NOVA Masters News - Winter/Spring 2018
Our small but mighty NOVA Masters swim group kept busy this winter and spring training hard with Mark, attempting to keep up with the Senior Preppers, and then unleashing themselves when it came time to fly!  First on the schedule was the VMST David Gregg Memorial Meet, otherwise known as the NOVA meet, on Saturday, February 3, 2018.  Several of our Masters swimmers were up to the challenge.  In the 18-24 mens category Luke Nelson crushed a 1993 LMSC state record by almost 3.5 seconds winning the 200 Fly in 1.56.80.  He also took home a first in the 100 IM swimming a 52.87.   His sister Rachel Nelson in the 25-29 female category swam to four first place finishes and placed herself in the record books as well with a new LMSC record in the 50 yd Back swimming a 28.13 (held by former NOVA Masters swimmer Kate Hubbard 2010).  The other events were 50 Free (24.89), 50 Breast (33.67) and 50 Fly (26.70).  Also winning four golds was Dane Schwartz in the Men’s 35-39 age category.  Dane went a 25.29 in the 50 Free, a 55.24 in the 100 Free, 2.04.98 in the 200 Free and 1.04.48 in the 100 Back.  In the Men’s 75-79 age grouping Joe Kelleher showed us how  to get the job done with 1st in the 1650 Free (34.34.89)  and the 400 IM (9.19.83).  A newbie testing the waters from the 8:15 Masters group was Charlotte Shirey in the women’s 60-64 age group winning the 50 Back in a 47.07 and taking second in the 100 Free (1.24.12) and 100 IM (1.36.59).  
Most of us don’t eye the 2018 Virginia Swimming SC Senior Championship meet, on March 4, 2018, as we think of it as an Age Group meet for the elite swimmers.  But Rachel and Luke Nelson had it on their minds and gave it a shot despite being the oldest competitors by 5- 10 years!   Out of 99 competitors Luke qualified for the Championship heat, seeded sixth of eight swimmers in that heat with a time of 21.34.  That evening he swam the event of his life as he swam a blistering 20.56 and WON the 50 Free event.  Quite the accomplishment for the 24 year old, congratulations Luke!  A job well done!  And we all know that Mark couldn’t stop talking about it for weeks on end!.  Luke also took second in the 100 Free that same meet swimming a 45.17.  On the Women’s side Rachel Nelson competed in the50 Freestyle placing tied for 13th in the 50 Free (24.18) of 135 competitors and in the 100 yd Free finishing a respectable 33rd (53.35) out of 130 competitors most of which were ten years her younger.   
The middle of March, Julie PattersonVal Van Horn Pate and Dane Schwartz traveled to Williamsburg, VA for the 3rd Annual Tribe Meet  on March 17, 2018 at the College of William and Mary.  Julie Patterson took first as she lapped her competition in the 1000 yard Free (12.07.38) going out in a 30.44, 34.98 and then settled in to a :36-:37 50 splits all the while bringing it home in a 35.54.  Julie’s second event was the 100 Free (1.00.48) where she placed second.  Dane Schwartz in the Men’s 35-39 age group lowered his 100 Free time since the NOVA meet a month ago with a time of 54.94 good for second place all the while taking first in the 200 Free (2.05.93) and lowering his 100 Back (1.03.60) time.  Val Van Horn Pate in the Women’s 55-59 age group set four new state records as she swam and won the 50 Back (30.54), 100 Back (1.06.99), 50 Fly (29.71) and 200 IM (2.30.22).
On the weekend of April 12-15, 2018, venturing up Interstate 95, was Joe Kelleher to compete in the 2018 Colonies Zone SCY Championships held at George Mason University in Fairfax, VA.  Joe finished an impressive second in the 1650 Free in 34:15.47 in the Men’s 75-79 age group.
On May 11-13, 2018, our sole representative from NOVA Masters, Val Van Horn Pate headed to Indianapolis, IN for the Short Course Masters National Championship with a mission to make her NOVA coach and team proud.  Entered in five events, she took second in her first event of the meet 100 Back (1.08.70).  With that race under her belt she moved onto the 100 Fly (1.05.13) taking third while breaking the state record by 3.5 seconds.  The second day of competition, Val broke the 200 Fly (2.28.21)state record by a mere 16 seconds and finished second.  But it was the third day that was the charm as Val broke her own 200 IM record by 3 seconds to win the honor of National Champion, a first ever for her!  She followed that up with a record breaking performance, by 14 seconds, to finish third in the 200 Back (2.27.15).  
Meanwhile on  May 12, 2018,   Julie Patterson  competed in the Kinetic Half (Ironman) at Lake Anna State Park.  With balancing a new job and finishing grad school Julie had a lot of “distractions” in her training regime and her goal was to be solid on all three legs (swim, bike and run).  Julie did just that, as she beat a former collegiate swimmer out of the water in roughly 30 minutes and increased her lead in the bike and even more on the run winning the half Ironman in 4:41.15 smoking her next best competitor by 24 minutes!  Pictures below are of Julie competing, on the medal stand and with her biggest supporter, her husband, Tim. 
Most recently, Joe Kelleher participated in the Virginia Senior Games held on Thursday and Friday, May 17-18, 2018 at the NOVA pool.  Joe swam eight events and brought home 4 golds and four silvers on his way to qualifying for the National Senior Games to be held next year in New Mexico.  Here’s a note from Joe about swimming and competing, all with perspective:
Dear Swimmer and Editor, Val:
The Virginia Senior Games complement the Y Body, Mind and Spirit triad that add adventure and tension to my life as a husband, grandparent, businessman, student, volunteer and swimming lifer.
Adventuring into the competition requires preparation and concentration on swimming skills during practices. Once on deck, friendships develop over the years with familiar faces and words of support before and after events.  Tension before and during races can be debilitating or beneficial to me.  Mentally rehearsing swim strategies builds confidence during dry land time trials or during sleepless interludes at night.  Warming up before a meet does not kill my butterflies but the first or second event usually does the trick.  Most reassuring is the support structure  found in the folks running the meet-like the coaches, timers and officials-who are similarly disposed to love swimming and improving techniques during informal chats and in answer to questions.  Smiles, comments and inquiries from wet gamers elevate my spirits while reducing naturally forming tension surrounding competitions.
Earning gold or silver metals is surprising in a life fulfilled with intervening interests.  How did I win that race or why did I fail to place in my best event?  Winning a race where there is no competition is my forte.  So in the 2018 Virginia Senior Games held at NOVA in Richmond I came away with 5 gold and 5 silver medals.  In my Mr.MaGoo mindset and swim style I am not checking the psyche sheets before or the other lanes during competition.  Thinking about form, pace, turn techniques, regulations, breathing, balance without burnout centers me and reduces stress.  Otherwise, I beat myself up by causing additional pain and breathlessness. Medals tend to foster fond memories of fast friendships, obstacles overcome and positive accomplishments.



