For W. Jackson (Jack) Iliff, MD, swimming has always been part of life. It wasn't until he was in his 40s that he became involved in competitive swimming. And, it wasn't until 2005-2006 that swimming became an extraordinary accomplishment.
Dr. Iliff is a member of a relay team that swam the English Channel round-trip in September. He is 62.
A life on the water
As many children growing up in Annapolis do, Dr. Iliff spent ample time either in or on the water. Annapolis is situated along several rivers and the Chesapeake Bay, where favorite pastimes are swimming, fishing and crabbing, and sailing.
"I always swam, but I never had any formal instruction," said Dr. Iliff. "I played soccer my freshman year in college but decided at the end of the season to walk onto the swim team."
He swam in college but left the sport behind as he finished medical school and started his practice.
Always swim in a group
"It was the 1984 Olympics that rekindled my interest in swimming," said Dr. Iliff.
He and Sally joined a YMCA Masters Swim group in Anne Arundel County and began swimming and competing. They have been with their coach now for 20 years.
"Jack's a much better swimmer than I am," said Sally. They agree that they are not competitive with each other; they only encourage one another. Dr. Iliff credited his wife for getting him to practice when it's tough to get out of bed. "Practice can be boring and the pool so cold at 6 a.m.," he added.
With their Masters Swim group, they compete in YMCA Nationals each spring, and both have brought home many individual first-, second-, and third-place finishes. In 2005, Dr. Iliff placed first in the country (All-American) with a 400-Meter Individual Medley (IM) swim. The IM requires all four strokes-butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke, and freestyle-in one race. This event was, for that year, number two in the world and eighth best overall ever recorded in Masters competition.
"We do well in our age groups," said Dr. Iliff. "We can't help it if better swimmers don't show up to compete."
The Arundel Breakfast Club (ABC) is the informal group with which they swim.
"The ABC is a group of friends," explained Dr. Iliff. "We just fell in with each other."