Arizona swimmers swam into the Guinness Book of Records on Sunday in north Phoenix, besting a record held by English swimmers for most relays in one hour.
The event, called Kids Saving Kids Relay, attracted friends and family members of more than 236 swimmers to the Paradise Valley Pool with a goal: Get 205 swimmers to finish relays in an hour. That would surpass an existing 204-participant relay on record in the same time by English swimmers in 2007.
Eight minutes before the 8:30 a.m. deadline, Joe Zemaitis, who coordinated the relay, became the 205th swimmer to finish the relay, breaking the English swimmers' record. When the event ended, the record reached 234 swimmers in an hour.
"I was pretty confident that we would break the record, but we went above and beyond my expectation," Zemaitis said. "It's great to see the community around an event that broke the world record."
Zemaitis, who is founder and president of the Foundation for Aquatic Safety and Training, said the group planned to submit its paperwork to Guinness in London to become certified.
A majority of the swimmers who participated belong to Zemaitis' competitive team called Swim Neptune.
The event drew coaches, Olympians, swimming teams and residents from around the Valley and state. It also included Phoenix Councilman Claude Mattox, an advocate for water safety and a former competitive swimmer, who kicked off the relay race by hitting the pool first.
Cole Whitener, 9, belongs to Zemaitis' Swim Neptune. The fourth-grader at Desert Shadows Elementary was swimmer No. 105 in the relay.
He has been a swimmer since age 4 and said swimming helps control his asthma.
When the time came for him to swim Sunday, thoughts of "just try to finish fast" floated through his mind, he said. His biggest fan at the event was his mother, Sherry Whitener.
Other participants include Argentine Olympian Florencia Szigeti, a Scottsdale resident. The 27-year-old represented her country twice, in the 2000 and 2004 Olympics.
Szigeti, who brought two friends to the event, said it was an honor to be one of the Arizona swimmers who broke a Guinness record. The Arizona State University alumnus, who continues to swim, reflected on her time as an Olympian.
"To be part of an Olympic team is to go beyond the competition," she said. "You are very proud of representing your country, being part of a city, learning about other cultures."
For information about the Foundation for Aquatic Safety and Training and its programs, visit thefastfoundation.org.
Reproduced with permission from:
©Copyright 2008 The E.W. Scripps Co.
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