SANDPOINT — On Big Major Cay located in the Bahamas you will find a family of pigs that do nothing but eat, sleep and swim. The hungry pigs happily throw themselves into the waves when they see a yacht and swim a few hundred feet to the vessel with the hopes of a free meal.
While the unusual sight of a swimming pig has never been spotted on Lake Pend Oreille, last Saturday more than 800 swimmers entered the water to make the 1.76 mile crossing of the 18th annual Long Bridge Swim.
The morning dawned clear and sunny as swimmers gathered at Sandpoint High School for a warm welcome from founder Eric Ridgway, the national anthem sung by local Kristine Oliver and also received the necessary information required to safely complete the swim.
The school grounds were filled with swimmers of all ages who boarded 18 buses which transported them across the bridge to the start. Excitement was high and ripples of strategy talk for the swim could be heard throughout the growing crowd. For the first time, every swimmer had a chip timer attached to the left ankle, alleviating the often intimidating mass start. Swimmers were able to enter the water at a comfortable pace and still receive an accurate time at the finish.
More than 130 swimmers from Sandpoint participated alongside registrants from 22 other states and four countries including France, Great Britain, Canada and Bangkok. Sixteen-year-old Marcus Tonsmann from Bainbridge Island, Wash., was the top finisher with a time of 39:19:33. The second place female finisher was 17-year-old Jennifer Todd from Coventry, Warwickshire Great Britain with a time of 41:39:09. Todd commented that she is deathly afraid of all fish, big or small, so she swam with her eyes closed.
SHS swimmer Madison Contor, 15, was the top local finisher with a time of 47:10:67.
It is not only the top finishers that experience the glory of crossing Lake Pend Oreille one stroke at a time. There are locals like Anne Schmidt, 50, who is a first time participant. Schmidt lost 50 pounds in the last year, crediting her success to switching over to a whole foods, plant based diet with the help of women who gathered weekly for a nutritional support group.
On her 50th birthday she decided that she would do 50 new things this year, the Long Bridge Swim making the list. Schmidt commented that she drank more lake water than normal and next year will swim with nose plugs, goggles and suntan lotion.
Sister Madonna Buder from Spokane was the oldest swimmer to complete the event at age 82, with an impressive time of 1 hour 39 minutes. Chandler Sanborn and Kate Bokowy, both from Sandpoint, along with Caroline Schott from California, all 9-years-old, were the youngest to finish the race in under two hours.
Founder Eric Ridgway was overwhelmingly pleased with this year’s Long Bridge Swim, graciously acknowledging the many volunteers required to make the event a success.
Information and results: www.longbridgeswim.org