career and his years of AASC membership.

"I am very proud of my swimming career as a whole. It’s hard to pick one specific moment that stands out above all others. There are sets that I did swimming alone in Canham Natatorium that stand out vividly, and practices at Fuller Pool after the sun had set with ten of us in a lane. It’s not just the races, but the things I accomplished during workouts as well."

Jason Wening
Swim Bio

World record holder 800m freestyle, 500m freestyle and 400 IM

Former world record holder 400m free (1991-2004) and 200 IM (1992-1994)

Broke world record in 400m free 7 times; undefeated in international competition

5 Olympic gold medals, 1 bronze at 3 Paralympic Games (Barcelona 1992, Atlanta 1996, Sydney 2000)

35 national medals, 10 international medals

1998, 1999 named Phillips 66 Male Swimmer of the Meet at Disability National Championships

2000 age group winner at USMS 5k Open Water National Championships in Chicago (5th overall)  

He continues, "I guess my greatest achievement would be that I dominated distance swimming for so many years, while attending college and graduate school, moving several times, and being part of a movement that raised the level of public awareness regarding what people with disabilities are capable of doing."

Now 31, Jason lives in Chicago, Illinois, and works as a resident prosthetist for Scheck and Siress. Upon completing his residency, he plans to split his time between clinical work and research to advance the field of prosthetics.

Jason’s personal experiences have greatly informed his career perspective. "I am working everyday with other amputees, many of whom are facing a new life after losing a limb that they always assumed would be there. At the Paralympic Games I witnessed people with incredibly damaged bodies do things that nobody has ever attempted. It led me to understand that the body is merely a machine that is only limited by the weakness of the mind that guides it. I attempt to bring that message of hope and healing to everything I do primarily through my actions when working with patients."

"I never regretted the free time and social time lost because I understood that every decision had the potential to impact my ability to achieve my dream. I had to know without a doubt walking onto the pool deck in Sydney that there was nothing I could have done to better prepare myself for that moment."

Jason Wening

"Obviously, winning gold medals and setting world records in the 400m freestyle three Paralympic Games in a row was a significant reward. The reward was also much more than that. When I dedicated myself to training for the Games in 2000, my primary goal was to discover how fast I could swim, how fast I could make the body and mind that I was given move through the water. I was already a world record holder and accomplished swimmer. In 1988 during the Seoul Olympic Games I heard an interview with Janet Evans where she described that the 400m freestyle was a sprint for her. I had aspired to be able to say the same thing since then. In 2000, 12 years of training later, I believe I actually achieved that dream. It was extremely satisfying to look back on my entire career after the games in Sydney and know that I had achieved everything that I had determined to achieve in the sport of swimming."

"I believe that the will to win is a myth. I believe in the will to train: to perfect the stroke, to perfect strategy, to perfect how a set is swum. I believe in the will to learn: to educate yourself about the sport and its mechanics, to always seek knowledge because you never know when or where you will find information that can make you a better athlete."

Jason Wening

Jason encourages current AASC swimmers to take advantage of all opportunities that lie before them. "My studies of engineering and human anatomy provided extraordinary insight about how to make my body move through the water faster. Every stroke, every conversation with a coach, every race, every defeat, every second contains an opportunity. The greats in any field, athletic or otherwise, understand this at some level and never waste these opportunities."


Jennifer Merte

AASC Member 1991-2003


Now a top Big Ten IM specialist for the Purdue Boilermakers, Jennifer Merte grew up with the Ann Arbor Swim Club, starting as a 10 and under. Her 10-year-old brother, Ben, is currently an AASC member training in the Advanced Junior group.


Jen has left her mark on AASC club records as well as those of Pioneer High School, where she swam during high school season. A National Top 16 relay swimmer during the 2002-03 season, Jen’s team relay contributions led AASC to two women’s 17-18 freestyle relay records in 2003: the 400y and 200m freestyle relays.
Jennifer Merte
Jennifer Merte is currently an IM specialist for the Purdue Boilermakers.

