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Recreational athlete becomes competitive

Not all athletes who compete in the Sonoma Wine Country Games are seasoned competitors. Ilene Reeve, a recreational swimmer for several years, decided last year to “up her game” and train for competition at the 2015 Games.

“Because I was turning 60, I decided to throw a challenge my way. I had a friend who had entered the senior games a few years ago, and I thought ‘well if she could do it, I can do it,’” said Reeve. “So I hired a coach and gave myself several months to work up to it.”

Reeve found a coach who taught a master class in swimming at the Santa Rosa Junior College and worked with her once a week to learn the techniques needed for competition. “I’m a competent swimmer,” noted Reeve. “So I could swim distance, but I never went for speed, never jumped off the block, never did a flip turn. So that was all part of the challenge for me.”

Reeve practiced the techniques diligently during her 6 am lap swims at the YMCA. A full- time dental practice manager in Santa Rosa, she had established a pattern of swimming before work.

When the day of the Games swim competition arrived at the Quinn Swim Center at the SRJC, she “showed up kind of shaking in my bathing suit,” but quickly gained confidence by winning three gold medals, in the 25, 50 and 200 meter freestyle events for the women’s 55 to 59 age group. “But the actual win was that I put myself out on a limb to do something I had never done before,” Reeve concluded.

Reeve experienced an even greater win earlier in her life by recovering from a severe case of chronic fatigue syndrome that affected her in 1998, 1999 and 2000. “When I had chronic fatigue, I couIdn’t work and was on disability,” said Reeve. “It took years for me to feel like a fully functioning person. I just kept pushing.”

A key part of her recovery has been exercise, including swimming and swing dancing. “I’m primarily a lindy hop dancer; my husband is a west coast swing dancer, and we meet somewhere in the middle and make it work,” Reeve said with a laugh.

She enjoys the social and intergenerational aspects of swing dancing. ”You can go anywhere and meet people of all ages. In one evening, I could dance with a 16-year-old or I can dance with an 80-year-old and it doesn’t matter.”

Reeve found her experience at the Games similarly rewarding. “I never thought I would compete. But I found the experience was very warm and inviting. It’s the camaraderie. You don’t even know one another and you are rooting for each other.”

If you’re an aspiring athlete, fierce competitor, or just a sports hobbyist, don’t forget to register for your favorite sport at the Sonoma Wine Country Games. You can take advantage of Early Bird Registration now through April 15 at

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