Latest NOVA Masters News

NOVA Masters News – Spring/Summer 2017

On March 18, 2017 we had two NOVA Masters swimmers travel an hour east on I64 to compete at the 2nd Annual Club Tribe Masters Classic in Williamsburg, VA.  Dane Schwartz, 36, swam some fast times for this time of the year – 100 yd. Free – 56.61 (1st place finish), 200 yd. Free – 2:07.33 (2nd place finish) and 50 Free – 26. 54 (3rd place).  Chris Stevenson, 52, competed in the 200 Free – 1:59.09 (1st place), 100 Backstroke – 59.12 (1st place) and 100Fly – 1:01.25 (1st place)


At the Senior Games on May 12-13 held right here at NOVA we had several swimmers participate.  “Our one and only” favorite NOVA Masters coach, Mark Kutz swam and WON the 200 yard Freestyle in the 60-64 age group, going a speedy 2:30.51 beating his closest competitor by 39 seconds!  He then turned right around and swam the 500 yard free finishing first in 7:05.37.  As one would expect from our coach he swam perfect splits and then brought it home with a 1.5 second drop on the final 50.  Chris Stevenson swam one of two of his backstroke events in VA state record time going a 54.99 bettering his own 2015 record of 55.10.  In the 200 Back he just missed the state record (his own) by .43 seconds going a 2:03.43. As if those two didn’t bring enough drama to the meet, in walked Joe Kelleher.  A young man of 75, Joe swam to eight (!) first place finishes – 400 IM (9:07.56), 100 Fly (2:05.41), 100 Breast (2:09.63), 200 Free (3:30.77), 500 Free (9:30.07), 100 Breast (2:09.63), 200 Butterfly (5:05.86), 200 IM (4:17.77).  Second place finishes included: 100 Free (1:39.47), 100 Butterfly (2:05.41), 100 Back (1:56.21), 200 Back (4:11.01), 200 Breast (4:48.71), 50 Fly (53.58) while his third place finishes were in the 50 Free (42.33), 50 Breast (55.76) & 100 IM (1:59.43).   As one can tell from the results Joe did have some competition in many of his events, even at the 75-79 yr. old age bracket.  You might have noticed that Joe swam all the events at this meet except for the 50 Backstroke, which is not an event Joe would shy away from after competing in the 400 IM, 200 IM, 200 Fly (just to name a few) but he was busy helping a fellow teammate to safety.  Joe you are an inspiration to us all, as a competitor and as a caring and dedicated teammate.  Quite the achievement for anyone at any age!


On Saturday, June 17, 2017 at the new outdoor venue at Princess Anne in VA Beach the TIDE 1st Annual Long Course Masters Swim Meet was held.  Swimming the shorter distances, Chris Stevenson won all three events he chose to swim – 50 LCM Backstroke (31.58), 100 LCM Back (1:07.98) and 100 LCM Butterfly (1:06.72).


Open Water Swimming News –


On June 11, Elizabeth Cohen and Val Van Horn Pate ventured down to the American Legion on the southside of the James River for the Peluso 1-Mile Open Water Swim.  This one mile swim consisted of swimming upstream for ¼ of a mile, circling a buoy and enjoying the current going down stream before circling another buoy and repeating the loop.  Elizabeth competed in the most populated and competitive age group of the day (Hammerheads or 35-49 year olds) and finished 2nd (out of a field of 11) in a time of 34.52, while Val finished first overall female in 26.59. 


At Virginia Beach, VA on a sunny Sunday, June 18, the first of three of the VA Beach Ocean Swim Series swims was contested with a record-breaking attendance of 140+ swimmers.  The first swim in the series is a 1-mile ocean swim from 17th street swimming north to 32nd Street.  While there seemed to be a northerly current running close to shore, there was no rhyme or reason to the breaking waves 10 yards or 100 yards out.  This made for an interesting swim strategically.  NOVA had three swimmers who all medaled in their respective age groups.  May Osmun, 57, finished second in 32:49, Val Van Horn Pate, 54, first in 27:16 and Chris Stevenson, 52, first in 24:20.  Home on his 30-days leave after graduating the US Naval Academy, Val’s son, Kyle Pate, 22, also swam and finished third in his respective age group in a time of 37:00.  It was a great day at the beach for NOVA Masters!

NOVA Masters News – March 2017


After an 18-month hiatus in our news, investigative reporter Val Pate starts as our on-the-beat reporter to give us updates on what folks are doing outside the NOVA pool (or, in the NOVA pool as appropriate – see the David Gregg III meet, first up).


Competition Results


David Gregg III Memorial Swim Meet – Feb 2017


Virginia Masters Swim Team (meet directors being none other than our Chris and his wife, Heather Stevenson) hosted the David Gregg III Memorial Swim Meet on February 4-5, 2017 at NOVA.  With our very own NOVA age group swimmers timing we had some Masters swimmers not only swimming fast but setting a few LMSC age group records.  Brent Holsten, in the 45-49 age group ran away from his competition with three first places and setting two new LMSC age group records — 50 Free - 22.65 (with the old record being 22.91), 100 Free - 50.09  (crushing the old record by over half a second, 50.62) and 50 Back  - 26.83.  Also posting some fast times were Dane Schwartz, in the 35-39 age group finishing with 2 firsts and 2 seconds.  Firsts were in 50 Back 32.31, 100 Back  1:10.04 and seconds were in 200 Free - 2:09.82 and 500 Free - 56.82 and Kamal Akeel, in the 25-29 age group swimming to a 2nd place finish in the 200 Free - 52.44, and third in both he 50 Free - 23.32 and 50 Breast - 31.89.  Some fast, fast swimming! 


