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28th Annual Jim McDonnell Lake Swim

By Julia Galan

Lake Audubon

Lake Audubon

We first introduced you to Potomac Valley’s Reston Masters Swim Team (RMST) following the U.S. Masters Swimming Long Course Nationals back in August. After a successful swimming season – including a citation as SwimOutlet’s Club of the Month in October – the team is now gearing up to host the 28th Annual Jim McDonnell Lake Swim on May 23rd and 24th, 2015. As one of the only open water swims organized in the local area, the event has consistently attracted between 600-700 swimmers to its races and clinics over the past several years. The Lake Swim offers Masters swimmers ages 18 and older the opportunity to participate in a 1 or 2-mile competitive race around the beautiful Lake Audubon in Reston, Virginia, attend an open water clinic and even try out a 1-mile practice swim prior to race day. Add to that the fact that a portion of the proceeds from the swim are donated to local and nation-wide charities and you have the perfect early-season open water event!

First launched back in 1988 as the Reston 2-Mile Swim, the event was created as a way to contribute to the Potomac Valley LMSC (local masters swim committee) and to support the cause of United States Masters Swimming. “Masters swimming had given us so much, and we were only too happy to give something back,” said former JMLS Director Lynn Hazlewood. When Jim McDonnell, a founding member of Reston Masters in 1974 and a long-time Reston resident, swimmer and coach, passed away from non-Hodgkin lymphoma in 1998, the event was renamed the “Jim McDonnell Lake Swim” in his honor.

The event attracts between 600-700 swimmers every year.

The event attracts between 600-700 swimmers every year. (Photo courtesy of Katharyn Tupitza)

Over the years, the Lake Swim evolved from a ¼ mile cable course, to a ½ mile course, to the 1-mile open water loop course that is currently swum today. “We initially moved to the ½ mile course to cater to the triathlete community and have our swim imitate the Reston Triathlon course,” says Lynn Hazlewood. “In 2003, when we finally changed to the current course, the selling points of swimming on a rope had long been irrelevant. We wanted the new set up to be more like a real open water course, something which it turns out most of the swimmers preferred.” 2003 was also the year that the 1-mile swim was added to the repertoire in addition to the 2-mile swim – along with online entries and electronic timing, allowing the event to continue to grow into the high-quality event that it has become today.

Lake Audubon is the setting for the Jim McDonnell Lake Swim

Lake Audubon is the setting for the Jim McDonnell Lake Swim. (Photo courtesy of Katharyn Tupitza)

The Reston Masters Swim Team have also held firm to another unique aspect of the Jim McDonnell Lake Swim that has been in place since 1999 – the belief that giving is just as important as receiving. Each year, a portion of the proceeds from the event is donated to local and nation-wide charities. “Jim (McDonnell) was one of the first on RMST who thought we should share with charitable organizations and reinforced those thoughts shortly before he died,” shares Lynne Hook, former JMLS Director. “After naming the swim in his honor, we began our charitable giving to lymphoma research organizations – which in turn inspired us to expand our donations to other organizations. Although amounts given and recipients have increased over time, the majority of the JMLS donations go to the Lymphoma Research Foundation and to the local Reston community through the CornerStones organization. In the past, smaller donations have been given to charities that have an association with current RMST team members. Over the last 5 years, RMST has donated over $50,000 to charities.”

The Lake Swim attracts Masters swimmers, open water enthusiasts and triathletes alike.

The Lake Swim attracts Masters swimmers, open water enthusiasts and triathletes alike. (Photo courtesy of Katharyn Tupitza)

In addition to a meaningful history and a good cause, the venue alone is reason enough to give the JMLS a try. Lake Audubon is one of four man-made lakes in Reston, and also features an adjacent community pool nearby, which remains open to swimmers for warm-up and cool-down purposes during the event. The lake’s large boat ramp provides easy access to the water and serves as a perfect pre-race staging area. With calm conditions and excellent water quality that is tested each year, the lake provides the perfect setting for a swim that can be as laid-back or as fast as the individual participants want it to be. Indeed, an increasing number of registrants participating in both the 1 and 2-mile races indicate the growing appeal of the Lake Swim for open water enthusiasts.

Volunteer kayakers ensured the safety of the swimmers throughout the course.

Volunteer kayakers ensured the safety of the swimmers throughout the course. (Photo courtesy of Katharyn Tupitza)

One of the most important qualities for a well-received open water event to have is, of course, an exceptionally organized and welcoming host team. With twenty-eight years’ experience under their belt, the Reston Masters Swim Team members go above and beyond to ensure that participants have a safe, smooth and enjoyable experience. Says Larry Paulson, current JMLS Director, “…we want our event to be as swimmer-oriented as possible, and work hard to provide top notch organization, logistics, and safety so that participation is made as enjoyable and safe as possible for the swimmers. From accommodating swimmers with disabilities, to allowing participants the freedom to wear a wetsuit without any detriment in terms of scoring, to providing free refreshments and a full lunch for all swimmers, we have had many compliments over the years on how well-run the event is.”

Reston Masters are looking forward to welcoming you to Lake Audubon this May!

Reston Masters are looking forward to welcoming you to Lake Audubon this May!

And what are RMST’s goals for the future of the event? “We have consistently worked to enhance our event over the years,” John Carlson, JMLS Registrar, shares. “The Fitter & Faster clinic offered on Saturday, May 23rd, is the latest in a long line of enhancements. We’re hoping for successful entries, good competition, funds available to support the team and charities and the ability to continue to enhance the race and its benefits for swimmers.”

We hope so, too! Swimspire is excited about the 28th Annual Jim McDonnell Lake Swim, and we’re looking forward to seeing you there! For more information and to register, please visit:

2018 Jim McDonnell Lake Swim



Practice Calendar

Practice Hours 

    • Sunday: 7:00-8:00 pm
    • Tuesday/Thursday: 8:00-9:30 pm
    • Saturday: 6:50-8:50 am


            All practices at Reston Community Center

Practice Location:

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