Mesa swimmer sets eyes on English Channel - East Valley Tribune: East Valley Local News

Mesa swimmer sets eyes on English Channel

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Posted: Tuesday, July 3, 2012 7:15 am | Updated: 8:48 am, Thu Jul 5, 2012.

So how does a desert dweller set a goal to hit the “triple crown” in open water swimming?

Blame it on too many rounds of golf and a desire to spend more time with his family, but that’s exactly what Mesa attorney Kent Nicholas hopes to achieve.

As of two weeks ago, he’s two-thirds of the way there.

In open water swimming, the “triple crown” is the successful completion of three marathon swims: the 21-mile Catalina Channel, the 28.5 mile Manhattan Island Marathon Swim and the 21-mile English Channel between England and France.

Kent, 45, completed the first on Sept. 9, 2011.

In late June, he completed the second, finishing 10th among the 38 swimmers invited to take part in the annual New York event. That event turned into a fundraiser as well, with Kent collecting donations for Mesa’s Child Crisis Center, an organization he has been a part of for the past 15 years.

And Kent received notice that he can attempt the final leg — the English Channel — in summer 2013.

“You usually have to schedule that one a year and a half out,” Kent says. “Open water swimming has gained in popularity extraordinarily fast.”

Kent discovered the sport after becoming “lukewarm” to golf, he admits.

“I’ve always had a real passion for swimming. I swam as a child in the Mesa City leagues. I was a lifeguard at Rhodes (Junior High) and a coach when we had 300 to 400 swimmers at Rhodes during the summers in the late 80s,” he recalls.

He went on to swim in college at the University of California, San Diego.

“I like being around the ocean.”

As a young adult and father, he left the water and hit the greens. But the same appeal wasn’t there.

“I was lukewarm about doing golf. Pebble Beach, Oregon, it wasn’t doing it for me. I started swimming. I found out open water swimmers have the same destination events you can tie into vacations. The cool thing for me was I could include my family.”

In fact, his wife, Candy, often rides alongside him in a kayak to provide food and navigation. His youngest son plans to compete this weekend with him in Vermont. Kent will compete in the 10-mile, and his son will swim in the 1-mile competition.

Kent also created his own open water swimming training — the Arizona S.C.A.R. Swim Challenge — using Arizona lakes of the lower Salt River: the Saguaro, Canyon, Apache and Roosevelt.

Even in Arizona, the May event drew racers from as far away as New York.

Kent and both his sons — 11 and 8 — train with the Mesa Aquatics Club at both Kino and Skyline pools.

“One of the biggest motivators for me is the city planners envisioned these pools and created the best training you can have,” he notes about his home city. “Had they not done that, I would not be doing what I am now. These people who did the planning years ago, I’m grateful for all they did.”

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