She also holds MHSAA relay records achieved in 2001 and 2002 for the 200y medley relay, 200y freestyle relay, and 400y freestyle relay. Her contributions helped lead PHS to three state championship titles and a national record for the 200y freestyle relay team.


It is not these relay records that Jen is most proud of, though, but her college swimming achievement of scoring for the Purdue Boilermakers in three individual events at Big Ten Championships during the 2004-05 season. She scored in the 200 IM, 400 IM, and 200 butterly. All swims were personal bests.

Named CSCAA Honorable Mention Academic All-American, Jen earned the Boilermakers’ Most Improved Award and the Purdue Pride in Swimming, an award that honors team loyalty and effort. She also competed at the World Championship Trials.

Jen reflects on her swimming career, "Swimming has influenced me in so many ways. It has taught me how to set goals for myself, how to deal with setbacks, and how to push myself; it has taught me about discipline, time management, and all of those important life lessons. But most importantly, through swimming I’ve developed lifelong friendships and relationships with my teammates and coaches. That’s one of the best parts."


"Choose a school that will make you a better person, not just a better swimmer. There are so many great programs to choose from, and ultimately you will probably be most successful academically and athletically at a place where you are happy."

Jennifer Merte

To current AASC swimmers, Jen offers simple but sound advice: "It’ll be over before you know it," she warns. "Try new things, appreciate your teammates and coaches, work hard, try your best and have fun!"


Currently in her junior year at Purdue University majoring in Health Promotion, Jen has set her sights on NCAA competition and a master’s degree in Public Health.


Wendy Shieh

AASC Member 1996-2004


Like her former AASC teammate and friend, Jennifer Merte, Wendy Shieh also began training with Ann Arbor Swim Club at a very early age. She quickly made her mark in the record books, first as a 9-10 year old and throughout her years with AASC.

A multiple National Top 16 age-group swimmer, Wendy’s 50m butterfly and 100m butterfly as an 11-12 swimmer still rank in the All-Time Top 100 Times of USA Swimming. Dominant at the time, her swims still hold five first-place spots in the Club Top Times.

Wendy Shieh
A butterfly specialist for Michigan, Wendy Shieh swam a lifetime best 200 fly this past November.


recalls her state-record-setting 100y butterfly as a 12-year-old as one of the most memorable moments of her years with the club.


In thinking back on the rewards and sacrifices of age-group competition, Wendy says, "You develop relationships similar to that of a family and gain a wonderful support system of coaches, administrators, and various staff. In addition, you are given an opportunity to feel proud of your hard work at the end of each workout, season, or even career."

Now a 20-year-old sophomore at the University of Michigan, Wendy is majoring in cell and molecular biology/microbiology and specializing in butterfly for Michigan Women’s Swimming and Diving. She recently swam a lifetime best time of 2:03.89 in the 200 fly at the Texas A&M Invitational on November 18-20.


Wendy is a proud Wolverine swimmer. "I have challenged myself," she says, "and found my niche among a group of elite athletes."

She offers some recruiting advice for high school swimmers looking to swim in a college program. "Recruiting doesn’t necessarily depend on how fast you are," she says. "If you have the heart and desire to improve, you never know where you might end up. Coaches and teams are often looking for enthusiasm."

Wendy’s future plans involve medical school "somewhere where it doesn’t snow," she jokes.

She offers this final note to former teammates, "I miss Jen Merte dearly. It’s hard to uphold rivalries with other Big Ten team members when they were one of your close friends at AASC. I’m lucky to have the Smith sisters (Lindsey and Hannah) with me at Michigan, though. It’s been great sharing this experience with them."


Kurt Spenser
AASC Member 1991-1997

Club records for the period of the early 1990s, when Kurt Spenser was a young age-group swimmer, are sketchy; available data indicates the young Spenser captured first-place club times in the 11-12 50y freestyle and again as a 15-16 swimmer in the 50y free, but it’s likely the fast sprinter raced other fast times that are not yet documented.

