Marathoner Watson in swim of things
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - AUGUST 21: Competitors ride a boat to the start of the San Francisco Triathlon At Alcatraz on August 21, 2011 in San Francisco, California. Nearly 800 participants competed in the triathlon that began on a boat floating close to the island of Alcatraz and then proceeded to the bike and run part of the race through the city of San Francisco. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Updated: February 19, 2013 12:25PM
HINSDALE — Retired Hinsdale Central swimming coach Don Watson has received dozens of international and national honors for 17 state championships and 44 top-10 state finishes.
But he never was recognized for marathon swimming — until now.
He’ll be inducted into the International Marathon Hall of Fame in September as a coach, joining former Red Devils’ great John Kinsella (Class of 1970), who won Olympic Games medals in 1968 and 1972, and teamed with Sandra Bucha Kerscher (Class of ‘72) to win marathons in Canada.
“What a shock to learn I was being inducted ahead of Sandra,” Watson said from his home in Austin, Texas. “The chairman of the marathon selection committee wrote that Sandra should be a shoo-in in 2014. She sent a funny congratulatory note saying, ‘I’m always in the shadow of your males.’ ’’
Thanks for Watson, Hinsdale Central has produced a number of marathon swimmers. One of them, Corrina Seibt (Class of ‘79), has experienced the Alcatraz swim in San Francisco Bay.
“One key strategy is to get off the ferry last to not spend too much time in the water,” Seibt said. “Keep your body as warm as possible for as long as possible, and don’t position yourself at the start in the middle of the chaos. I don’t wear a wet suit and the coldest I swam was 54 degrees.
“The year I was fortunate to win it I charted my own race around the flopping arms and legs. My goal was to stay away from the other swimmers pulling on or swimming over swimmers or steering away from other bad behavior under water.
“Lead kayaks give good direction with giant, orange-inflated balloons bobbing around to warn boats and ships that there are swimmers in the water.”
Seibt delivered special advice to Matt Robertson (Class of ’76) to help him on his first Alcatraz swim.
“Get over any shark phobias,” she said. “The only sharks spotted in the bay are harmless nurse sharks. Picture a big, fat fish with a nursing cap on its head. I know a couple of swimmers who did not even get in the water before their Alcatraz swim and they did fine. What I don’t know couldn’t hurt my approach, I guess.
“I told Matt, ‘Play up the shark story. Pretend you’re pointing to ones in the water before everyone starts to jump in to get the competitive edge.’ All’s fair in love and swimming, eh?”
Seibt urges Alcatraz marathoners to judge where they are by looking around.
“All of a sudden you might be heading to the Golden Gate Bridge or downtown,” she said. “If the wind picks up you might start to find whitecaps blocking your view. Use the TransAmerica Pyramid if the tide’s ebbing or the Maritime Museum if the tide’s flooding.
“It’s a great swim. Enjoy it!”