SwimRVA New Year’s Eve Challenge – Dec 2016


New Year’s Eve Day brought a couple of our motivated swimmers, May Osmun and Peggy Feldmann, out to the New Year’s Eve Challenge hosted by Swim RVA in the Collegiate School’s pool in Chesterfield County.  Swimmers choose their time interval based on their desired 100 pace time and swim 100s until they have accomplished their desired goal or run out of time.  Peggy and May swam together off a 2:00 minute interval, thus allowing for kicking, pulling, stroke and to mix it up during their time swimming.  Peggy’s goal was 80  — 100s and she accomplished the feat while May set a goal of 60 and did 80.  Way to go y’all ! 


Ironman 70.3 Cartagena – Dec 2016


In December, Julie Patterson and Elizabeth Cohen (former VMST President) traveled to Cartagena, Colombia for Ironman 70.3 Cartagena, the first ever Ironman-branded race in Colombia. When Julie was looking for a late season race, she thought about Elizabeth's past offer to travel with her to a tropical race. While Colombia was probably not what Elizabeth was picturing, she felt adventurous, and they booked the trip! The race was not Julie’s best, but she made a solid effort at the distance (a 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike, and 13.1 mile run) and placed 12th out of 304 women!  She can confidently say that the race was her first ever experience at riding on a bike course guarded by soldiers with AK-47s. Post-race, Elizabeth and Julie enjoyed a day trip to a beach resort in the Rosario Islands, a street art tour in the historic Getsemani neighborhood, and an encounter with a sloth in a local park. Julie, who ran cross country and track and field at the University of Richmond, has competed as a professional triathlete for several years while she pursues a dual PharmD/PhD degree at Virginia Commonwealth University. She is coached by fellow NOVA swimmer (and chauffeur to morning practice) Kyle Pawlaczyk. Her swim, bike, and run fitness all improved significantly in 2016, and she looks forward to putting all of the pieces together for a great season of racing in 2017!  You can find Julie swimming in lanes 6, 7 or 8.  Congratulations to Julie in a great race and awesome adventure !




Alcatraz and Golden Gate – Sept 2016

Last September Val Pate, accompanied by her supportive husband, Don flew to the west coast with the main intent of swimming two open water swims back to back — September 10 Alcatraz and September 11 Golden Gate Bridge.  She accomplished both in NOVA championship style.  There are dozens of Alcatraz swims run through numerous organizations through out the year but South End Rowing Club located on Fishermans Wharf is reputed to run one of the best races and it did not disappoint.  Under cover of darkness and fog on a 50 degree morning 600 swimmers paraded thru Fisherman’s Wharf and loaded two ferries which took the swimmers out to Alcatraz Island.  Swimmers jumped off the ferry and swam back to Aquatic Park, 1.2 miles into the sandy shores of the finish line.  The tide and currents were well timed so they weren’t much of an issue but the 62 degree water was a bit chilly for an East Coast girl who at the last minute decided to brave the waters with just her lycra suit, two caps and goggles.  Numbing to say the least but 35.03 minutes later Val raced up onto the beach to finish as first overall “skins” female.  The following day Val tackled the 1.7 mile swim under the Golden Gate Bridge.  Two hundred swimmers were dropped in the water at the South tower and swam under the bridge towards the North tower and beyond several coves finishing at Fort Baker National Park.  Again Val raced as a “skin” finishing in 34.03 good enough for 2nd overall female (a mere 10 secs behind the 24 yr. old female winner), 1st in age group.  Definitely two interesting and memorable swims!













NOVA Masters News - October 2015




The 8th (not annual) Terrapin Cup & Colonies Zone LC Championship, LCM, July 10-12, 2015, College Park, MD - Swimming in their summer taper meet, Denise Letendre (25-29) and Claire Russo (30-34), made a big splash at UMD in College Park. However, the weekend did not have a very good beginning. Claire and Denise gave themselves 4 hours to make the ~2 hour drive and arrive in plenty of time for positive check-in and warm-up before Denise swam the 1500 freestyle. DC traffic was not in their favor and left them wondering if they would indeed arrive in time. While Denise was driving, Claire emailed/called/Facebooked several people at the meet to get Denise checked-in for the 1500. Through email Denise was checked-in and it was determined that she was not in the 1st heat, phew! Claire and Denise arrived at the pool after almost 4 hours in the car.


Despite all of this, Denise rocked the 1500, averaging 1:16 pace, and finished 1st with a time of 19:06.41. She is currently ranked 1st in her age group for this event. Throughout the remainder of the meet, Denise swam a demanding schedule that included the 200 free, 100 and 200 breastroke, 200 and 400 IM. She placed 1st in all her events. As VMST President, Denise was also responsible for coordinating all the VMST relays.


Claire swam the 50, 100 and 200 breastroke, 200 free and 200 IM. Her time of 38:44 in the 50 breastroke was good enough for 1st overall, and she placed 2nd overall and 1st in her age group for the remainder of her events. Claire had a great meet and was very close to her personal best times in the majority of events. Her time of 2:42.54 in the 200 IM is a personal best time by almost 2 seconds. The Mark Kutz taper does indeed work!


Just after finishing the grueling 200 breastroke, Denise and Claire teamed up with two other VMST members, Kirk Clear and Chris Frogley, to swim the 400 medley relay. Claire swam the breastroke leg and Denise swam fly. They placed 2nd in the 160-199 age group with a time of 5:26.23, breaking the previous LMSC record by 3 seconds. Find the meet results here.  




NOVA Masters swimmers swam in a multitude of open-water events, aquabikes and triathlons this summer. Read on for their summaries and results.


Jack King One Mile Swim, June 14, 2015, Virginia Beach, VA - Val Van Horn Pate (50-54) and George Shushkoff (45-49) made the drive to Virginia Beach for this annual swim. The conditions were nice with small surf and a small current going against the swimmers. With a time of 23:52, Val finished 1st in her age group and was the 2nd overall female. George handily won his age group with a time of 23:40. Check out the full results.


Challenge Williamsburg Olympic Aquabike, June 14, 2015, Williamsburg, VA - In her first aqua bike event of the summer, Margaret Rechel placed 1st overall with time of 1:39:48. The event consisted of a river swim and a bike ride. Results can be found here.


RVA Mile, June 20, 2015, Richmond, VA - NOVA Masters swimmers took 3 of the top 5 spots in this event. Denise Letendre (18-34) took 3rd, George Sushkoff (35-39) took 4th and Margaret Rechel (18-34) took 5th. Swimming the open water mile in 23:12, Denise was the 2nd woman and 1st in her division. Finishing a minute later was Margaret with a time of 24:12. George posted a final time of 23:45 and was 2nd in his division. The river conditions were favorable, with a water temperature in the 80’s and a weak current. Find the results on the Peluso Open Water website.