As an AASC age-group swimmer, he captured many National Top 16 times and state records. His 15-16 50m freestyle in 1995 still ranks 28th in the National All-Time Top 100 Times for USA Swimming, and remains a Michigan Swimming state record. His team relay contributions, often in the anchor spot, earned AASC state records in the 13-14 400m free relay (1993); 15-16 400m free and 800m free relays; 17-18 & Open 200m free relay (1996); 15-16 200y medley relay (1994); and Open 200y free relay (1996). He capped his Pioneer High School swimming career as team captain and Michigan High School Swimmer of the Year in 1996.

A team focus is a strong element of Kurt’s personal outlook, whether the team is North Baltimore Aquatics Club, where he began his swimming career, Ann Arbor Swim Club or Stanford University. He recalls fondly the AASC "great relay swims with guys like Mez (Adam Messner), Jay Zawacki, Geoff Urquhart, Jamie Burke, Matt Mcvittie, and others."


"Above all else, AASC gave me lifelong friendships. It also taught me the importance of thinking big. When you think big and strive for excellence on a daily basis, huge successes are inevitable. Care about your teammates; they’ll be there for you through the failures."

Kurt Spenser

Kurt is a 2000 graduate of Stanford University. The Science, Technology and Society major was a four-year member of Stanford men’s swim team and contributed to the team’s four-time PAC-10 Championships and NCAA Championship in 1998. He was captain, All-American, and Academic All-American as a senior. He notes, "The 200m free relay I was on at NCAA’s very briefly broke the American Record — for about five minutes or two heats later, but it was still pretty cool." Kurt also competed in the 2000 Olympic Trials.

Kurt recalls, "I had wanted to swim for Stanford since I was eight years old. Bar none, it’s the greatest swim team on the planet (besides AASC!). There is no group of guys I have more respect for. I feel truly blessed to have been a part of it and owe a lot of that opportunity to AASC."

Now 28, Kurt is living in Los Angeles, California, where he directs and produces commercials for a production company that specializes in design and animation. He previously was a writer for the ABC television series, "Line of Fire."

Kurt reflects on the sacrifices and rewards of competitive swimming. "The greatest rewards were always the satisfaction and confidence that came from achieving a goal at the end of a season, no matter how big or small," he says. "That feeling is something that no one can take away and you can’t put a price tag on. I vividly remember the same joy and satisfaction at 10 years old, breaking a minute, as I felt qualifying for Senior Nationals and Olympic trials."

In keeping with his team focus, Kurt offers the following anniversary congrats to Ann Arbor Swim Club: "It’s awesome to be a part of such a great team and tradition. Keep it up everybody, it’s fun to watch!" 


Kurt Spenser’s Tips
for College Swimming

"When you get there," Kurt says, "listen to your coaches and teammates, and try new things." But until then, he suggests the following:

1. Become an academic superstar. College coaches and teams will love you. Your life will be much easier when you get to college, and you’ll swim faster.

2. Pursue your passions outside of swimming and be a well rounded person. In college, you have to contribute so much more to the team day in and day out than just fast times if you want to truly be successful.

3. Become an absolute monster relay swimmer. The team comes above all else. Start swimming like it now. It doesn’t matter what your best event is, you’ve got to do everything you can to kick *$@!! on relays.



4. Become an awesome long course swimmer. Set high goals for yourself in the summer. College coaches and teams have so much more time in the summer to look for talent.

5. Technique, technique, technique! Start building your Porsche now; a Yugo will only get you so far. This especially includes underwater swimming, turns, and starts. In college, these will be more than half your race no matter what event you swim.

6. Go to a swim camp at the school you’re interested in, if you can. Have a great attitude and take it very seriously while you’re there. Be respectful, have a wide open mind, try new things. Meet the coaches and the teams. Ask intelligent questions. Be yourself and have fun, and see if it’s the right place for you.


Adam Messner

AASC Member 1989-1997

Adam Messner made waves back in 1997 when he followed his good friend and AASC teammate, Kurt Spenser, out to sunny California and the PAC-10 swimming program of Stanford University rather than attending the University of Michigan. At the time, the record-setting AASC and Dexter High School swimmer was lured by the second-place national ranking of the Stanford men’s swim program and the pleading of his longtime friend, Kurt.


