4 Long Reach Marlins break longtime mark

In 1978, Donna Elshafei and Thunder Hill teammates David Bird, Bailey Weiss and Donna Williams swam a 200-meter freestyle relay in 1 minute, 46.08 seconds.

Nobody in Columbia had eclipsed their time until Saturday, when four Long Reach Marlins broke one of the county's oldest swim records with a time of 1 minute, 44.35 seconds at the Columbia Neighborhood Swim League's All-City Championship at Phelps Luck.


The mixed team included, in the order that they swam, Marie Jackson, Kendrick McDonald, Shelby Stang (all 13) and Evan Brown, 14.

"I got goosebumps," said coach Kristin Smith. "I'm very proud of them."


Elshafei, whose two children swim for the Clemens Crossing Cyclones, attended the All-City Championship.

"It's exciting because it's neat that [my record] was held for [29 years]," said Elshafei, 43. "I'm very happy for them, and I hope people keep getting faster ... and setting new marks."

Said McDonald: "We were really pumped. We were told that we were close."

While they knew they might break the record, during the race they focused solely on doing their best. Brown said he remembers thinking only, "Just go faster. Just go faster."

"One of the coaches said that when he was [our age] he tried to break it," said McDonald, who described the feeling as "amazing."

In the 1970s, Elshafei trained with less advanced equipment than today's athletes do. "Nobody wore swim caps and goggles," she said. "We didn't have lane lines. Back then, we just had ropes between the lanes."

She added: "We had some really fast swimmers back then, considering the bathing suits weren't as good."

A generation later, she has stayed connected to the swimming community.


"I know [Kendrick's] mom because his sister and my daughter [Sabrina, 10] went to preschool together," said Elshafei. She also helped organize a reunion for swimmers from the 1970s at the Thunder Hill pool July 1, where she saw Bird and Donna Williams, now Donna Knutson.

"Records are meant to get broken," Elshafei said.

Two other swimmers set meet records. Wilde Lake Watercat Tom Brown set a new standard of 14.40 seconds for ages 7-8 in the 25-meter freestyle.

Dorsey's Search Dolphin Michael Lazris, 14, beat a record from 1999 with a time of 57.09 seconds in the 100-meter individual medley.

"I go to four to five three-hour practices a week, and I train myself by doing weights," said Lazris. "It's really time-consuming and difficult, [but] it's definitely worth it."