A Brief History of Sierra Nevada Masters Swim Team

A Brief History of Sierra Nevada Masters Swim Team 1983-2013

This story has been compiled from the archived documents that were given to me in the late 1990s by Sally Peterson Dillon, one of the founding members of the Sierra Nevada Masters swim team.  I would like to thank Sally for maintaining these excellent and comprehensive records of our local Masters swimming history. I found the following information about Sally on the USMS website archives from 2006 when Sally received the Captain Ransom Arthur award from USMS, the highest award given to USMS volunteers for service to our organization:

“Locally, Sally founded and directed the Truckee-Tahoe Swim Team Masters, the Donner Lake open water swim, the Truckee Winter SCY meet and she co-founded Sierra Nevada Masters.”

In these archives, the earliest documentation of when our team was founded is in the minutes from a meeting dated June 8, 1983 and attended by the following seven people: Jack Oakes, Clancy McCarthy, Jane Green, Bob Rose, Rob Bastien, Donn Livoni and Sally Peterson (first SNM Club Secretary-Treasurer). These swimmers were from several geographically separate groups of Masters swimmers in Reno, Incline Village, Carson City and Truckee and represented three registered USMS teams (Reno, Incline Village and Truckee). According to the minutes the group discussed a desired goal of forming a single team made up of approximately 50 area swimmers. Sierra Nevada Masters was one of three team names suggested at the meeting, the other two being Sierra Masters and High Sierra Masters.

The next meeting minutes are dated June 22, 1983 and this one documents several decisions that led to the formation of one USMS team with the Sierra Nevada Masters name. The Incline Village USMS team agreed to apply for a name change to Sierra Nevada Masters, the Truckee team decided to disband and members from the Reno team (in some way affiliated with the USS Reno Aquatics team at that time) also disbanded. The minutes include the following list of area groups with USMS registered swimmers (no names) who were eligible to be members of the first official SNM roster: I0 from Incline Village, 2 from Carson City, 5 from South Lake Tahoe, 5 from Truckee and 25 from Reno - for a total of 47 registered USMS swimmers. The first elected members of the SNM Board of Directors were Donn Livoni (Chairman), Jack Oakes (Vice Chairman), Sally Peterson (Secretary-Treasurer), and at-large members Rob Bastien representing Carson area swimmers and Carolyn Battin representing South Lake Tahoe swimmers. Thirty years later our 2013 roster ended the year with 186 registered swimmers who represent Sierra Nevada Masters, most who still live in the northern Nevada and northern California areas.

The earliest documents in our archives about a locally sponsored pool meet for Masters swimmers is the 1st Annual Truckee Winter Meet held on December 9, 1979 sponsored by the Truckee-Tahoe Swim Team (TTST) and sanctioned by The Pacific AAU at the Truckee High School pool.  According to the meet records there were 33 men and 27 women who signed up for this meet, with ages ranging from 22 (Heather Studley) to 75 (Fred Lappe). This meet was held in early December for 15 years and in 1983 the meet was officially sponsored by Sierra Nevada Masters and sanctioned by the Pacific Association of United States Masters Swimming. In 1993, the last year the meet was held in Truckee, 72 swimmers registered for the meet. In December 1994, the event was moved to Reno and became known as the Reno Winner’s Meet with 38 swimmers attending. This meet was held at the Northwest Pool in early December from 1994-2012. Unfortunately, due to dwindling attendance numbers (26 registered swimmers in 2011 and 25 registered for the 2012 meet) our team voted to cancel the 2013 meet.  

There was a Sierra Nevada Masters long course pool meet held at Idlewild Pool beginning in July 7, 1984 and attended by 48 swimmers. The meet information sheet includes a blurb encouraging meet participants to join SNM members the next day at Donner Lake for an open water training swim to prepare for the upcoming Donner Lake Swim. Records indicate this meet was held eight times from 1984-1986, revived in 1994 and held in 1995, 1997, 1998 and 1999. 

The first Donner Lake Swim event was held on August 17, 1980 with 72 swimmers participating representing both USS and USMS club teams. The event was sponsored by the USS TTST that included both USS and USMS swimmers. The inaugural event was won by female swimmer, Wendy Pratt (20-Davis Masters), in a time of 58.46 and the fastest male swimmer was Michael Garibaldi (34-Dolphin Club) in a time of 1:01.45. The youngest swimmer that year was Katie Clifford (19-Piedmont) and the oldest was George White (66-Sacramento Masters). The event information sheet from the archives mentions a no-host BBQ and a keg of beer donated by TTST. A year later results indicate the Donner Lake Swim quickly became a popular event with participation increasing by over 100% to 201 swimmers starting the race and 191 finishers. Wendy Pratt finished second in 1981 to Paul Thompson. It must have been an exciting and incredibly close finish with the results showing final times of 58.45 and 58.54 respectively.

In 1983, Sierra Nevada Masters became the official USMS sponsoring team together with USS TTST for the Donner Lake Swim. We continued this partnership with TTST through 2000. In 2001, the SNM Board of Directors made a decision not to hold the event due to lack of volunteer participation from TTST and SNM. The following year, this popular event was brought back and SNM joined forces with the USS Lakeridge Swim Team in Reno to put on the race. This partnership continues and in 2013, we had over 350 swimmers participate in our event. We still provide free draft beer to our swimmers at West End Beach and now include a catered BBQ lunch for over 400 swimmers and volunteers.  

 Our current club officers are Jim Lawrie, President and Reno Workout group treasurer, Gwen Shonkwiler, SNM Treasurer (unofficial Archivist) and Laura Harsh, Donner Lake Swim Event Director.

Respectfully submitted by Gwen Shonkwiler, SNM member since 1992




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- 2011Overall results .xls
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- 2009 Overall Results .xls », .pdf
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