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Young, old into swim

Jan. 09, 2011 @ 12:00 AM

HUNTINGTON -- Before the start of the race, Cork Haberek looked over to the competitor to his right and made a request.

"Be kind to your elders," he asked the swimmer prior to the start of their heat in the 13-over Mixed 200 IM on Saturday in the 43rd annual Huntington Invitational at Marshall's Frederick A. Fitch Natatorium.

Haberek, you see, is 53. The challenger to his right was 13. That's a 40-year spot. Haberek, who swims for the Ashland Area YMCA, is used to that discrepency in age when he swims in this meet.

"You ought to see the young swimmers," Haberek said before going out against the boys and girls. "They're surprised."

Haberek would win his heat and place 12th overall in the 15-over division with a time of 2.25.57. The IM features the four strokes -- breaststroke, butterfly, backstroke and freestyle.

Haberek earlier placed eighth (1:12.04) in the 100 breast in the 15-over age group. After that race, he had little down time before the IM. He returns Sunday to compete in the 200 breast and 100 fly. Both events are in the afternoon. The morning session begins at 9:30 a.m. The afternoon session begins at 1 p.m.

In this meet, events are combined, but scored separately.

For someone who once was afraid of the water, Haberek has made quite a mark in the pool. He was born in Warren, Mich.

"I was scared of the water, the deep end," he said.

Haberek thought about distance running, but not for long. He got new running shoes to train for the Detroit Marathon, but never made it to the starting line. "I messed up my knees," he said. "That was it."

Haberek would later move to West Virginia and attend Morris Harvey College where he competed on the swim team. He graduated in 1979. After school, he wound up in Ashland where he served as assistant swim coach for the YMCA team. He also worked as an elementary school teacher and retired at 49. He still does some teaching part time.

In swimming, Haberek has made many friends. He has several who make up a Masters team (19 and up) at Ashland.

"I love the sport," Haberek said. "There's great fellowship. It goes beyond wins and losses. I'm not training for the Olympics. I train for this. I've been blessed."

When it comes practice time, Haberek said he's up at 5 a.m. daily and meets his Masters teammates at the Ashland pool for a training session. They swim until about 6:30. He also tries to compete in a meet at least once a month. That means trips to Huntington, Charleston and perhaps Lexington.

"I enjoy this," Haberek said. "It's awesome. I feel welcome. They don't ask me what am I trying to prove.?"

After the 200 IM, Haberek had several Ashland Area Y swimmers and friends offer him a critique. One friend had the race on video and Haberek planned to watch it later.

"Swimming is not an individual sport," he said. "You can't swim by yourself. I have friends, a coach. We have the video. They offer tips on technique. It's a team atmosphere.

"My goal is to wake up tomorrow, and if I'm not hurting ... great."

More than 200 swimmers from Ohio, West Virginia and Kentucky are taking part in the meet. The Huntington YMCA swim team is the host.