Jack Wright Ocean Mile Swim, July 4, 2015, Bradley Beach, NJ Val Van Horn Pate swam this event as part of a summer swim team reunion weekend. Ten swim team members did the swim, including Val’s son Kyle and her brother Van. Kyle placed 2nd in his 18-24 age group. Val placed 1st in her age group (45-52), was the 5th overall female and 11th overall with a time of 22:08. She also beat her brother! It was a rough swim as the winds were blowing, though there was a slight favorable current. The course was marked with just one buoy at the end despite three dangerous jetties along the course. Val swam this event as one of her first open water swims in 1986, not much has changed since then, including an on the beach mass start. Over 100 people racing to the water all at one time, which made for a challenging start not to mention the strong waves which knocked Val to her knees. This race in 1986 serves as a benchmark for Val for open water swims — it was rough then and is still rough today, though it makes all the ones in-between easier by comparison.


Colonial Beach Olympic Aquabike, July 12, 2015, Colonial Beach, VA Margaret Rechel competed in her 2nd Aquabike of the summer. She completed a 1500 meter swim in the bay and a 40k bike ride along a route with rolling hills. Margaret was the 1st woman with a final time of 1:38:05. Check out the results.


3rd Annual Lake Moomaw 1-mile race, August 1, 2015, Hot Springs, VA - The 3rd Annual Lake Moomaw 1-mile open water race took place on Saturday, August 1, at beautiful Lake Moomaw in Alleghany County. A total of 51 swimmers competed in perfect conditions with bright, sunny skies, air temperature of 70 degrees and water temperature in the upper 70’s. Shirley Loftus-Charley, 63, finished 1st overall, breaking her own course record with an official time of 19:46.00. Todd Bassett, 50, won the men’s competition finishing with a time of 20:14.00.


The event started on the beach at Cole’s Point, and participants swam toward Gathright Dam at the southern end of Lake Moomaw. The event was made possible by a partnership between the Virginia Masters Swim Team, the Alleghany-Highlands Chamber of Commerce in Covington, and the Westvaco water rescue team.


Thanks go to Race Director Dave Holland and his volunteers for another successful event. We look forward to seeing you at Lake Moomaw next year. The event is tentatively scheduled for Saturday, August 6, 2016. Below is a photo of Lake Moomaw. Check out the results. 








Pink Power Triathlon, August 6, 2015, Midlothian, VA - On her birthday, Rachel Nelson (19-24) participated in the Pink Power Triathlon held at the Midlothian Y. This was a women only sprint triathlon that consisted of a 400-meter pool swim, 11-mile bike and 5K run. Rachel was bib #1 because of her speedy swim seed time and she was first out of the pool by almost a minute. There were 3 u-turns in the bike that she made successfully without falling, and she ran in a pink tutu! With a final time of 1:12:00, Rachel was 8th overall and 1st in the 19-24 age group. It was the most amazing and painful experience she’s had in her life and she even signed up for a second triathlon! Check out the full results here. 







Virginia Beach Lifeguard Association 5k, August 16, 2015, Virginia Beach, VA - This event was the last in a series put on by the Virginia Beach Lifeguard Association. The swim is the distance of 40 city blocks, from 17th to 57th Street. Denise Letendre (25-29) was the first woman and second overall by only 10 seconds. Check out theresults by scrolling all the way to the bottom of the page.


Timberman Ironman 70.3, August 16, 2015, Lake Winnipesaukee, NH Julie Patterson and Margaret Rechel made the journey north to New Hampshire for this event. Julie was entered in the full 70.3 triathlon, had a bike crash the day before the race and fractured two ribs. She still raced the swim and began the bike portion of the race, but unfortunately the aerobars fell off her bike and she had to withdraw. Margaret competed in the aquabike, which consists of swimming and biking. She was 3rd overall and the 1st female with a time of 3:21:51. The gorgeous views, grueling mountains and fun Margaret had during the event were worth the $54 in tolls and 6 states she drove through to get to the race! Here are the results of the Aquabike.


Glow Swim, August 22, 2015, James River, Richmond, VA - Margaret Rechel (18-29), Val Van Horn Pate (45-59), George Sushkoff (45-59) and Mory Wood (45-49) participated in this one-of-a-kind event, which was put on by Peluso Open Water. Each swimmer swam the 500 meter (2 buoy turns) course at 8 PM when it was still light out. At 8:20 all the participants swam the course a 2nd time, except it was darker and the finish time could move the swimmer into the next round. The top ten females and top ten males were rewarded (?) with an opportunity to swim the course a third and final time for the championship. The championship round was swum at 9:20pm and it was pitch black except for the two red lighted buoys (where one was to make a left turn) and a few yellow lighted buoys to help with sighting. Margaret had a final time off 6:32, which placed her the 4th female and 4th in her age group. Val’s final time was 6:46, fast enough to place her as the 5th female and 1st in her age group. George had a final time of 6:22, which placed him as the 4th male and 2nd in his age group. Mory sam a 7:57 in the 1st round, which was a mere 12 seconds away from making finals. Peluso Open Water put on a good after-party with 80’s music, food trucks, and adult beverages. Mark this event on your calendar for next year, but make sure you don’t wear tinted goggles when it is dark outside. Check out the awesome photos taken by Joe Sites and the results.




Check out the website:


The VMST Annual Fall meet in Virginia Beach on November 7th is a short course meters meet and has always been a fun meet to attend. Registration is open.


If you’re looking for a long-term goal, USMS short-course Nationals are being held in Greensboro, NC this year. The Greensboro Aquatic Center is a new facility with ample seating and a separate warm-up/warm-down pool. The proximity to Richmond makes this an excellent meet to attend. Check out the info if you’re interested!




SCY Top-10

USMS has posted the Top-10 times for the 2014 SCY season. NOVA has several members with Top-10 times and swimmers on relays that posted Top-10 times. In the 18-24 age group, Rachel Nelson has three top-10 swims: 50 and 100 backstroke and 50 fly. Denise Letendre (25-29) achieved four ranked swims: 200 breast, 200 fly, 200 and 400 IM. Claire Russo (30-34) was 8th in the 200 breastroke. Val Van Horn Pate (50-54) achieved four ranked swims: 50, 100, 200 backstroke and 100 fly. John Hogan (25-29) has two: 1650 freestyle and 200 fly. Chris Stevenson (50-54) also achieved the magic number of four ranked swims: 100 and 200 backstroke and 50 and 200 butterfly. Check out all the data here.


