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Welcome from our Head Coach

Welcome to Milky Way Masters Swim Club. 


What is Masters Swimming and where did it come from?  Masters swimming officially began May 2, 1970, after Captain Ranson J. Arthur, M.D., a Navy doctor in San Diego, convinced John Spannuth, then President of the US Swimming Coaches Association, to hold the first National Masters Swimming Championships in the Amarillo Aquatic Club pool.  Arthur felt that if the incentive was appealing, it would give older swimmers (ex-competitors and beginners alike) a goal for keeping physically fit.  Dr. Arthur’s vision of adults improving their fitness through swimming has grown over the years into a nationwide organization of nearly 60,000 swimmers representing 80 countries worldwide and from age 18 to over 100.

U.S. Masters Swimming programs do not discriminate between levels of ability nor the individual goals of its members.  There are three types of masters swimmers:  1) competitive swimmers who came from competitive programs in their youth, high school and college, 2) triathletes who are using masters swimming to improve their swimming prowess and 3) lap swimmers who are swimming for fitness & fun and want a more structured environment. 

The biggest (and only) negative to masters swimming is the name, MASTERS!  When one hears the word masters, most think of the Masters golf tournament, an elite group of the “best of the best!”  Nothing could be further from the truth for masters swimming. 

Milky Way Masters currently has 140+ members and almost half do not have a competitive swimming background.  They came for fun & fitness and to improve their swim leg for triathlon.  Many have progressed to be outstanding competitive swimmers.  Our swimmers come in all “shapes & sizes,” all walks of life, all economic backgrounds, several ethnic groups and nationalities.  We all share one common thread…..staying physically fit and enjoying a healthy lifestyle through swimming.

I have had “newbies” tell me they will show up after dropping 50 pounds and becoming more comfortable in the water.  I tell them NO, just show up, no one is going to judge how you look or your ability level.  This is a very forgiving, non-judgmental group and will always welcome new members into the team with open arms! 

I tell EVERY new person joining our program….”you have the rest of your life to get into shape; don’t try to do it in a week or a month!”

So how did this club come up with the name, “Milky Way?”  First off our club was started in 1973 by long-time Cedar Rapids residents, photographer George Henry and Judy Chadima, a member of the 1940 United States Olympic Swimming Team.  In 1978 they gave me the “reins” to the club. I love the sport so much and it has given me so much throughout my life that anytime I can give back, I do so unselfishly.

Okay, so several of us were at a Milky Way Masters (MWM) club social at the home of Chuck & Anne Reed’s in the late 1980’s and were brainstorming names for our club which at the time was Cedar Rapids Masters.  Several members at the time lived in Marion, Monticello, Iowa City and Dubuque.  Linn County & eastern Iowa were not encompassing what we were after and Iowa was already taken.  Someone blurted, “what the hell, Milky Way” and the rest is history.  Becky Dreasher designed our logo and if you look closely at the name Milky Way Masters in a galaxy of stars, the stars turn into fish!  Very ingenious and creative! 

We have been very fortunate re: pools!  We have built & cultivated long-term relationships with Washington & Kennedy High Schools and Marion outdoor pool.  We have two professional coaches and have won 19 state championship titles, including a ten in a row run from 2005-2014.  We are the largest club in Iowa and one of the largest in the Midwest.

Please join us, your first 30 days are free and we are probably one of the most affordable masters swim clubs in the world!


Nick Gearhart

Head Coach