SwimmingPotomac River Swim to Honor Veterans, Encourage Open Water Events

Potomac River Swim to Honor Veterans, Encourage Open Water Events

Potomac River Swim to Honor Veterans, Encourage Open Water Events

On Sept. 11, 2022, JP Vanderloo, a senior at Loudoun County High School and leader in their NJROTC program, will participate in a 20.5-mile marathon swim along the Potomac River as it winds through DC. The course will start slightly north of Georgetown, and will end just south of Mount Vernon.

“The swim will be dedicated to those who lost their lives in the 9-11 attacks, especially the members of our military at the Pentagon,” Vanderloo said. “When I swim along the Potomac, I’ll be passing the memorials to our armed forces. I’ll remember the service of my great-grandfather, grandfather, and dad as I swim by them.”

The team also plans to hold a solemn moment as they swim by the Pentagon.

Vanderloo’s relay partner will be John Devost, a senior at Independence High School. JP and John are teammates on Nation’s Capital Swim Club under the coaching of Jessica Mack. Denis Crean and Jim Loreto of WaveOne Open Water Swimming are the event organizers.

The marathon swim is fundamental to a larger project Vanderloo has undertaken to open the entire Potomac River to regular swimming events. Last year, JP was elected to the board of Potomac Valley Swimming (PVS) on a platform of increasing opportunities for open water swimming. PVS is the area’s local organization representing USA Swimming, and covers the 12,000 student-athletes who compete in DC and large parts of Virginia, Maryland, and Delaware.

Photo Courtesy: Peter Vanderloo

“Open water swimming is a unique aspect of the sport, and one that can let you participate on the national and international stages, including the Olympics,” Vanderloo said. He should know, having previously qualified for USA Swimming Open Water Junior Nationals, where he competed against open water swimmers from across the entire US. “By opening the length of the Potomac River to routine swimming, it’s my goal to make the already amazing PVS swimmers internationally competitive in open water events.”

Vanderloo’s goal seems within reach. While currently events like JP and John’s marathon swim in the Potomac are subject to regulatory approval, the future seems bright. The Potomac Riverkeepers Network (PRKN) has been monitoring the health of the Potomac for years. “We at PRKN dream of a (near) future when we can overturn the D.C. swim ban and reinstate swimming for the first time since the 1920s. . . . this vision is achievable,” wrote Randy Benn, chair of PRKN. Indeed, WaveOne’s Denis Crean agrees about the restored health of the Potomac. “It’s clean 350 days a year,” Crean says. “And it’s our home. It’s beautiful.”

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Along with PVS Chair Tim Husson, Vanderloo has formed a new open water committee at PVS composed of coaches, officials, and swimmers collaborating to achieve this vision. They’ll work with the local community, including Crean and Loreto, to revisit the DC rules that limit others from enjoying the breathtaking views of DC while swimming in the Potomac River. “I’ve been swimming in the Potomac since age 11. Swimming is a lifetime sport”, added JP. “When more and more people have the opportunity to experience open water in the Potomac River, they’ll realize the lifelong benefits, just as I did.”

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