Greensburg man going the extra distance in Greensburg YMCA pool

| Thursday, Jan. 10, 2013, 8:58 p.m.

Something he began nine years ago as a way to stay physically fit has become an obsession for John Kuzmkowski of Greensburg.

Kuzmkowski, who will be 59 on Thursday, logged 1,700.28 miles in 2012 as a member of the U.S. Masters Swimming Go the Distance program at the Greensburg YMCA.

In the national program, swimmers 18 and older report, on an honor system, the distances they swim throughout the year. Results are listed online.

Swim caps, swim suits and other sports equipment are awarded to swimmers when they reach certain milestones.

Of 3,451 participants reported so far, Kuzmkowski was one of only four who swam at least 1,500 miles. He finished second to Timothy J. Martin, 47, of the Caltech Masters of Pasadena, Calif., who topped the list with 2,033.76.

Kuzmkowski far exceeded the goal he set in 2004, when, at age 50, he aimed to swim 2,000 miles in 10 years to mark his 60th birthday.

“I started at 200 miles a year, then I kicked it up to 365 to 400, and 700 to 800, and finally, 1,700,” he said. “You find yourself doing more and more.”

Kuzmkowski swims twice a day, seven days a week.

He is in the pool for 70 minutes early in the morning and 90 in the afternoon.

One day, he swam 7.5 miles.

Jennifer Prohaska, senior program director at the Greensburg YMCA, admires Kuzmkowski's intensity.

Kuzmkowski said Prohaska and others at the YMCA always have been helpful in finding a lane in which he can swim.

Skip Stewart of Greensburg Country Club has been kind, too, providing space when the YMCA closes in the summer, Kuzmkowski said.

A competitive swimmer in high school, Kuzmkowski finds Go the Distance a good fit.

“I'm used to all the work,” he said. “It helps that I have goggles.

“Back in high school, we didn't use them. I was always getting chlorine in my eyes.”

Kuzmkowski uses six to seven chlorine-resistant swim suits and 14 or 15 pairs of goggles a year.

In addition to Go the Distance, Kuzmkowski ranks third in the men's 55-59 age division as a competitor in the Allegheny Mountain YMCA Masters Swimming Association, which spans parts of Pennsylvania, New York, Maryland, Ohio and West Virginia.

Mark Barnhart, a meet director with Allegheny Mountain YMCA Masters, considers Kuzmkowski's accomplishments extraordinary.

“It a huge time commitment,” said Barnhart, who also swims with Kuzmkowski at the Greensburg YMCA.

Kuzmkowski works for his family's business as a roofing contractor.

Married for 34 years, he and his wife, Stephanie, have two children and two grandchildren.

“I think my wife worries that I'm swimming too much, but I think she's also happy I found something I enjoy and it's keeping me healthy,” Kuzmkowski said.

Karen Kadilak is a freelance writer.

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