The 400 Medley Relay team of Claire Russo, Denise Letendre, Rachel Nelson and Danielle Myers combined to swim a time of 4:22.60, which is the 5th ranked time in the Women 18+ age group. At the Colonies Zone Championship in April, Denise Letendre  and Claire Russo teamed up with Greg Harris and Kirk Clear to swim the Mixed 400 Medley Relay in the 25+ age group. Their final time was 4:08.17, which earned them the #1 ranking and All-American status, besting the 2nd ranked time by 7.5 seconds! Here are the relay rankings.



Mark is the guy at the heart of NOVA Masters. He’s there to motivate us, keep us moving and coming back for more. I know we are all grateful for the time, energy, enthusiasm and expertise Mark provides at 5:45am. Here he is pictured with VMST legend Marie Kelleher. Below is some insight into what keeps Mark going.



When did you begin NOVA Masters and how often do you swim? I started Masters about 10 years ago. I swim about 3 times a week as consistently as possible with my schedule and NOVA’s schedule.
What is your background as a swimmer and athlete? I started swimming when I was 7 years old at Silton Swim School in Manasquan, New Jersey. I swam for Silton until I was 17 years old then for the Asbury Park YMCA and Central Jersey Aquatic Club just before I went to college at VCU . I swam for all four years and was team captain my last two years. I have been swimming Masters on and off for most of my adult life, all for Virginia Masters.
What motivates you to wake up and coach at 5:45am? I actually get up most mornings before 4:00 AM to coach the Senior groups. I love coaching swimming and it even makes it better to get paid to do it! I coached swimming back in the days when we didn't get paid that much to coach.
Outside of the pool, what occupies your time? I started my own Swimming Pool Service business (The Pool Guy) back in the late 90s. It has become a very successful business that employs both my son and son in law full time as well as keeping my wife and myself very busy as well. As you know I also am Facility director as well as coach at NOVA!

Some people might be surprised to know that... I would assume that everyone knows my love of sports and music but you probably didn't know I was an artist in high school and actually won an art show and a scholarship to college but I decided not to major in art.
Favorite song to play/sing and why: I could never pick one song I love to listen to and/or sing! It depends on my mood I guess? I love so many types of music and love to play along with my air guitar as most of you have seen!
Favorite Kutzism: I guess I would have to say my favorite Kutzism is- to whom much is given much is expected!!

Most memorable Masters moment:  I have had so many memorable moments as a coach of hardworking and dedicated Masters swimmers over the years there is no way to pick only one! I love seeing folks reach their goals that we have discussed and work towards for a full season. Just to see the big smiles on the faces of swimmers who look at their times following a great swim is what makes my job the best job in the world!





NOVA Masters News - June 2015



David Gregg III Memorial meet, SCY, February 7-8, 2015, Richmond, VA - The NOVA contingent at the meet this year was a bit smaller than usual, but that didn’t stop everyone from having a grand time. Mark was on hand with his superb coaching and ever-ready stopwatch. A big thanks to Randy Raggio and his family for hosting the Saturday evening social with wonderful homemade lasagna! Denise Letendre and Dave Fellowes ensured the hospitality table at the meet was fully stocked with all sorts of yummy snacks.


Swimming in the 18-24 age group, Rachel Nelson branched out from her usual sprint fly and free events and tried out the 50 and 100 back as well as the 200 IM. She did well in all events, proving that she can swim more than sprint fee and fly.


Margaret Rechel also represented the 18-24 age group in her first Masters meet and was talked into swimming the 500 free on Saturday. Wearing a new suit and borrowed goggles, Margaret was able to hold a fairly steady pace and finished with a time of 5:38.53. Sunday she swam the 200 and 100 free and 200 IM. Not too shabby for her first meet as a Masters swimmer!!


Denise Letendre (25-29) had plans to swim both days, but a cold over-ruled and she only swam her Sunday events. These included the 100 free, 200 breastroke and 100 fly. Denise swam with her usual gusto and was just off her best times. The 100 free was a nice swim and showed that Denise really can sprint!


Danielle Myers (30-34) made the trip from Delaware to NOVA for the weekend with her husband and son. Dad and others held the baby while Danielle got a few swims in: 50 breastroke, 50 fly and 100 IM. Although she swims a couple days a week, Danielle showed that she’s still able to ‘bring it’ when needed!


Claire Russo (30-34) swam both Saturday and Sunday. She began her weekend with the 200 breastroke and 400 IM. The 400 IM was described as the race of the weekend: Claire found herself 4 seconds behind the leader after the backstroke leg and was able to overcome this deficit with an exciting last 50 yards to win the event by .5 with a final time of 5:05.25. On Sunday, Claire swam the 200 IM, 100 backstroke, 50 and 100 breastroke.


Fast swimming was the name of the game for Val Van Horn Pate (50-54). Sporting a new fast suit, Val showed us all what it’s like to swim fast. On one day of competition, Val swam 5 events: 50, 100 and 200 backstroke, 50 and 100 fly. She set new LMSC records in all except the 50 fly. Mark had everyone singing “It’s all about the suit, ‘bout the suit” to the tune of Meghan Trainor’s “All about that bass”.


In the midst of his 2nd year of law school, John Hogan (25-29) found some time to swim the 1650 and the 200 fly. His time of 17:04:03 in the mile was good enough for a new LMSC record in his age group.


George Sushkoff (45-49) swam back-to-back events on Saturday: the 400 IM and 500 free. Two tough events even when you don’t have to swim them back-to-back. George finished 1st in both events and a final time of 5:05.94 in the 400 IM and a 5:46.41 in the 500 free.


Chris Stevenson (50-54) swam a plethora of events: 100 and 200 backstroke as well as the 50, 100 and 200 fly. Chris has aged up and set 5 new LMSC records in his new age group. His 200 backstroke swim was very well split.


Claire, Denise, Rachel and Danielle teamed up to swim the 400 medley relay. They set an LMSC record in the 18+ age group with a time of 4:22.60. Full results of the meet are available.


