By Gail Wood
But about three years ago, she added another challenge – swimming. And we’re not talking take a dip and lay in the sun swimming at the beach on a hot summer afternoon.
“She really is an inspiration,” said Joshua Trotter, Werner’s former coach with the Evergreen Swim Club.
In 2011, Werner went to the U.S. Masters swimming nationals and placed in the top five in four events – the 400 IM, 1,650 freestyle, 200 breast and 200 IM. Last year at the national masters meet in Indianapolis, with two years of hard training behind her, she continued to cut her times and won the 100, 200 and 1,650 freestyle.
Last month at nationals in California, Werner, competing in the 45-50 age division, won the 500 and 1,000 freestyle and was second in the 50 freestyle, 50 breaststroke and 200 breaststroke.
“I enjoy the challenge,” Werner said about why she got back into swimming. “I also enjoy the people I meet. It’s fun.”
Werner, who swam competitively in college, has gone beyond the pool, taking the challenge of swimming to the next level. Two years ago, she swam a 10-mile race on a river in Tennessee, finishing in about 3 hours and 20 minutes. In 2011, Werner swam a 15-miler in 6 hours and 20 minutes at a master national meet on a reservoir in Indiana.
In the 15-miler, Werner stopped to snack and drink as she’d tread water, but it was constant swimming with no breaks on the shore or in a boat.
“You couldn’t touch the kayak or your support person,” Werner said. “You’re just out there.”
Werner, who grew up in Wyoming, swam at the University of Puget Sound from 1988 through 1991, advancing to the NAIA nationals all four years. As a freshman, she won the mile at nationals.
“It was a great four years and a great swimming group,” said Werner, who lives in Olympia. “I think we won nationals two of the four years.”
After graduating from UPS, Werner went to medical school and did her residency, putting swimming on the shelf. When she moved to Olympia with her family, she attended the University of Washington Medical School for training in radiation oncology for another four years.
“In 2006 I got back into swimming a little bit,” Werner said.
But a little bit wasn’t enough. That old urge that pushed her to win a national title while at UPS, pushed her again. Now, her oldest son, Everett, who is 14, is a swimmer and trains nearly every morning with her. However, her husband, isn’t a swimmer.
“He doesn’t know how to swim,” Werner said with a chuckle. “I think he had too many drowning experiences with his brothers dunking him growing up.”
Werner has found inspiration in the people she’s met at the U.S. Master swim meets. Oli Larson from North Carolina is 94 and he’s still swimming, diving from the starting blocks and sprinting down the pool in the 500 and 1,000 freestyle and the individual medley.
“He’s serious about his swimming and about his workouts to get better,” Werner said. “It’s phenomenal to see these older people still diving off the blocks. It’s very inspirational.”
Werner, who is 45, doesn’t plan on slowing down on her workouts.
“She trains just like she did in college,” Trotter said. “Maybe even a little harder. She’s a strong, passionate woman. She has goals and she sets them and has a lot of fun achieving them. It was a lot of fun coaching her and hanging out with her husband and kids.”
Werner is now coached by Randy Trowbridge, who has returned to Evergreen Swim Club, which he started over 30 years ago. But a self-motivated Werner doesn’t need much coaxing to get into the pool and practice. She’s already got the talent and the determination to be a national champ.
“I know she loves to train hard and she’s really competitive,” Trotter said.