Randy Mertes

Hometown: Tipton, MO.

Current residence: Cave Springs, AR.

Family and Occupation: As the late JB Hunt always told me when he would meet my wife, “Son, you married above ya!”   I have a beautiful wife Penny, one son, Evan, and twin daughters, Erin and Ellen. I work in the Bentonville area Walmart vendor community for 3M, keeping the 4000+ stores stocked with Scotch Tape and PostIt Notes.

Swimming background: I grew up in a small town with no organized swimming programs, or school facilities. I swam summers at the Tipton Country Club, and always got my red cross lifesaving certifications. It was in college, taking a WSI certification class taught by International Masters Hall of Fame Coach Tom Hairabedian, that my love of swimming was ignited. He had a passion for the water that I shared, and I worked as a wave pool guard at Oceans of Fun water park in Kansas City, MO the first two seasons after it opened in the early 80’s. I ran DII track in college, and participated in my first triathlon in 1983, buying a bike two weeks before the race. I was hooked, and moved to Texas to train full time, eventually becoming an elite triathlete, and competing professionally for several years. I was fortunate enough to rank in the top 25 internationally, and in March of ’87 was ranked seventh in the world, and was named the Texas Triathlon Association Swimmer of the Year.

Favorite event/race: I like them all except breaststroke.  In my twenties I excelled at the sprints, and I held the south central zone pre-masters record in the 50 free for close to ten years at 22. something. My 100 free best time was 48, and I am able to swim a 50 fly at meets and held state age group records without ever training for it. As I have gotten older, I appreciate the longer distance stuff, I like to do off-the-wall and unique events, like the time a group of us completed a relay swim the entire length of Beaver Lake back in 2014, or the annual “Black Friday” 10K swims.

Swimming hero: “Coach Hair” He still competes at Masters diving events at age 93, and instilled a love and passion for water, and water safety that I try to pass along. Because of him, I have had the opportunity to have saved numerous lives. Not only working as a lifeguard, but as recently as ten years ago when I pulled a co-worker from the Elk River during a team-building event. Seeing he was a marginal swimmer, I spent the fall teaching him to overcome his fear of water.   He now can enjoy being around water.  That brings me the most joy  – knowing he will be safer and hopefully will share that with others as he gets the chance.

Swimming goals: To stay active and in the water! I had an adventurous swim event on December 21, 2015 when during my lunch workout I endured a heart attack. I was able to grasp the lane line and pull myself to the edge of the pool, and get out. That event was the first time I was ever hydro-phobic.  I was able to appreciate the ability to stay realetively calm under duress, and appreciate the simple fact of being able to move through the water somewhat effortlessly. If I can continue to make it to the pool several times a week, and enjoy the fellowship of like-minded people, I will be content.

Advice to new masters swimmers: Do it! We all look funny in spandex, so who cares!  Come on out!

Hobbies:I try to put in 3-4K miles a year on the bike when I am healthy enough to get out.

Favorite drill/workout: My workout partner, Dan Stoecklein and I,  have done our “old faithful” workout at least once a week for the last ten or so years.  It consists of 10 x 100 on 1:40 long course, 1:30 short course. I make it a goal to perform at least one “perfect 25” where I focus on having perfect form at least one 25.  I also enjoy breath control sets (3,5,7,9 strokes per breath by 25), and under/over by 25.  I sometimes will spend the entire workout playing, doing sculling drills, blowing bubble rings, etc.

Do you participate in other sports? As noted, I ran middle distance sprints (400, 600) and broad jumped during track in college. I no longer run due to a total knee replacement. I play golf occasionally, cycle with the “Belleview Group” in Rogers, and lift weights a couple of times a week.

Where do you currently swim? Bentonville Community Center (indoors), Melvin Ford Park (outdoors)

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