2015 Virginia Senior Champs, SCY, March 5-8, 2015, Christiansburg, VA

Rachel Nelson (18-24) represented NOVA at Senior Champs. She swam the 100 fly and 50 and 100 free. Her time in the 100 fly (56.33) set a new LMSC record and her time in the 50 free ties her time in the same event last year, which is also an LMSC record. Swimming in the 200 medley relay, Rachel’s 50 fly split was a 24.72 and in the 400 medley relay she swam a 55.72 100 fly split! Results are available.


2015 Albatross Open, SCM, March 21, 2015, Bethesda, MA

Denise Letendre (25-29) made the trip up I-95 and half-way around the beltway to Bethesda for the Albatross meet. Swimming in a new racing suit, she took advantage of the deep water pool to set 3 new LMSC records: 200 breastroke (2:44:46), 200 fly (2:29.66) and 400 IM (5:14.54). Check out the rest of the results.


Colonies Short Course Zone Championship, SCY, April 10-12, 2015, Fairfax, VA

Denise Letendre and Claire Russo ventured to George Mason University for the Colonies Zone meet. They were accompanied by Denise’s sister, Claire, a Masters swimmer from Atlanta. This meet is well-run and offers competition at many levels of swimming - this year offered much of the same. The full results of the meet are posted.


After some DC sightseeing with her sister, Denise swam the 100 and 200 breastroke, 100 and 200 fly, and 200 and 400 IM. She took 1st in all events and even managed to swim the 100 fly faster than the 1st 100 of the 200 fly! In addition to swimming 6 individual events, Denise also was part of 6 different relays - often swimming the butterfly leg.


Claire drove up to Fairfax bright and early on Sunday morning. She swam the 100 breastroke, 100 fly, and 100 IM. Her time in the 100 IM was almost a best time and her time in the 100 breastroke was good enough for 1st place. Claire also joined some other VMST members in a couple relays.



Cold Water/Fast Current, 1500m open water, April 11, 2015, Richmond, VA

The name of this event says it all, cold water (53 degrees) and a fast current. Swimmers swim against the current for 375 meters, then swim back with the current and repeat once more. George Sushkoff and Val Van Horn Pate participated in this year’s event, which is put on by Peluso Open Water Masters. Val was the 2nd female finisher and was 1st in her age group with a time of 22:44. George was the 2nd male finisher and was 2nd in his age group with a final time of 20:33.


Val reported a valuable lesson she learned during the swim: While attempting to navigate the first buoy, I cut around the buoy a tad too close with the current pushing me into the buoy -- the chip on my ankle caught on the buoy rope (holding the buoy to the anchor). As I wrestled with the chip and the rope, the buoy looming overhead I did sneak a peek to see if perhaps  someone of a rescuing nature might assist me should this become a serious issue.  Eventually, what seemed like minutes I did free my ankle, made the turn and began swimming downstream with the current. Just as I began to get into a rhythm I was bumped by someone, and then again. This person didn’t seem to see me. I took a look and this person was another female (my competitive spirit rose) but this person swam off into the mainstream while I swam my straight line. I did keep an eye on her however, and she was pulling away from me. As I approached the rounding of the second buoy this person was a good 10 yards ahead of me but unlike her I started to cut my turn around the buoy prior to actually getting to the buoy. I swam hard across and upstream despite being upstream of the buoy as I watched my competitor begin her turn far too late. I rounded the buoy practically touching it and began my second lap upstream leaving my competitor a good 20 yards behind me. A lesson well learned upstream and applying it downstream. Not many times do I get to negotiate turns in a swift current but that day I learned some valuable lessons. Check out the full results.


Jim McDonnell Lake Swim, open water, May 24, 2015, Reston, VA

Val Van Horn Pate journeyed to Reston over Memorial Day weekend to swim both the 1-mile and 2-mile lake swims organized by the Reston Masters swim team. The course is a 1-mile loop with 6 buoys, which the 2-mile swimmers go around twice. In the 1-mile, Val finished 17th overall, the 5th female finisher and was 1st in her age group with a final time of 23:42. In the 2-mile swim with a final time of 48:14, Val was 25th overall, the 8th female finished and 1st in her age group. The top finisher in the 2-mile event was a 20-year old female swimmer from the Naval Academy. The weather was perfect for the swim, both air and water about 70 degrees, the lake was clean and the event was well-organized. An enjoyable swim for a first time open water swimmer. Full results are found here.


Lowcountry Splash, open water, May 30, 2015, Charleston, SC

Denise Letendre (25-29) and Maura Smith (30-34) took a road trip to Charleston, South Carolina to swim in the 2.4 mile Lowcountry Splash. The swim was beautiful and dolphins were spotted prior to the start of the race. Swimming with the current, Denise finished the course and won her age group with a time of 38:25. Maura was 3rd in her age group with a time of 40:44. Check out the results, photos and video. If you look carefully, you can see photos of both Denise and Maura jumping off the dock and into the water.




Chris Greene Lake cable swim, July 11, 2015, Charlottesville, VA.

Held in picturesque Chris Greene Lake, this event features 1-mile and 2-mile cable swims. A good event for those venturing into open water swimming. Registration is open and can be found here.


Lake Moomaw 1-mile open water swim, August 1, Hot Springs, VA. Set in beautiful Alleghany County, this swim is a welcome getaway from the summer heat in the city. Registration is open.


Terrapin Cup and Colonies Zone LC Championship, LCM, College Park, MD, July 11-12, 2015

This event is being held at the site of Nationals last year - the University of Maryland. Held in a beautiful facility that has recently been renovated, this meet features the 1500 and a full set of events from 50’s to 200’s of each stroke in addition to relays. Registration information can be found here.


Check out the website for other future events:




Ukrops Monument 10K, March 28, 2015, Richmond, VA

Julie Patterson and Claire Russo participated in a very chilly Monument 10k. The wind was blowing and the temperature was just above freezing, but the sun was out, which made the cold a little less intense. Julie raced to an overall 6th place female and 1st place in her division. Claire finished with a time of 46:29, and placed 37th in her age group.


Triathlon results

The dynamic duo has been active out of the water this spring. Margaret Rechel competed in the Aquabike event in the Power Sprint Triathlon at the Shady Grove YMCA on May 17th. She was the 1st female and 3rd overall. Margaret had the fastest swim time of the Aquabike participants. Results are available.