California living seems to suit Adam. Currently 27, he still resides in San Francisco, where he is the CEO and founder of an Internet-based electrical supply company. A 2001 Stanford graduate, he majored in Human Biology and was a butterfly and freestyle specialist for the Stanford Cardinal. He was a four-year varsity swimmer and Cardinal tricaptain his senior year.

Adam Messner
A dominant AASC age-group and high school swimmer, Adam Messner earned many honors in the Stanford pool as well.
In 2000, Adam was Stanford’s top NCAA point scorer and he earned multiple All-American honors in the 200 free, 500 free, 200 fly and 1650 free.


In 1999, Adam earned a Gold medal in the 800m freestyle relay at the Pan American Games in Winnipeg, Canada.

He has had several Olympic trials experiences, competing in the 400m freestyle in 1996 and making it to finals in the 200 freestyle and 100 butterfly in 2000.

Scout the AASC Top Times list and you can’t help but notice Adam’s name. He began swimming with the club at the age of 8 or 9, and he currently holds the most age-group club records for the AASC among 13 and over men.

In the 1996-97 season, his 17-18 400m freestyle time was the fastest time in the nation. He swam many National Top 16 times; seven still rank in the All-Time Top 100 Times for USA Swimming. Many of these swims are Michigan Swimming state records as well as AASC club records (see sidebar, right).

Adam Messner’s AASC Age-Group Achievements

6 National Top 16 times; 7 are still All-Time Top 100 Times

YMCA National record holder, men’s 500y free, 200m and 400m free; and 3 LCM relays in 1996 (200, 400, and 800 freestyle relays)

Set a 17-18 National Age Group Record in the 200m freestyle relay at YMCA Nationals with Kurt Spenser, Geoff Urqhart and Jay Zawacki 

MI Swimming individual state records, 15-16 400m freestyle (1995) and 17-18 400m freestyle (1996)

MI Swimming relay state records, 15-16 200y medley relay (1994); 15-16 400m freestyle relay and 800m freestyle relay (1995); 17-18 and Open 200m freestyle relays (1996)

AASC SCY club records, 9-10 50 fly, 13-14 500 free, 15&O 200 free, 500 free, and 400 IM

AASC LCM club records, 9-10 50 fly, 15&O 400 free, 800 free, 100 back

When reflecting on his proudest achievement, Adam recalls a loss of focus that he regained with the help of coaches and parents at age 15. "It was hard going to practice every day, getting up early, staying up late to study and not partying with friends," Adam explained. "With my coaches and parents I regained my focus because I wanted to swim in college and try out for the Olympic team. They told me that it would take my full dedication to reach those goals so I got back into things and gave it my full effort.  While it wasn’t really an ’achievement or win’ at all, it was the ’not giving up’ that was a huge accomplishment."


"The ability to set goals, create a plan for accomplishing them and maintaining the focus to see them through is the best thing I took away from swimming."

Adam Messner


Adam is certainly one who shaped Ann Arbor Swim Club. He notes that AASC shaped him as well. "There were no limits at Ann Arbor Swim Club and there were no excuses for not giving your all to accomplish a goal," he said. "In starting my own company, I could make all sorts of excuses for why things don’t get done or why something goes wrong. Excuses don’t matter; what matters is how you handle those problems and how you help yourself.  AASC helped shape my understanding of accountability."


Adam is no longer swimming training sets, but he still spends a lot of time in the water, mostly surfing the cold waters off the Northern California Coast. When not surfing, he reluctantly tries to get some work done. He is wondering when Blimpie Burgers, Angelos, and Zingerman’s are going to open stores out his way. 


Tom Bailey

AASC Member 1985-1989


Tom Bailey, one half of the well-remembered "Bailey Brothers" of the Ann Arbor Swim Club, left Ann Arbor in 1990 to pursue an undergraduate degree in Mechanical Engineering at Princeton University. The focus and dedication that led to many age-group, high school and college swimming achievements for Tom also lent themselves to excellence in education. He went on to earn a Master’s degree in Mechanical Engineering from Stanford in 1996 and he holds an MBA from the Wharton Graduate School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania in 2001.


