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by Daniel Paulling

August 7, 2022

Susan Souders swam in her first meet in 61 years with the help of her daughter, Lisa

Susan Souders didn’t know what to expect when she stepped onto the blocks for her first race at the 2022 U.S. Masters Swimming Summer National Championship.

She hadn’t swum in a competitive race in 61 years, not since being on a club team in 1961, and wasn’t sure she had the stamina required for the race, a 100 breaststroke. But her worries were unfounded: She finished fourth in the 75–79 age group with a time of 2:33.66.

“It was fun,” says Souders, 77, a member of San Diego Swim Masters. “It was fun.”

Souders’s return to competitive swimming started when her daughter, Lisa Souders, had a friend compete at the 2019 USMS Summer National Championship alongside her mother. Lisa Souders decided she wanted to swim with her own mother too because of everything she had done.

Susan Souders taught her daughter how to swim at a young age, served as a stroke and turn judge at her youth meets, traveled up and down the East Coast to watch her high school and college meets, and followed along with her Masters meets through a live stream.

“The way she worded [her request that I swim with her] was, ‘I want to compete in this swim meet with the person who gave me the love of swimming,’” Susan Souders says. “There was some trepidation. It was, like, ‘Am I actually going to be able to do it? And am I going to be able to do it in a competitive manner?’ I guess my competitive manner decided I’m going to swim, and I want to be able to do the best that I can. I’m glad I did.”

In a nod to her mother’s time officiating meets, Lisa Souders, 47, told her mother not to get disqualified for a false start and also told her to not do a belly-flop.

The advice was understandable. Blocks have changed much in the years since Susan Souders last competed, and she only had a limited opportunity to practice her start at the meet.

She held her arms back when told to take her mark, a callback to the “trophy starts” of yesteryear, and accomplished both of her daughter’s pieces of advice. However, water filled her goggles, adding another challenge to her swim.

“I couldn’t see a darn thing the entire way down or back,” she says. “I just kept swimming.”

Lisa Souders watched her mother’s start, walked down the pool deck to cheer her on from the turn end, and then walked back to the start end to give her a hug at the finish.

“I’m trying not to choke up,” Lisa Souders, a member of San Diego Swim Masters, says moments after her mother finished, her emotion causing her voice to strain.

Susan Souders also swam the 50 and 200 breaststroke, and did a mixed 200 freestyle relay and mixed 200 medley relay with her daughter. She did the second leg on both, handing the relay off both times to her daughter, who did the third leg.

“Being here with her, it’s just pretty cool,” Lisa Souders says. “It’s a bucket list [item].”

Summer Nationals won’t be the end of Susan Souders’s swimming days. After spending much of her life teaching swim lessons and swimming laps or with a Masters program, she intends to keep in the sport—with a helping hand from her daughter.

“I absolutely think it’s one of the best exercises anybody can do,” Susan Souders says, “and she makes sure I continue to do it.”


  • Human Interest


  • National Championships
  • USMS Nationals