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McPhersonSentinel - McPherson, KS
  • Mac native takes on Alcatraz swim

  • At one time, seeing a person swim from Alcatraz to San Francisco bay’s beach would have been a cause for panic and police intervention.
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  • At one time, seeing a person swim from Alcatraz to San Francisco bay’s beach would have been a cause for panic and police intervention.
    When Johanna Vetter did it, she was met with cheering crowds.
    Vetter, daughter of Chuck and Taryn Vetter of McPherson, participated in the Alcatraz Sharkfest Swim, a 1.5-mile swim through ocean waters from Alcatraz Island to land.
    This is the swim the Anglin Brothers and Frank Lee Morris successfully attempted in their escape from Alcatraz on the night of June 12, 1962.
    This year’s swim was on June 7. Vetter, who lives in Chicago, said she heard about the event by word of mouth.
    “Last summer, a friend was talking about it. It sounded like something cool to do,” Vetter said.
    The swim is limited to 800 participants, who jump from a boat near the island and have 75 minutes to reach the shore. Water temperatures average between 58 and 62 degrees Fahrenheit.
    “You don’t jump off the island itself because it’s too dangerous,” Vetter said. “You could get smashed against the rocks.”
    Vetter is no stranger to the water. She swam for McPherson’s Aquapups when she was young, and later swam for McPherson High School. She is currently a member of an adult swim team and competes in sprinting events, such as the 50- and 100-meter freestyle and 100-meter backstroke.
    However, the Alcatraz swim presented two distinct differences: longer distance and ocean waters.
    “The water was about 54 degrees,” Vetter said. “You’re by yourself, there’s a time limit, there’s salt in your mouth. You feel very little compared to a large body of water.”
    Vetter said she swam in Lake Michigan once and practiced swimming for distance to train for the race.
    “The hardest part was keeping in my head to keep swimming. I’d look up at the coastline and see how far I had to go,” she said. “Walking onto the sand with everyone cheering was the best feeling of my life.”
    Vetter said though the task may seem daunting, the race is accessible for anyone who wants to try.
    “The winner was a 15-year-old boy, and there were some 80-year-olds doing this,” she said. “Anyone can do it. You just have to prepare.”
    Vetter said when the going got tough, she would take a moment to appreciate the world around her.
    “I would do some backstrokes and breathe and realize the awesome creation of God and having an able body to do this,” Vetter said. “Then I put my face in the water and kept swimming.”

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