Winter Swimming in Arizona 4


Francie Haffner

Francie Haffner

I have been swimming for Oregon Masters Swimming in Tualatin with Stafford Hills Club for almost two years now.  Whether it be driving down the road to Gresham, Oregon City, or to Bainbridge Island, to compete in a swim meet…going to different pools is one of the things I love about Masters Swimming.  So, when I was getting ready to book tickets for Thanksgiving to visit my family in Tucson, Arizona, I decided to check for any swim meets in the area.  Pleasantly surprised, The Ron Johnson Invitational in Tempe, AZ was scheduled for the weekend before Thanksgiving.  Since I swam at The University of Arizona (U of A) years ago, I was excited to get to swim at my rival school pool, Arizona State University (ASU), once again!

I was lucky enough to hook up with one of my favorite college swim buddies, Becki, to make the short drive to Tempe from Tucson with her and Coach Jim of Ford Aquatics Masters.  Of course my stomach was trembling as we approached the familiar roads leading to the pool.  What was I thinking…what if I don’t swim fast?  After all, these were my old stomping grounds when I was at the top of my game back in the day!  I tell myself to settle down, this is Masters Swimming…it’s all for fun!

Becki and Francie

Becki and Francie

As I enter the pool, I see a familiar face from college swimming, and then another.  And then, I see someone from my age group swimming days!  Now this is fun…who cares how I swim!  Oh, and one of the stroke and turn judges (who competed one day and then officiated the next)…yep…she officiated when I was an age grouper!  How cool is that?

Ok…time to warm up.  I’m proudly wearing an Oregon Masters Swim Cap, and I don’t swim more than a 50 when a gal asks if I am the only one from Oregon?  Yes, I am!  Good luck she says, and swims on her way.  Oh no, here comes the nervous stomach again.

As I get ready to race, I see a few more familiar faces, meet some new ones, and look at the heat sheet.  Oh great…I’m swimming next to Dean Hagen, a fellow Wildcat from U of A, (but he was a SPRINTER!!) in the 200 free, my first race.  I go and find him and ask him if he is going to go out super-fast?  Oh no, he insists…I’m not as fast as I used to be.  Well guess what…neither am I!  Long story short, he beats me, but I hung in there, finishing a few seconds behind him.

I swam seven events throughout the weekend, either just beating my best time, or coming pretty close.  I don’t pay too much attention to times while at meets, but rather wait for the results to come out a few days later on line.  I was excited to see that I broke the Oregon State Record in that 200 SCM free…( I keep chasing my good friend Karen Andrus-Hughes’ records every meet!) and improved some top twelve times.  So, overall, I was happy with my swims.

My entire family came to watch me, and had a great time.  They, too, knew lots of people, as we were a swimming family all through my childhood, high school, and college years.  It was pretty great to have them all there.

The pool is awesome, the people are amazing, and it’s a great time of year to visit Arizona.  I, happily, even got a little sunburned, but was never hot.  The weather is perfect in Arizona this time of year.  The pool is a great one, and the area is super nice.  I actually can’t believe I am boasting about ASU.  It’s usually unheard of coming from a Wildcat!  There are some new renovations since I swam there 30 years ago…pitchforks and flames are everywhere!  Even on the backstroke flags!  A little distracting during my backstroke races, but it does look pretty cool.

All in all, it is a great place to visit, at a perfect time of year, and a fun time was had by all.  I hope that I will make this a tradition in my fall competition schedule, and that some of my fellow OMS teammates will join me next year!  It was a great experience that I hope to repeat for years to come.

Accomplishments of Francie Haffner

Catalina High School (AZ) Swimming Accomplishments:

  • 4-time State Champion – 100 Freestyle (1981-85)
  • 4-time State Champion – 200 Freestyle (1981-85)
  • NHSA High School All-American in Freestyle events (1985)

Division 1 Swimming Accomplishments at the University of Arizona:

  • PAC-10 Champion – 200 Freestyle (1987-1990)
  • NCAA Champion – 200 Freestyle (1987-1990)
  • 4 time All-American selection (1987-1990)

U.S. National Team Accomplishments:

  • Olympic Trials Qualifier in 1984 & 1988, placing 7th in the 200 Freestyle finals (1988)
  • Member of the USA National Team in 1985, 1987 and 1989

Francie was featured in a “Swimmer Spotlight” in the February, 2018, Aqua Master.


Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.

4 thoughts on “Winter Swimming in Arizona

  • James O'Leary

    Super article. Well written. You are fortunate, that you have the opportunity to do what you love to do. It was like ole times going to a swim meet. And so much fun. Xolpdm

  • Francie Haffner

    Thank you for asking me to write the article! It was fun. I just want to clarify that a few of my “accomplishments” are incorrect. While I was the Pac10 champion in the 200 free, I believe it was only one year, not multiple years! And while I did make the top 8 finals at NCAA’s several times, I was not the NCAA Champ in 200 free, I was
    The U.S. National Champ in the 200 meter (long course) free in 1987. Ok, I feel better about getting that out! Thank you again OMS…see you in the pool! Francie Haffner