Tom, now 32, lives with his wife, Michelle, in the San Francisco Bay area.
Tom Bailey
Tom Bailey, now living in the San Francisco Bay area, at the Great Wall in China a few months ago.

He is Director of Operations Strategy & Supply Chain Analysis at the Del Monte Foods Co.

Tom’s 2001 wedding in Princeton, New Jersey, was attended by former Ann Arbor Swim Club teammates Mark Loveland, Tim Freeth, Kristi Schmidt, David Semanske, his brother Eric Bailey and former coaches Paul Griffith and David Johnson.


When Tom talks to swimmers about balancing the demands of college academics and college swimming, he knows what he’s talking about. He explains, "At Princeton I was captain of the swim team during 1993-94, swam in the NCAA’s twice, and was an Honorable Mention All-American in 1991. I was also an Academic All-American. There is simply nothing that is as difficult as being a true student-athlete, especially in college and especially in the Ivy League, which doesn’t give athletic scholarships and doesn’t give many breaks to athletes."

"It remains true today that in the long run, academics matter far more than swimming records for professional success. However, there are precious few activities that build the discipline, character, perseverance and leadership that swimming can."

Tom Bailey

During Tom’s age-group swimming years with Ann Arbor Swim Club, he earned multiple National Top 16 Times. Two races of 1987 still rank in the All-Time Top 100 Times of USA Swimming: his 13-14 100m free (still 35th) and his 13-14 50m freestyle. His 1987 100m freestyle time remains a Michigan Swimming state record.

Tom was a proud Huron River Rat swimmer during high school season and earned many MHSAA state championship titles. He proudly recalls breaking the 200y freestyle record in 1990, which was previously set by his older brother, Eric. That same year, he also set the MHSAA 100y freestyle record. He capped his high school years with the distinction of being named Michigan Swimmer of the Year in 1990, earning six All-American honors, and graduating as valedictorian of the Huron High School Class of 1990.


These are proud achievements. But Tom is most proud, he says, of "being voted at graduation from Princeton University by the faculty as the top student-athlete in the School of Engineering over four years.  There’s nothing harder than being a student-athlete. I always felt that athletics and academics each stole performance from each other in my case, but this award recognized my efforts to excel at both in college."



"In a world full of moochers and cheaters, a demanding sport like swimming can quickly peel back the layers of false appearances and show who’s the real deal and who isn’t ... You come to terms with your true self when you put in four painful hours per day in the pool."

Tom Bailey


Tom says swimming shaped who he is today. "It wasn’t just about the sport," he says. "It was about having two incredibly dedicated, passionate coaches poolside at the AASC, Paul Griffith and David Johnson. These men were surrogate fathers to me. They pushed us to become better athletes, students, leaders and human beings. I wouldn’t have been able to achieve what I’ve achieved in life so far without swimming first giving me the confidence and work ethic that I have and which first was truly shaped at the AASC under these men." 

He also credits his AASC teammates for those life lessons. "I was also extraordinarily blessed by my timing in the mid-1980s," he explains. "We had some exceptional student-athletes come through the AASC and Huron High School during my years in Ann Arbor. My teammates helped raise the bar to a new level and have influenced me to this day to always think and dream BIG in anything I undertake." 


Matthew McVittie

AASC Member 1985-1992


Matthew McVittie is another young kid who tackled the AASC training lanes before he knew his times tables. He began swimming with the club when he 6 or 7, he recalls.


This versatile age-group swimmer quickly racked up honors in the pool, including 12 club records. Matt swam many National Top 16 times; his 1992 13-14 100y free (47.22) and 1988 10&U 50y backstroke (30.77) are still among the All-Time Top 100 Times for USA Swimming. He was a member of the Michigan state record-setting 15-16 200y relay.

