The Tradition Continues: Presenting the 8th Annual Rowdy Gaines Masters Classic in Orlando, Florida

The Tradition Continues:
Presenting the 8th Annual Rowdy Gaines Masters Classic in Orlando, Florida

By Julia Galan

Hurricane Matthew had a long-lasting impact  on many parts of Florida this fall, but that hasn’t stopped a strong swimming tradition from continuing at the YMCA Aquatic Center in Orlando, Florida this December. The 8th Annual Rowdy Gaines Masters Classic, a unique short course meters competition, was scheduled to take place in October, but has been rescheduled for this weekend, the 16th-18th of December, 2016. Hosted by the YMCA of Central Florida Masters, the Rowdy Gaines Classic offers an opportunity for all levels of Masters swimmers – from beginner to elite – the opportunity to share the pool deck in a simultaneous celebration of camaraderie and fast competition.

(“Making A Splash” courtesy of Growing Bolder)

With its unofficial motto of “Fast, Fun and Friendly”, the event has seen a number of unique competitors over the course of its existence. From a 360-399 age group world record-setting relay team, to several multi-generation swimming families to a number of international athletes, the Rowdy Gaines Classic is a delightful blend of variety in a 3-day championship style format at a world-class facility.

Although the competition has been host to a variety of world, national, regional and personal records, the Rowdy Gaines Classic is best-known for its inclusive nature. As meet namesake Rowdy Gaines explains, “…World records and fast swimming are wonderful, but for me this meet has always been about bringing together the swimming community, keeping it fun and maintaining that swimming family feel”. Adds meet director Scott Bay, “…as we can see, the level of competition across age groups is improving and this is becoming a faster and faster meet. But at the same time, it’s still inclusive. Our goal is always to protect the swimmer experience at any age or level and also make the meet something unique for all to enjoy so that participants will come back every year.” Indeed, the very idea of having beginners and world-class athletes racing together and cheering for each other embodies the goal of a shared passion for the sport of swimming.

In addition to the atmosphere on the pool deck, the location and venue are also tremendous draws for the Rowdy Gaines Classic. The YMCA Aquatic Center of Orlando is one of the largest indoor swimming complexes in the southeastern United States, hosting a variety of national and international competitions each year. Swimming greats as Michael Phelps, Katie Ledecky, Matt Biondi, and Janet Evans, among many others, grace the large record board on the far side of the pool deck. The YMCA itself is situated in the heart of Orlando’s International Drive, within walking distance of a wide variety of shops, restaurants and hotels– offering a perfect venue for post-meet relaxation and refreshment.

With a competition that is expecting over 349 participants this year comes a top-notch organizational team. Meet Directors Jillian Wilkins and Scott Bay, in addition to a full team of officials, timers and volunteers ensure a professional and friendly organization, making all feel welcome while running the meet in a timely and efficient manner. Meet namesake Rowdy Gaines himself is never absent from the pool deck, where you’ll find him swimming, cheering and chatting with friends and fans alike. Extra touches such as beautifully designed medals for first, second and third places, or specially designed Rowdy Gaines Classic t-shirts, are the perfect complement to an exciting meet.

With a fast pool, a 3-day championship style short course meters format, a dynamic and friendly atmosphere, and Orlando in October, who could pass up the opportunity to experience the 8th Annual Rowdy Gaines Classic?
Scott Bay, Jillian Wilkins, Rowdy Gaines and the YCF Masters team are looking forward to welcoming Masters swimmers of all ages, levels and nationalities to the YMCA Aquatic Center from December 16th-18th!

Looking forward to seeing you in Orlando!

(Left to right) Scott Bay, Jillian Wilkins and Rowdy Gaines led the organizing team

(Left to right) Scott Bay, Jillian Wilkins and Rowdy Gaines led the organizing team

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