Swimmer Spotlight – Tanya Baxter 6

Tanya Baxter

Tanya Baxter

Name: Tanya Baxter
Age: 43
Occupation:  Judicial Services Specialist, State of Oregon’s 15th Judicial District
Team: SOMA

Passionate about swimming since I was a small child, I rarely missed an opportunity to go with friends or family to the nearest lake, river, or pool – it was one of my favorite things to do. At the age of nine I began swimming competitively for North Whidbey Aquatic Club in Puget Sound, qualifying for and attending several international meets. Several years later my family moved to Naples, Italy where I joined an Italian team at a pool in Lago D’averno, where I eventually lost interest and opted to try other sports due to the lengthy commute. My summers were spent as a lifeguard and swim instructor at the US Navy’s outdoor Olympic-sized pool in ‘Carney Park’ located in a 96-acre extinct volcano crater known as the caldera of Campiglione. If you ever happen to go there, I highly recommend visiting it with its stunning hiking trails and monasteries along the volcano’s rim overlooking the Bay of Naples, the Mediterranean and Mount Vesuvius. While I was no longer swimming competitively, I continued to lap swim in the summers until my senior year in high school when we moved to Fidalgo Island. It was there that I swam for Thunderbird Aquatic Club and Anacortes High School, participating in High School State Championships at King County Aquatics Center before taking a twenty-year swimming hiatus from competitive swimming.

Shortly after high school I moved to Hawaii and found work in the hotel industry, taking tourists’ children snorkeling and swimming. This lasted a short time before moving to Eugene where I met my husband Eric – a biologist / ecologist whose work took us on adventures throughout Oregon, Nevada, and Wyoming while we raised our two children. I picked up distance running because it was something I could do anywhere, anytime, allowing me to retreat into my own mind, free of social pressures and societal burdens, while providing a safe and healthful way to declutter my thoughts and process daily life. Over the years I realized that those were the same qualities that drew me to swimming. I spent a couple years as an AmeriCorps member and Supervisor while living in Northern Nevada. Passionate about outdoor education, I joined the Nevada Outdoor School Board of Directors in 2013 and was honored to be a part of this organization when the school received National recognition after the Executive Director received the Presidential Award ‘Champions of Change’ in 2014. It was during this time that I completed my Bachelor of Science which focused on accounting and business management.

Running, unfortunately, took a toll on my body and I opted to return to swimming after we moved to Klamath Falls in 2015. It was there that I fell in love with competitive swimming all over again, utilizing their outdoor geothermal pool and eventually becoming the President for Friends of Ella Redkey Pool. This mostly involved grant writing and organizing volunteer events to support the municipal pool’s operations. In 2016 I competed at USMS long-course Summer Nationals in Portland (unaffiliated) in several events and later joined Southern Oregon Masters Aquatics (SOMA), a regional team led by close friends Mike Servant and Matt Miller of Ashland. In 2018 our family moved to Coos Bay where I continued swimming for SOMA at Mingus Park Pool and met several dear friends. I joined the Mingus Park Pool Management Board which oversaw the pool’s management and employees. We attended a couple Oregon State swim meets before Covid led to the closing of one of our community’s pools, thus increasing demand at a time when space was more limited than ever. This, in turn, caused the masters swimmers to go their separate ways with only a few of us continuing to swim at Mingus Pool or nearby Eel and Saunders lakes for open-water adventures.

Tanya with her two children, Gillian and Miles

Tanya with her two children, Gillian and Miles

The health issues I’ve had over the years have made it so swimming is not just exercise, but  the best physical and mental health therapy available. For the past 1 ½ years I’ve worked for Oregon Judicial Department as a Judicial Services Specialist and hope to grow my own career with them. The mission to provide fair and accessible justice services for all Oregonians, regardless of socioeconomic status, is something that I can really get on board with. I find joy helping people navigate the complex nature of our judicial system and while it can be fun and interesting, it can be challenging and at times, incredibly sad. My early morning swims are essential in managing the physical and mental demands of my job as it frees my mind and soul to start fresh each day with an open mind and a smile. I encourage anyone to join Masters Swimming, regardless of age,  skill level, or whether there’s a desire to compete – there are no limits to what can be accomplished and the only expectations are self-imposed. This new stage in life involves having older (almost adult-aged) children and more than ever I enjoy swimming, hiking, gardening, botanizing, and spending time with my family. While I may not be the most accomplished masters swimmer, I hope to still be swimming into my old age and sharing it with anyone who wishes to join.

Tanya and fellow swimmers at the Mingus Park Pool inCoos Bay. Left to Right: Candy Lydick Chatt, Tanya, Chris Cook and Jayna Tomac.

Tanya and fellow swimmers at the Mingus Park Pool in
Coos Bay. Left to Right: Candy Lydick Chatt, Tanya,
Chris Cook and Jayna Tomac.

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6 thoughts on “Swimmer Spotlight – Tanya Baxter

  • Candace Chatt

    Congratulations! This is grest! I loved hearing of all you have done and can’t wait to see you at the pool one of these days. When in doubt, SWIM!!!

  • Sylvia Mangan

    Tanya is a wonderful fellow swimmer. She is down to earth and accepting and encouraging of everybody. I would love to see Tanya become a coach for our pool. A good coach makes all participants and potential members feel important and valuable. Tanya is that kind of person. Thankyou Tanya, for sharing your vulnerabilities and being real, and sharing your love and grace of swimming to others lovers of swimming.

  • Valerie Meidinger

    I remember taking you with me on a rafting adventure down the river in Bend, OR (?) at a family reunion. You talked me into jumping into the river with you…only to find that we are floating down much faster than I anticipated!!! You were only TEN and I was responsible for you! Now I realize that YOU would have saved me sooner than the other way around. I have always admired your athletic abilities and your great sense of adventure. (Your mother told me once that you and I were born with the same wild, adventurous spirit!)

  • Mike

    Quite an interesting history you’ve had with your living around different parts of Oregon and Europe. Also, returning to swimming is something many people never do due to burnout and/or life’s obligations. Glad you’re back at it.

  • Leah Hughes

    What an incredible journey your life has been. I’m so glad you are in Coos Bay and sharing your strengths with our community. I love our chats at the pool in the early morning after my “sanity swim”. Keep up the good work!

  • Ralph Mohr

    I loved that you “have been to Hell and back” in your swimming, “Lago d’Averno” to Mingus Park Pool. You have left a trail of social involvement wherever you have gone. You truly care about people and are willing to do something about it.