AASC Club Records Held by Matt McVittie

9-10 50y free, 100y free, 100y back, 100y IM, 200y IM

11-12 50y free, 200y free, 500y free

13-14 50y free, 100y free, 200y IM, 800m free

Matt took his talents to Florida State University, where he became a freestyle specialist and was captain of the men’s varsity swim team. While swimming for Florida State, he became a four-year All-American and a 2000 Olympic Trials qualifier in the 50, 100, and 200 freestyle events.


Matthew McVittie
Matt McVittie is in his second season as an assistant coach for a college swim program.

Now 29 and living in Columbia, South Carolina, Matt is an assistant coach for the University of South Carolina Gamecocks.

As a swim coach and a one-time competitive swimmer, he has some unique insights to coaching top swimmers. "I think the fact that I get to share my knowledge of swimming on a day-in, day-out basis with others is the greatest satisfaction."

He continues, "I have been very fortunate throughout my swimming career to have had some of the best coaches in the business, especially at AASC—from David Johnson, to Allison Lloyd, to Rich Suhs."


"All of these coaches have had a profound influence on my swimming career. They built a foundation of mental toughness and a desire to succeed at everything that I still carry with me today. The biggest kick I get out of swimming is seeing others achieve their goals. It’s the smile at the end of the race. That’s all the gratification I need."


Matt offers some wise coaching advice to high school swimmers looking to go to the next level: "To be a champion you have to train like a champion," advises Matt. "You have to be willing to do whatever it takes to be successful, but most importantly it has to be something that you want and not something that somebody else wants for you. If you are willing to go the extra mile, the rewards are limitless. There is no greater feeling in knowing that you have done everything in your power to prepare yourself for success and then achieving it."


"Never, ever let anyone tell you that you can’t, or you’re not good enough, or you don’t have what it takes. You control your own destiny."

Matthew McVittie

When reflecting on his years with AASC, Matt credits his coaches and training partners. "I had some amazing coaches, but more importantly I swam with some pretty amazing people. I could list a hundred names here, but a few that really stick out in my mind are Annette Salmeen, Adam Messner, Eric and Tom Bailey, Mark Loveland, Dan Phillips, Stephanie Forrest, and Kathleen Wilcox."


He continues, "Swimming has taken me places and introduced me to people beyond anything I could have experienced without it. You make a lot of sacrifices especially during your younger years. But it’s funny how you look back on all that now and you see how much you really didn’t miss. In fact, you realize how much you’ve gained through the sport of swimming."


Janice Snavely Weber

AASC Member 1958-1963


Janice Weber is one of the pioneering swimmers under AASC founding coach RoseMary Dawson. She began swimming with AASC at 13, and is a master’s swimmer today. "It is wonderful to be able to slot in again," she says. "I never dreamed that I would start Master’s swimming, which I have at age 60! And I love it."


Now living in Dexter, Janice attended Ann Arbor High School and was a third-place medallist in the 400 freestyle relay at AAU Nationals. Janice Snavely Weber
An early member of Ann Arbor Swim Club, Janice Weber is a master’s swimmer today.


She specialized in sprint freestyle and was part of the Ann Arbor High’s national championship water polo teams in 1961 and 1962. 

When Janice’s age-group swimming ended with AASC, she went on to swim at the University of Michigan where she was part of the groundbreaking, newly formed intercollegiate league started by Coach Dawson. Janice proudly recalls, "We (The University of Michigan) placed first for two of the two years that I swam. There is a picture of our team in the women’s history display case in the Gus Stager Museum in Canham Natatorium."

In the early 1960s, women’s collegiate swimming was not as we know it today. Janice notes, "I think what women athletes have today is a wonderful opportunity. It was one we did not have. We never thought today’s world of women’s athletics at the college (or high school) level could ever become a reality."


When Janice thinks about her age-group swimming years with AASC, she says, "There are many memorable moments that had little to do with swimming but a lot to do with camaraderie, travel and team spirit. Swimming was my life from age 15 to 18. I was not the star, but I was part of the team."

She recalls a particularly memorable moment when "seeded in a heat swimming the 100 free next to Chris von Salza in the Nationals. She was an Olympic champion and best in that event. I did my best time ever there, although I missed qualifying. I believe I was ninth."

