Gold, silver, bronze fill his golden years Swimmer, 72, competes nationally ANNE ARUNDEL SENIORS

July 28, 1993|By Amy P. Ingram | Amy P. Ingram,Contributing Writer

At age 10, he swam with alligators and water moccasins across St. John's River in Florida. Now, at 72, Cecil "Jack" Hull of Annapolis races some of the best swimmers in the country.

In June, Mr. Hull demonstrated his swimming skills to the nation by winning two silver medals and one bronze at the U.S. National Senior Sports Classic in Baton Rouge, La. He was one of only three seniors from Anne Arundel County to win medals in the age 70 to 74 division.

The classic is a national competition for medal winners at the state Senior Olympic level. About 300 gold, silver and bronze medal winners from the 1992 Maryland Senior Olympics attended the national competition.

Mr. Hull's love affair with the water began the day he made it across the mile-wide St. John's River. Alligators and water moccasins prowled the river, but Mr. Hull said he didn't give it a second thought at the time.

"I'm a river rat, always was, always will be," he said. "I've been swimming since I was 5, and I'll swim as long as I can because I'll get bored if I don't."

After retiring in 1986, Mr. Hull immediately signed on with the Severna Park YMCA U.S. Masters, an advanced senior swim training program. One year later, Mr. Hull qualified for the Senior State Olympics and won several gold medals, breaking the record time for his age group in the 50-yard breast stroke.

"I like competition, but when I get beat I don't get upset, because I understand what it took to beat me," he said.

He practices his strokes and kicks up to five days a week at the Severna Park YMCA or at his community pool. He said when he goes to a pool it's to train and to swim hard, not to "flop around in the water."

Mr. Hull has been to the National Senior Olympics six times since 1987 and each time has brought home medals. In 1991, in Syracuse, N.Y., he shocked a panel of judges by breaking the national breast stroke record for his age group, swimming 50 meters in 45 seconds.

"I seldom expect to win. I get beat in my best event, the breast stroke, all the time. You can always expect someone else to come along and beat your record," he said.

He says his biggest obstacle in swimming is trying to keep up his speed. "The trainers tell us seniors that we will lose about 1 percent of our speed each year," he said. "I train extra hard on my strokes to try to upset that.

"We always have to fight to try to overcome the age problem," he added.

Mr. Hull keeps his medals, about 50, in a box in his closet. The Girl Scout cookie box, now weighing 10 pounds, is filled with patches and bronze, silver and gold medals, all won in just six years.

Standing above the crowd on a step-up, with a medal around his neck, has almost become "a normal experience," he said.

In addition to the competition, Mr. Hull says he enjoys the exercise, which he finds strenuous but relaxing.

"Swimming's generally accepted as a good exercise. It works out every part of you, especially your lungs," he said. "Yet there's something about being in the water that's relaxing."

Mr. Hull hopes to compete again next year. "It's just plain fun," he said.

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