Julie Patterson has been busy racing in triathlons this spring. She competed in 70.3 San Juan where she finished 8th. At the Wildflower Triathlon in California, Julie made the chase pack on the swim and finished 10th. In a very competitive field at Ironman 70.3 Raleigh she finished 9th. Check out her blog or find her on Facebook at Julie Patterson - Pro Triathlete.


Aaron Calhoun (18-24) also competed in Raleigh 70.3. He finished 8th in his age group Aaron's freestyle his improved quite a bit since joining our group at NOVA, and as Mark would say, unrelenting hard work does pay off




The newest and youngest member of NOVA Masters will be arriving in November. Maura Smith and her husband Adam are expecting a baby!


Claire Russo has been accepted into graduate school at Framingham State University in Massachusetts to pursue a Masters degree in Food and Nutrition and to become a registered dietitian.


Chris Torney provided the following update: As you are all aware, I have been raising money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society's Man & Woman of the Year fundraiser.  It is an intense, 10 week effort and is LLS's largest annual drive.


The campaign concluded Friday May 8th and our Richmond Chapter raised $350,000! This surpasses last year's record by over $50,000.


I want to thank all of you who participated for your support. THANK YOU!


One final note, LLS receives no federal funding and blood cancers are 10% of the total cancer universe BUT - and this is what is so important to understand - 50% of all cancer therapies & treatments in use today were originally approved for blood cancers. That is one hell of an impact!


2014 SCM Top-10 Times

Top-10 times for the short-course meter season have been posted. Denise Letendre (25-29) topped the list with eight top-10 times in the 200, 400 and 800 free, 100 and 200 breastroke, 200 fly and 200 and 400 IM. Her time of 2:48.10 in the 200 breastroke qualifies to be an All-American time because it is the top time in the country in her age group! Claire Russo (30-34) had four top-10 times: 50, 100 and 200 breastroke and 200 IM. Her highest ranked swim was a 5th ranked 100 breastroke. Dave Holland (45-49) had six top-10 times: 50, 100 and 200 breastroke, 200 fly and 200 and 400 IM. His highest ranking swim was a 2nd ranked 400 IM.




As Mory put it, he is a lane 9.5 swimmer who enjoys swimming freestyle and takes advantage of the Masters privilege. In response to the request to be the Masters Spotlight, Mory replied “Given this potential exposure, maybe Speedo would pick me up as a model for one of their ads!!” Don’t we all have that wish!


When did you join NOVA Masters and how often do you swim?

I started with NOVA in 2012 and swim about 3 days a week.


What is your background as a swimmer and athlete?

Growing up, I was a summer league swimmer for CCV. At VMI, I swam for two years and the 500 was my race.


What motivates you to wake up and swim at 5:45am?

Oh gosh many things. This also is asking, why NOVA? First is the Kutz factor!!! I remember one meet when I was swimming the 500 toward the end of the day and the pool had basically cleared. There was Mark supporting me, for 20 lengths mirroring me, egging me on, gyrating and yelling for better (and somehow critiquing my poor right arm mechanics during the swim). I know he easily cut :20 of my time just being there. Thank you Mark. What a great coach and what a love for the sport.

Then there is the quality of workout, then the quality of swimmer and then the better swimmer’s encouragement. Lastly, there is my lane. Swimming is fun and beneficial but my co-swimmers are the best. Please keep pushing me.

We need more happy hours!!! You guys/gals (mainly the gals) are FUN!!!


Outside of the pool, what occupies your time?

Too much fun, hiking, fishing, river, beach, golf, cookouts, gym time, happy hours. No Yard Work!!! Oh and yeah, the office.


Some people might be surprised to know that...

In college in the 500, I was only 55 seconds away from maybe making the Olympic tryouts. I was thaaaat close!!! LOLOL

Actually after I stopped at VMI, I swore off swimming forever … total burnout!!! What a great last year though. I am not sure why I reengaged but I blame, I mean, thank Val. Haha. Thank you Val for getting me over the hump and for your encouragement.


Favorite song Mark plays/sings and why:

Is this a trick question? Any song that Mark is not singing to, of course. Editor’s note: this is not a trick question.


Favorite Kutzism:

“Or not!”. I take that quite literally!!!



NOVA Masters News - January 2015


Rowdy Gaines Masters Classic, SCM, October 10-12, 2014 - Orlando, FL. Dave Holland attended the sixth annual Rowdy Gaines Classic in Orlando, enjoying a 4-day mini-vacation October 9-12. Rowdy is 55 years young and his stroke is as gorgeous as ever. He swam the sprint events (they have 25's at this meet) and some relays, and when he wasn't swimming, he  was on deck, cheering with the same enthusiasm and warmth that he shows on TV. 

There were 200 + people at the meet, and a few world records were set. Dave (45-49) swam his usual events, and had a decent 400 IM and 200 fly. He was pleased with his 200 breast, too, a relatively new event for him. He got a new LMSC record in that one, with a 2:40.68, and also enjoyed swimming a few 25's.

Dave was the only swimmer from VMST but did run into Kelly Parker Palace and her husband Mark, who have swum with NOVA in the past, as Kelly's parents live in Richmond.  

Dave highly recommends this annual meet to others- it was a nice little 4-day vacation with great weather, and there were hotel rooms aplenty, plentiful eateries, and plenty of fast swimming in Orlando. Check out the full results.  


VMST Annual Fall Swim Meet, SCM, November 8, 2014 - Virginia Beach, VA. Denise Letendre and Claire Russo made the trek to Virginia Beach for the annual fall meet. Held in a community recreation center and directed by Betsy Durrant, this meet is a VMST staple. Denise (25-29) swam a plethora of events: 800 free, 200 breast, 200 fly, and 400 IM. She placed 1st in all and set an LMSC record in the 400 IM (5:23.44). Claire (30-34) swam the 50 back, 100 back, 50 breast and 50 fly. She placed 2nd in the 50 fly and 1st in the remainder of her events. The meet was capped off with an amazing drive-thru sandwich shop experience and an adventure to find a restroom. All-in-all a good day! Check here for results.


