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How a World Record Holder Swimmer Stays at The Top of Her...

Jenny Cook by Mark Savage

This picture was taken when Cook broke a world record for the 50 to 54 year old category. Her time was 2 minutes and change.

(Photo: Mark Savage)

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Before a long day at the office Jenny Cook and her teammates rise before the sun to get in an early morning swim. Cook has been swimming since she was three years old. A New York transplant from California, Cook says her mom wanted her to be water safe at first.

"I grew up in Palm Spings and we had a pool in our backyard. And I was drawn to it so I could swim before I could walk," Cook said. 

Cook would go on to swim until she graduated high school. But walked away from the sport for the next 21 years. She says even though she wasn't swimming she was always pretty active by playing tennis or running. It wasn't until age 39 that she put a swim cap back on.

"One of the vendors at work came in work and told us a story that his shoulders had hurt from swimming," Cook explained, "I said ' oh you swam at the gym?' And he said, No, I swim on a swim team.' And I laughed because I think swim teams are for kids."

But Cook ended up going to a swim practice with him and she started swimming regularly. She even joined a swim team for adults at UCLA. She says swimming isn't only good for her physical health, but her mental health. 

"I consider it to be less expensice than going into therapy," Cook said. "A lot of people will ask me, ' Oh you swim for an hour and a half  what to do you think about?''' She said. "At it's probably the only time of the day that I don't  think about anything. I could start thinking about something and it just goes in one ear and out the other while I'm swimming." 

Cook joined the Masters Swim Team at Asphalt Green after moving to New York City two years ago. She says swimming gives her days structure.

"In order to stay healthy you have to keep moving. Whether you choose it be swimming or walking or tennis."  

Cook competes about 8 times a year, swimming in pools and the ocean. She says age has made her a more responsible swimmer. She says less likely to take risks and admits to herself when conditions might not be safe for swimming. She says even her attitude as a competitor has changed.

"As I've gotten older, I want to feel like I'm a gracious athlete" Cook said. "I always congratulate who I swim with, whether I come in second or third, because I would want them to feel the same if they were swimming with me." 

Besides her swim team at Asphalt Green, Cook does an annual open water swim outing with a group of friends from all around the country. The Mighty Mermaids started as an over 50 swim team and twelve years later they're now all over 60. This year they're swimming the English Channel in July. A roughly 21 mile swim that Cook says she's looking forward to. 

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