Janice credits the sport with opening up new worlds for her. "We were able to travel, see new places, meet new people. It gave me a sense of accomplishment and an ability to endure difficult times. I think I can also thank my swimming days for my good health today."

Early AASC Movers and Shakers


When Janice Weber speaks of the early AASC years, she recalls the young women who, under founding coach RoseMary Dawson and her husband, Buck Dawson, broke new ground for women athletes and built a reputation for team and individual excellence in swimming and diving.


Marty Sinn, Susie Thrasher and Karen Ryan were "homegrown Ann Arbor girls from the very early days" and among the early team’s best, according to Janice.

Sisters Sperry Jones and Marcia Jones swam for AASC and attended Michigan. Marcia went on to win an Olympic bronze medal.

Nancy Wager became a prominent Master’s swimmer and completed several long-distance Alcatraz Island swims.

Sue Rogers swam for AASC while attending Michigan and tied for high point with Olympian Chris von Salza at 1961 Nationals. She won breastroke events at Nationals in 1960.

Maggie Stevens, who swam in the mid-60s for AASC, was a world-ranked butterflyer and a 1972 Olympic Trials finalist.

Diver Lani Loken was also born and raised in Ann Arbor and won Nationals in diving in 1970.

Diver Micki King "broke her arm and went from 1st to 4th in Mexico," recalls Janice, "but won the tower in Munich."

  The early team also included swimmers Pam Swart, Margo Folson, Donna Conklin, Connie Maezes, Kate Fraser, Marilyn Aitken, Maddie Forest, Eileen Murphy and divers Lee Morison, Chris Klemach and Kathy Hartwig, who placed at Nationals.

For today’s young swimmers, Janice offers this advice: "I think it is very important to learn to lead a balanced life. Most of us will not become a star. Winning is not important, but doing your best is."


"I never would have dreamed that the Ann Arbor Swim Club would grow and become what it is today. It is a tribute to Buck and RoseMary Dawson to have started the club. And to all of you for keeping it growing."

Janice Weber


Susie Thrasher

AASC Member 1955-1963


When AAU National medalist Janice Weber speaks of "homegrown Ann Arbor girls from the very early days," one of those young women is Susie Thrasher.


Susie was among the young teens in the early years of Ann Arbor Swim Club who flourished under coach RoseMary Dawson and quickly built a reputation as one of the top female swimmers in the country. Susie swam under the Amateur Athletic Union, the precursor to USA Swimming, and went on to swim for Coach Dawson as part of the newly established University of Michigan women’s swimming team. She specialized in butterfly and distance freestyle, and was also a member of the high school national championship water polo team in 1961.


She claimed many state championship titles under AAU in butterfly, freestyle and the 400 IM events. She was named AAU All-American in 1961 in the 100 and 200 butterfly events, and earned a spot on the National Long Distance Team.


Susie Thrasher
Founding member Susie Thrasher is a children’s librarian at the Lane Public Library in Oxford, Ohio.
Currently living in Oxford, Ohio, Susie has a Master’s in Dental Public Health from The University of Michigan and a Master’s in Library and Information Science from the University of Illinois. She has two sons, ages 23 and 28.


Her Oxford home is near Miami University, which holds fond memories for Susie, as it was the home of the Midwest Swimming Championships when she was an age-group swimmer. "I did some of my best times at that meet," recalls Susie.


"The friendship of teammates, the recognition and the fun of competition" are the rewards that outweighed the sacrifices of age-group swimming, according to Susie.


In the early years of our club, AASC swimmers traveled a great deal to find competition. Susie looks back proudly on a personal-best swim that placed her in the finals of a national championship held in Oklahoma. "It was the 200 fly in Bartlesville, Oklahoma, in 1958 or ’59, I believe." Another fond memory is a chaperoned double date with teammate Marty Sinn and their dates, Frankie Brunel and Frank McKinney, while on a December training trip to Fort Lauderdale. "We went for ice cream sundaes," she recalls. "Doc Councilman, swim coach of Indiana University, was our chaperone."