Colonies Zone SCM Smackdown, SCM, December 12-14, 2014 - Manassas, VA. This meet was added as a counterpart to the Colonies Zone Championship meet held in Boston each year. The Colonies Zones was separated into North and South and swimmers could sign up for their respective meet. Results were combined and the meet was scored, with the North division coming out on top. The North division had a very high level of participation, the South division was lacking a bit in the number of swimmers attending the meet. Hopefully participation will be a bit higher next year! (hint, hint)


The swim meet duo of Denise Letendre and Claire Russo journeyed up I-95 to Manassas for some swim meet smackdown fun. Denise (25-29) swam all three days, Claire (30-34) swam one day. Denise began her weekend by realizing there is more than one George Mason University campus, but luckily she ended up in the correct place to swim the 800 free. She started off real strong and was able to hold on to finish with a time of 9:51.34, which was good enough for a new LMSC record. On Saturday, Denise swam the somewhat painful 400 free, 200 breast and 200 IM. Claire swam a great 100 back and also swam the 50 breast and 200 IM. Denise and Claire also paired up with Mariah Dudley and Shirley Loftus-Charley to dominate the Women’s Medley Relay (120-159). Denise returned to the pool on Sunday and began the day with an LMSC record in the 200 free (2:16.42). She also swam the 400 IM and was part of two relays: the Mixed Freestyle Relay and Mixed Medley Relay, both in the 120-159 age group. In short-course meters, the ages of all the swimmers on a relay are added together and the sum of those ages determines the age group of the relay. Check out the South results and the combined results.




To the Bridge and Back, open water, October 4,2014 - Richmond, VA. The third “To the Bridge and Back” swim featured two events, a 5-mile event and a 10-mile event. This event is put on by Peluso Open Water Masters and begins at American Legion Post 354 and swimmers swim up river to the 288 bridge, turn around and come back. This is 5 miles. Swimmers in the 10-mile event did this twice. The day began a bit muggy and still, but the air and sky cleared and a breeze began to pick up as the 10-mile swimmers were on the last leg of their swim. Swimming in the 5-mile event were Chris Stevenson, George Sushkoff, Randy Raggio and Denise Letendre. These four swimmers were 4 of the top 5 finishers. Swimming on his 50th birthday, Chris was the overall winner with a time of 1:55:09. George was 3rd (2:07:42), Denise was the 1st female and 4th overall (2:12:01) and Randy rounded out the top 5 (2:12:21) after being chased down by Denise in the last few hundred yards. In the inaugural 10-mile event, Maura Smith was the 3rd woman and 4th overall, with a time of 4:24:34. There were 7 women and 7 men who finished the 10-mile swim. After finishing, swimmers were treated to a hot breakfast, massages and a hot tub. If you’d like to participate this year, mark your calendars for October 3, 2015. Results and other information are available.




VMST David Gregg III meet, SCY, February 7-8, 2015 - Richmond, VA. Held in our home pool, this meet is a fantastic way to put all your hard work to use. A nice way to spend part of your weekend - camaraderie, getting the chance to talk to your lanemates, excellent coaching from Mark, cheering, laughs and a general all-around good time. Oh and some swimming too. The social held on Saturday night is always a highlight. Entries are mail-in ONLY and are due no later than January 30, 2015. The entry form can be found here.


RCA Dive Into Spring meet, SCY, March 22, 2015 - Lexington, VA. A VMST meet held to welcome spring!


Colonies Zone SCY Championships, SCY, April 10-12, 2015 - Fairfax, VA. Another great meet held in a nice facility with competition at all levels. A nice way to wrap-up the SCY season.


Meet info can always be found on the website:




Sallie Penn Godwin and husband Chance welcomed Alice Lee Godwin on December 31, 2014 at 11:59pm. All are doing well. Sallie and Chance were married last year and Sallie was one of the original NOVA Masters.


LCM Top-10 The long course season has wrapped up and the Top-10 results are out. Each year, all the times from every event in each age group are combined and ranked, and the result is the Top-10 for each event in each age group. The following NOVA Masters swimmers achieved Top-10 LCM times: Denise Letendre (25-29) 200, 400, 800 free, 100 and 200 breast, 100 and 200 fly, 200 and 400 IM. Claire Russo (30-34) 200 free, 100 and 200 breast, 200 IM. Val Van Horn Pate (50-54) 50 and 200 back, 200 fly. Will Ericson (18-24) 50, 100 and 200 back. John Hogan (25-29) 100, 200, 400, 800, 1500 free and 100 fly. John’s 1500 free time of 17:37.50 ranked him 1st in his age group. Dave Holland (45-49) 200 fly and 400 IM. Chris Stevenson (50-54) 50, 200, 400 free, 50, 100 and 200 back, 50 and 100 fly. Chris’ times in the 200 free, 200 back and 100 fly were good enough for a #1 ranking in his age group. All of the above swimmers were also part of one or more relays that achieved a Top-10 time. The LCM wrap-up and Top-10 list for our LMSC is available.


American Family Fitness half-marathon and HCA VA 8k, November 15, 2014 - Richmond, VA. Julie Patterson, Claire Russo and Denise Letendre braved the very chilly, below-freezing start temperatures to join thousands of others on their morning run through Richmond. Julie returned to racing this fall in the half-marathon. She held pace for the first 8 miles out of the 13.1 mile race. Julie hung on to finish 2nd in her age group and was the 11th woman in a time of 1:20:24. Claire ran her first half-marathon and had a great first 9 miles, struggled through the last 4 and beat her goal time with a final time of 1:47:07. Despite having a bit of a cold, Denise still ran the 8k and finished in a time of 41:57.


New Year’s Challenge, 100x100’s, December 31, 2014 - Richmond, VA. This event was hosted by Peluso Open Water to benefit swimRVA’s Learn to Swim program, which gives free swim lessons to 2nd graders in greater Richmond. In addition to helping a great cause, participants received some decent swag: a swimRVA towel, water bottle and magnet in addition to a light-up champagne toasting glass. The 100’s were done in sets of 10 with 1-2 minutes in between sets. Participants were able to choose their interval and 100’s could be all freestyle, a mix of strokes, kicking, pulling or IM. The music was rocking and a good time was had by all. NOVA Masters participants included: Chris Stevenson, Julie Patterson, Chris Nelson, Maura Smith and Claire Russo. Julie completed all 100 on 1:30 (this didn’t surprise Mark in the least bit) and Chris Stevenson completed 93, also on 1:30. Chris Nelson, Claire and Maura shared a lane on 1:40 - Chris completed 55, Claire 77 and Maura 88. This event is a great way to do something a bit different and end/begin your year on a positive note.

Masters News: September 2014

Masters News: November 2009

Masters News: August 2009

Masters News: May 2009

Masters News: March 2009

Masters News: February 2009

Masters News: December 2008

Masters News: Summer 2008