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Ohio woman swimming length of Allegheny River

| Monday, Aug. 18, 2008

With Point State Park almost in her sights, swimmer Katie Spotz is close to a feat that not even super-Olympian Michael Phelps has accomplished.

Spotz, 21, of Mentor, Ohio, expects that by Wednesday morning, she will become the first person to swim the 325-mile length of the Allegheny River.

She and James Hendershott, 20, of Covington, Ga., who follows in a kayak, began their trip July 25 in Raymond, at the source of the Allegheny. They walked 16 miles along the water to Coudersport, where the water was deep enough to swim.

About 5 p.m. Sunday, Spotz swam into Freeport, stopping to refuel with a slice of pizza.

"It was a trying day of swimming," she said.

She planned to swim about two more miles before calling it a day.

Spotz has been averaging 10 to 15 miles a day; her best distance was 22 miles in a day. She wears a wetsuit, flippers on her feet and hands and a mask and snorkel to allow her to keep a steady pace.

When she encounters locks and dams, she gets out of the water and walks to the lower level.

Hendershott provides assistance and guidance for Spotz, as well as carrying their food and camping gear.

"Each day has provided us with new challenges and new adventures," she said. "We've seen some of the most beautiful landscape and wildlife along the way."

Spotz said several stretches of the river are secluded and on several occasions, the two went a day without seeing other people.

"The people we have met have been wonderful," Hendershott said. "People have allowed us to camp with them for the night and have given us food and water for the trip and helped us find the kayak when it was washed away near Parker."

Spotz said the river swim is a step in her training for rowing a boat solo across the Atlantic Ocean in December.

If successful, Spotz would be the first American to row the ocean from mainland Africa to mainland South America, as well as becoming the youngest person to do so.

Money raised by her river swim will go to the Blue Planet Run Foundation, which helps provide clean drinking water for people in Africa, Asia and elsewhere.

"Currently one in five people in the world do not have access to clean drinking water," Spotz said. "By swimming the length of the river, it helps raise awareness of the need for clean water and its importance to the environment."

Her journey would end at the Point, where the Allegheny joins the Monongahela River to form the Ohio River. Although she would be the first to swim the Allegheny, other swimmers have traveled the length of other rivers. Her Web site mentions Martin Strel, who swam the 2,360 miles of the Mississippi River in 2002.

Patrick Shuster of the Kittanning Leader-Times and Francine Garrone of the Valley News Dispatch contributed to this report. Additional Information:

Tracking the feat

For details on Katie Spotz's swim of the Allegheny River, visit here , here or here . Each site provides details of Spotz's travels and goals.

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