While the Florida Southern swimming teams have been on their summer break since graduation in early May, one member of the program took part in a competition of a slightly different kind. Assistant coach Kendal Casey recently competed in the Swim Around Key West and brought home a fourth-place overall finish in the 43rd annual event.
Approximately 175 swimmers from three foreign countries and 27 states traveled to the southernmost point in the United States for the 12.5-mile endurance event. The race began on Saturday, June 1 at 6:15 a.m. on Smathers Beach. Participants could swim the circumference of the island individually or in teams of two or three. Casey was one of 109 competing as an individual.
Each solo swimmer must be accompanied by a kayak or support boat that will provide protection from motorized watercrafts and carry food and drinks for the swimmer. The swimmer may not touch or hold onto the kayak at any time or stand up or touch the ocean bottom. No fins, snorkels, wet suits, body suits or devices that give extra buoyancy, propulsion or skin protection are allowed. Participants have as long as eight hours before the course closes.
The 24-year old Casey completed the course in 4:25.14, placing third among women's swimmers and fourth overall. The 2019 Swim Around Key West champion was 21-year old Oceane Peretti of Hyeres, France, who successfully defended her title by posting a women's record time of 4:02.40. Peretti has spent the last four years competing for Florida International University in Miami. Craig Frederiksen of West Bend, Wisconsin was second in 4:07.53 as the top men's swimmer, and Hannah Molden of Lake Worth, Florida was third in 4:16.38.
The historic "around–the-Island" swim began in 1977, when Anna Fugina chose to begin swimming as therapy to assist in her recovery from injuries suffered in a car accident. As her health improved, so did her swimming ability and love for the sport.
Anna wondered if it was possible to swim the circumference of the Island of Key West. Though she inquired, she could find no evidence that anyone had even attempted the challenge, much less completed the swim. She concluded that someone had to be the first, so on July 4th she entered the water at Mallory Square at Key West Harbor. She completed the swim in 12:59:00. Later, she found that if she studied the tidal current, the swim would be an easier task. Anna swam again in 1978 and improved her time considerably, finishing at 8:00 hours. Now 67, she continues to swim the event every year.