By Diane Urbani de la Paz
Peninsula Daily News
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At SARC, Mollie Lingvall teaches children's swim lessons; other classes on the pool schedule include shallow-water aquarobics and deep-water Hydrofit classes at 9 a.m. and 10 a.m. weekdays and the Masters Swim Team at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. For fees and other information, visit SARC at 610 N. Fifth Ave., Sequim, phone 360-683-3344 or visit www.SARCfitness.com.
At the Port Angeles pool, Lingvall and coach Donna Thompson teach synchronized swimming at 8 a.m. Saturdays; Lingvall leads shallow-water aerobics at 8:30 a.m. Wednesdays. The many other classes and swim lessons at the Port Angeles pool include Aqua Zumba at 7 p.m. Mondays and Wednesdays and
6:15 a.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays; Water Walking at 10:30 a.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and Aerobics Combo at 8:30 a.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays.
For a schedule of all classes, swim lessons and prices, visit www.WilliamShorePool.org, the pool house at 255 E. Fifth St., or phone 360-417-9767. The pool will be closed May 27-June 23 for remodeling of the heating and air conditioning system and to switch to a salt disinfectant system.
Early on a chilly Saturday morning, Mollie Lingvall beams as she gets ready to glide into her element: the pool. This is her place, the place where she's not so much a racer as a buoyant ballet mistress in a circle of swimmers.
Yet Lingvall, 62, remembers what it was like to be a worried, motionless girl at the shallow end of the pool.
She started taking swimming lessons while a student at Jefferson Elementary School.
“I was pretty nervous about the water,” recalls Lingvall. “I finally got my feet off the bottom of the pool,” around 54 years ago.
That was back when the city of Port Angeles had an outdoor swimming facility. When the William Shore Memorial Pool was built, “it was like, wow, the Taj Mahal,” she remembers. The pool on Fifth Street is where she began her first career — with some encouragement from her mother.
“My mom wanted to keep me busy and out of trouble,” Lingvall said.
So at age 14 she took a water safety aide class, all while learning the art of synchronized swimming. Lingvall's coach was Mary Doherty, a woman just a few years older than she.
“We thought we were so cool, swimming to the music,” Doherty recalls.
She took her Port Angeles synchronized swimming team across the state to compete in places like Spokane; they even got to take a city car on these trips, which amazes her now. Coach Doherty was, after all, only 19 then.
She remembers Lingvall — then Mollie Davis — as a sweet-natured young teen.
“She had it,” Doherty said.
She still does.
“You can see her kindness,” added Doherty, watching Lingvall teach her own synchronized swimming group on a recent Saturday morning.
In addition to her open class in synchro, Lingvall teaches swimming lessons and classes for adults at both the Shore pool and the Sequim Aquatic Recreation Center, aka SARC.
“I'll teach anybody who wants to learn,” she says.
Lingvall has lived and swum all of her life in Clallam County — except for this past season, when she and her husband Keith went to Gold Canyon, Ariz., for a warmer winter. She taught swim classes there, too.
But Lingvall embarked on a whole other career. She grew up to become a legal secretary, then deputy clerk and ultimately, with her 1989 appointment, Clallam County Superior Court Clerk. She served until her retirement Jan. 13, 2006.
Today, Lingvall is in the midst of swimming career Part II, and enjoying every drop.
Back when she was 18, Lingvall completed a water safety instructor course — and after she retired from the courthouse, she knew she wanted to go back to the pool. She took the course again and joined the pool's faculty. Then, a couple of years ago, she started a synchronized swimming class with coach Donna Thompson.
Thompson, who had an illustrious synchronized swimming career when she was a girl in Iowa, is now one of Lingvall's biggest fans.
Three generations of swimmers have learned from Lingvall, Thompson pointed out. Whatever your age, swimming can keep you flexible, added Thompson, who, at 73, works out in the pool as well as at the YMCA, where she trains with weights.
Lingvall and Doherty, meanwhile, marvel at the variety of people who come to the pool.
“I just love the age mix here,” Doherty said of Lingvall's Saturday morning class. Practicing their synchronized moves together were two women and four girls, age 8 to 13.
“This is a sport they can do all of their lives,” Doherty added.
Lingvall too believes in the power of swimming to act as therapy. She's seen how this gentle exercise can turn a life around.
With her decades of teaching experience, Lingvall retains her humility. She encourages newcomers at her synchro class, using a voice soft and clear.
“Legs out, kick away,” Lingvall instructs. “One, two, three, pike!”
Under the surface they go, looking like mermaids.
“I want to see those feet . . . point those toes,” calls Thompson, observing from the pool's edge while talking with a reporter.
Synchronized swimming may look easy, but combining your swimming skills with the grace of a dancer — and doing it all together with the other swimmers — challenges body and mind.
At this pool, “I've met wonderfully interesting people,” Lingvall says. The water, after all, makes it possible for people of many sizes, shapes and abilities to swim together.
To keep her skills current, Lingvall attends trainings with the Aquatic Exercise Association, including “Boot Camp for Deep Water” in Spokane last Saturday and Sunday, April 20-21. With Becky Maltbie and Karen Hunt, also instructors at the Port Angeles pool, Lingvall returned home late last Sunday night with hopes to teach a boot camp-like program here.
“We had a lot of fun,” said Lingvall, though “my legs are like Jell-O.”
Like any veteran teacher, Lingvall brings her sense of humor with her into the pool. The youngest students help with that; she teaches private kids' lessons in Port Angeles and a class for children age 4 to 7 in Sequim.
At the synchronized swimming class in Port Angeles, she encourages swimmers to plunge into something new.
“Come try it out,” she says. “We're not strict. We're just happy when people come and try it.”
Yet there's one person Lingvall has not been able to turn into a devoted swimmer: the guy she met when they were in first grade together at Jefferson Elementary School. Keith, her husband of 40 years, didn't go for the pool so much; the baseball diamonds were his territory.
Today, at the 51-year-old Shore pool, Lingvall still revels in swimming with people of all ages. She's always updating her playlist for the water aerobics class, asking participants which songs inspire them.
And every so often, she feels that splash of exhilaration, courtesy of a youngster who's just lifted two feet off the floor of the pool for the first time to proclaim, “I can swim!”