At 78, Raymond Edelhoff not only will be the oldest Severna Park YMCA Masters Team swimmer attending the U.S. National Senior Sports Classic later this month, he will be the busiest.

Edelhoff will be competing in seven events -- the 50- and 100-meter breaststroke, 50 and 100 freestyle, 50 and 100 backstroke and shot put -- the most of any Severna Park athlete.

An accountant, Edelhoff began swimming about six years ago because he enjoyed it. In 1988, he joined the Masters swim team of about 60swimmers, averaging between 40 and 50 years old, who swim for one hour and 15 minutes Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays. Most team members supplement their routine with weight training, flexibility exercises and an additional day of swimming.

Five masters, as well as other senior athletes from the county, will compete in the U.S. National Senior Sports Classic from June 28 through July 3 in Syracuse, N.Y.

"Once I started, I did fairly well competing. I'm fast enough to do short distances," said Edelhoff, who also qualified for the national events at the Maryland Senior Olympics at Towson State University in October 1990. "I swim whenever I have a chance, but it interferes withwork."

In March, three months after a serious operation, Edelhoffswam within a second of his best time during a spring meet at the University of Maryland-Baltimore. He earned a first and two seconds at the meet.

Never underestimating his opponents adds to Edelhoff's success. He said his competitors have "bald heads and big bellies," but when they hit the water, they really take off.

Team member CecilHull, 70, recruited Edelhoff three years ago. The retired civil engineer and Heritage Harbor resident, claims he swims for the exercise. A second-place Senior Olympics finisher in both the 50 breaststroke and 50 butterfly, Hull will be competing in a new age group this year.

Senior competitors are grouped together in five-year increments.

"I'm a competitive person. I enjoy it," said Hull, who swims five days a week -- three at the Severna Park YMCA with the Masters Team and two in his community pool. "When the Olympics are over, I'll trainfor the next one."

"(Jack) Hull is an exceptional swimmer. He even has a problem with a pinched nerve, but he keeps on going," said team coach Nancy Brown, 55, who has similar praise for all her swimmers.

Another competitor, Elsa Mattilla, 80, who swims with the D.C. Masters team, lived in Edgewater for 23 years before moving to the Charlestown Retirement Community in Catonsville, Baltimore County, last week.

"I've always loved swimming, but I didn't compete until I became a senior citizen," said Mattilla, who claimed five gold medals in the October competition. She swam the individual medley in 2 minutes, 17.02 seconds.

"I've always had a love for swimming and I love to be active. Combining the two gives me an incentive to keep swimming (and competing)," she said.

Not all the 25-or-so county residents among the 200 Maryland seniors attending the nationals are swimmers.

Practicing lawyer Winson Gott, 80, also will compete. By runningthe 100-meter -- in a little more than 19 seconds at the Senior Olympics, Gott took first place and qualified for the nationals.

"I train by running down the street," said Gott.

Other senior athletes from Anne Arundel who qualified for the nationals include: John E. Bancroft, William H. Barnes, Howard J. Baughman, Gus Bengtson, John Collings, Mamie Crump, Richard D. Doles, Patricia C. Eakle and AlexanderEremchuck.

Also Constance T. Geis, Joan K. Heineck, Janet S. Hull, Robert T. Norman, Roy Patterson, Jr., Jacob and Nancy Peterson, Carl Robinson, Terence F. Rogers, Jr. and Marjorie A. Torrance.

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