Solid Gold

Swim 2Suzie Aldrich displays her impressive medals during a pause in swimming at Connolly Center.

Senior swimmer laps the competition and obliterates records

Written by Tina Potterf| Photography by Chris Joseph Taylor
Competitive swimmer Suzie Aldrich, ’86, is the Michael Phelps of the Senior Games.

The lithe 69-year-old, with the graceful long limbs on a striking 6-foot-1 frame and ever-present smile, is a marvel in the water, setting records with every stroke. She is living proof that competitive drive doesn’t have to wane with age, evident with the astounding success she’s had in competition for the age 60 and over set.
the backstroke and most recently, free- style. And she’s amassed an impressive collection of medals—mostly gold.

In the 25-, 50-, 100- and 200-yard backstroke at competitions in Alaska, North Idaho, Eastern Washington and the Washington Senior Games in 2012, she set new records in her age group.

Early last year she took up freestyle swimming and was a slim .05 of a second from setting a statewide record in the 25-yard. After this round of wins, Aldrich says she was “a puddle of joy.”

She also set new state records in the 25-, 50- and 200-yard freestyle. Aldrich again swam for gold—and the record books—in freestyle and backstroke events, including a record-setting 38.03 seconds in the 50-yard freestyle in North Idaho and 16.99 seconds in the 25-yard freestyle at an Eastern Washington senior games meet, among other victories.

Despite her remarkable success in the water, and all those medals, Aldrich is refreshingly modest. But make no mistake, that competitive streak is as strong as ever.

“I have to break my own records,” she says. “I’m competitive like that.”

It seems that nearly every time Aldrich dips her toes in the water she emerges as a new record holder, besting her own previous record-breaking times.

Born and raised in Walla Walla, Wash., Aldrich worked for years as a secretary and later went to New York City for a banking job on Wall Street. But without a degree she felt she was in a dead end job. So she packed up and headed back home to earn that college degree.

Back in Eastern Washington, Aldrich started swimming at her local YMCA. What makes Aldrich’s victories in the pool all the more sweet? She found success in a sport that she all but had given up on. At a college swim meet, Aldrich had a bad finish that was so defeating that she decided to leave the
sport altogether. It would be nearly 50 years before she would reenter the pool and do so with renewed purpose.

“I learned as a kid how to splash around and doggy paddle but that was the extent [of my abilities] in my youth,” Aldrich says. “After 48 years out of the pool, I returned in 2010 and trashed all of the records.”

At the Y, Aldrich worked on refining her backstroke, which she exhibited with great finesse during a visit to Seattle University last year. She slipped on her bright pink swim cap and one-piece suit and eased effortlessly into the pool at Connolly Center, doing lap after lap in the water without breaking a sweat.

In a couple short years, Aldrich has turned in powerhouse performances in the backstroke and most recently, free- style. And she’s amassed an impressive collection of medals—mostly gold.

In the 25-, 50-, 100- and 200-yard backstroke at competitions in Alaska, North Idaho, Eastern Washington and the Washington Senior Games in 2012, she set new records in her age group.

Early last year she took up freestyle swimming and was a slim .05 of a second from setting a statewide record in the 25-yard. After this round of wins, Aldrich says she was “a puddle of joy.”

She also set new state records in the 25-, 50- and 200-yard freestyle. Aldrich again swam for gold—and the record books—in freestyle and backstroke events, including a record-setting 38.03 seconds in the 50-yard freestyle in North Idaho and 16.99 seconds in the 25-yard freestyle at an Eastern Washington senior games meet, among other victories.

Despite her remarkable success in the water, and all those medals, Aldrich is refreshingly modest. But make no mistake, that competitive streak is as strong as ever.

“I have to break my own records,” she says. “I’m competitive like that.”


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