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Offbeat Woman, 92, breaks local records in her first swim meet

07:40  01 august  2017
07:40  01 august  2017 Source:   usatoday.com

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Stasia Kowalski, 92, completed the 100-meter backstroke, seen here, in 4:08.80, besting the 90-94 age bracket's previous record of 4:19.03 set in August 2002. © Timothy D. Easley, The (Louisville) Courier-Journal Stasia Kowalski, 92, completed the 100-meter backstroke, seen here, in 4:08.80, besting the 90-94 age bracket's previous record of 4:19.03 set in August 2002. LOUISVILLE — Stasia Kowalski, 92, uses a cane to walk. But she doesn't need one in the pool.

The Louisville resident competed in her first meet Saturday, setting best times for her age bracket in the 50-meter and 100-meter backstroke and competing in a medley relay. 

"Just because you're in your 90s doesn't mean life is over," said Kowalski. "There's always something exciting to do, if you want to."

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Kowalski didn't learn to swim until she was almost 40 because she was afraid of the water, she said. Now, she swims two or three times a week in the summertime, usually completing 15 laps, or 30 lengths, of the pool. 

That made her events Saturday a piece of cake, she said.

"This is easy! You get a little rest in between," she said, laughing.

Still, all morning before she left for the pool, she was a "wreck," fighting knots in her stomach from nerves. Once she got in the pool, the nerves went away.

Mary Graves, the general manager of Lakeside Swim Club and deck coach for the Lakeside Masters Swim Team, called Kowalski inspiring. 

"There's not too many 90-year-olds swimming in our region," said Graves. "It's pretty amazing. She's an inspiration. ... I'd love to be where she is today in 30 more years."

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Kowalski's 4:08.80 time for the 100-meter backstroke bested the 90-94 age bracket's previous record set in August 2002, of 4:19.03.

She also set an age bracket best time with her 1:45.57 in the 50-meter backstroke. The previous record in that event was 1:54.35, set in August 2003.

As for next year? Kowalski hopes to compete if she's able, she said.

"I don't think I'll have as many knots in my stomach next time," she said.

In addition to swimming, Kowalski enjoys gourmet cooking, morning yoga and showing off her "wicked" Scrabble skills, her daughter Lydia Kowalski said.

Since she joined a Thursday afternoon game, more and more people have shown up to play and now there are often three tables going at once.

"She's a rabble-rouser," said Lydia Kowalski. "She doesn't like to admit it, but she is."

Resting before her final event Saturday, Kowalski sat on a pool chair, swim cap still on, cane beside her.

"The lanes don't seem nearly as long as they did before," she said to her daughter, smiling.

Follow Darcy Costello on Twitter: @dctello

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