NEK Swim Week:  Willoughby Swim - Church Beat Pope

NEK Swim Week: Willoughby Swim – Church Beat Pope

Phil White welcomed 60 swimmers and 60 escort kayakers from all over the United States at the 8th annual NEK Swim Week – where they raced in 8 lakes over a 9-day period covering 46 total miles. 

He summed up the results of the Willoughby Swim on August 14th, “31-year-old Ryan Pope with his wife Erin Pope paddling by his side did all 8 swims.  Swimming in a wetsuit most of the week, Ryan came in second in the wetsuit division in the 5-mile Willoughby Race behind a young star bursting on the scene, 14-year-old Mathew Church who finished Willoughby in 1 hours 49 minutes with his mom and his dog on his kayak guiding the way. 

Mathew Church beat Ryan Pope in the 5-mile Willoughby Swim as part of the NEK Swim Week in Vermont.

Ryan has been led to the open water by his friend and mentor, Kevin Sullivan, a longtime Kingdom Swimmer.  On the last day, at Caspian, Ryan stripped off his wetsuit and swam skins. 

Winning Willoughby among the women was 38-year-old Jenny Wolf with the fastest non-wetsuit time of the day at 2 hours 13 minutes.  Among the non-wetsuit men, 59-year-old Ben Merrick took home the jerky with a winning time of 2 hours 35 minutes. The swimmers enjoyed hot weather and sunny skies throughout the week.  It was perfect weather for swimming (less so for yackers), except on Friday night and Saturday morning when strong thunderstorms ripped through the region, causing us to delay the start of the Willoughby race until 1 pm on Saturday. By then the wind turned, and roared through the Willoughby Gap from the North West, giving swimmers and yackers our signature Willoughby Rush.

This summer, over 50 volunteer yackers signed on to support swimmers, many whom they did not know. These swims would not be possible for many swimmers without this growing posse of battle-hardened volunteers. 

The week was blessed with many familiar members of The Tribe and an equal number of newcomers, travelling from Arizona, California, North Carolina, Minnesota, West Virginia, New Mexico, New York, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Delaware, Virginia, New Hampshire, Maryland, Connecticut, Maine, and of course, Vermont. Big hits: the clarity and beauty of our waters, August sunshine, fresh day-picked corn from the Mountain View Farm Stand, Untapped Maple Syrup and Waffles, sandwiches from the Morgan Country Store, Subway, the Essex Tavern, and the White Caps Country Store, Chili by Kathleene Callicott on Thursday and the Highland Lodge on Sunday and the camaraderie among The Tribe of Kingdom Swimmers throughout the week.

Mathew Church with his escort kayaker mother and dog in Lake Willoughby

Willoughby Swim Results Females – Skins

1 Jenny Wolf (38) 2.13.22
2 Jane Cheney (59) 2.19.35 8
3 Isabella Gerardi (17)2.20.40
4 Anne Reidinger (26) 2.38.24
5 Mary Tappen (64) 2.39.58
6 Paula Yankauskas (67) 2.42.21
7 Jax Tatro (37) 2.45.50
8 Elizabeth Fehr (37) 2.55.15
9 Lyn Goldsmith (68) 3.06.25
10 Marie Broadaway (34) 3.07.52
11 Lindsay Gilbert (33) 3.07.52
DNF Deborah Lampman (52)

Willoughby Swim Results Females – Wetsuits

1 Eileen Hee (49) 2.44.26

Willoughby Swim Results Males – Skins

1 Ben Merrick (59) 2.35.25
2 Mo Siegel (69) 2.49.40
3 Bob Aitcheson (74) 3.57.47

Willoughby Swim Results Males – Wetsuits

1 Matthew Church (14) 1.49.00 9
2 Ryan Pope (31) 1.50.49
3 Kevin Sullivan (60) 1.57.15
4 Oliver Abbott (36) 2.03.35
5 Bill Reidinger (65) 2.14.42
6 Robert McCreanor (43) 2.22.29

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Steven Munatones