Susie looks back on the rewards of a demanding sport. "Swimming kept my brother and me focused on a healthy activity with positive goals during difficult times within our family," she notes.


"Having this healthy outlet for kids’ energy and enjoying friendship and travel are the reasons that the AASC continues. The dedication of adults, both coaches and parents, helps keep the AASC going."

Susie Thrasher

As a parent and one who knows first-hand the demands of a competitive sport, she advises current AASC swimmers: "Thank your parents and tell them you appreciate the time they spend supporting your passion."


Marty Sinn Catalano

AASC Member 1955-1962


The March 6, 1964 issue of Life magazine featured an attractive, young female swimmer with long blonde hair. The article, with the headline "Sunny Mermaid of the Marathon," described the long-distance swimming victories of Marty Sinn Catalano.


Marty was a Coach Dawson protégé who began training under RoseMary when Marty was in the seventh grade. Inducted in 2005 to the Pioneer High School Hall of Fame for her contributions as a student-athlete, Marty was a member of the national championship water polo team and won several state swimming championship titles under the AAU, where she specialized in distance freestyle. She won the 400m and 500y freestyle events, and set the record in the mile.

She became a member of the UM women’s swim team for two years before turning pro in 1962. She then swam for three years in the international long-distance marathon circuit. Marty has won two Canadian 15-mile swimming events and two 25-mile swims around Atlantic City and the Suez Canal.


When Marty reflects on her memories of AASC and her life, it is not her many swimming accomplishments that come to mind.

"My fondest memory of swimming for the AASC was the wonderful association I had with the club founders, RoseMary and Buck Dawson," she recalls.

Marty Sinn
Marty Sinn Catalano with her five-year-old granddaughter, Franny Barnett: "A pretty good swimmer herself," Marty notes.

"Raising my two daughters, Lisa Carol and Jennifer Marcy, has been the best experience of my life."

Marty and early AASC teammates Janice Weber, Susie Thrasher, and others experienced some unique opportunities for female athletes in the late 1950s and early 1960s. These were pre-Title IX years, with few athletic outlets for women.

In Marty’s view, this was a time of opportunity, not a time of discrimination. "The AASC was a private girls’ club as there were no organized competitive sports for girls in the school system," she explains. "However, I want to emphasize I did not view this situation as unfair discrimination. On the contrary, being involved in the beginning stages of the larger women’s sports movement was a unique privilege."


"We were breaking new ground as female athletes and it was a grand adventure."

Marty Sinn Catalano

Marty’s accomplishments in the pool and open water are a lasting contribution to women’s athletics and the Ann Arbor Swim Club. When reflecting on our club’s impact on her, she notes, "Involvement and commitment produce happiness. Whether you are a champion athlete or a weekend athlete, remember the basics. Regular participation in sport and exercise is its own reward."

"I have been an active swimmer for over 50 years," she emphasizes. "Swimming continues to enrich my life."lightbluebackground




Next Issue


Current AASC swimmers, please take a few minutes to complete an online survey to help us develop a profile of our swimmers — your interests in the pool and out, and the common bonds our swimmers share.

Results will be compared to national statistics for athletes, and will be available in the spring. Thank you!

50 Split: Celebrating the first 50 years of Ann Arbor Swim Club
Fact Monster pollsters say 37% of kids choose snowball fights over other snow activities. Making snow angels? Not so much.

Next snow day, browse 50x2 kids’ topics, cast your own vote and view results. Weigh in on the Harry Potter movies, foods that gross you out, favorite rodents and soooo much more.

Dan Stephenson  Next Issue: More news, insights and advice from these AASC alumni:

Coach Johnson, 1985-1988

Katie Ladewski, 1992-01

Mark Loveland, 1979-89

Zayd Ma, 1996-01

Casey Nicholson, 1989-97

Annette Salmeen, 1983-92

Dan Schinnerer, 1995, 99

Hannah Smith, 2000-05

Lindsey Smith, 1999-03

Dan Stephenson, 1964-75

Maggie Stevens, 1964-72