While many are left struggling to find a way to help amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, a few members of an Arizona club managed to do so whilst incorporating the sport they love.
A group of athletes from Swim Neptune, one of the top programs in Arizona, led by National Age Group Record holder Keaton Jones, put together the “Going the Extra Mile Challenge” that began on the morning of June 6 and wrapped up just over 24 hours later.
The challenge saw five individual swimmers, along with two relays, swim 25 miles in 24 hours — one mile at the top of each hour — finishing with the 25th mile once the 24 hours had wrapped up (hence the “extra mile”). It took place at Moon Valley Country Club in Phoenix.
The swimmers also did each leg individually, going one at a time in more of a relay format. One mile translates to just over 1,750 yards, so each athlete that completed the challenge individually ended up doing approximately 43,750 yards.
The challenge’s objective was to raise money for COVID-19 PPE and medical supplies, with the funds being distributed across Arizona to retirement homes, assisted living and long-term care facilities.
— Collin Harmon (@CollinHarmonTV) June 1, 2020
Jones, 15, broke the United States NAG last October in the boys 13-14 LCM 200 backstroke in a time of 2:00.28, and this challenge was put into action when he was forced to shift his focus from the Olympic Trials that were postponed until 2021.
“As you can imagine, I was excited and nervous to compete on the biggest stage in my sport at Olympic Trials,” Jones wrote on his fundraising page. “As COVID has taken over our world, it makes you stop and think. I have my dreams, but that does not seem so important right now. The amount of suffering that COVID has caused has really opened my eyes to what is important in life. I will always pursue my dreams, but only at the right time.”
Joining Jones in the challenge were teammates Devin Esser and Tal Spector, along with coach John Zemaitis and his brother.
“In the state of Arizona, well over 50% of COVID deaths occur in our most vulnerable population,” Jones said of the reasoning for where the money is being distributed. “During this difficult time, Devin and I began to search for ways we could help our community.
“We all are in this together. At 15 there is only so much I can do, but I will do my best by doing what I love…swimming with purpose.”
The club has raised close to $35,000 up until this point, with a new goal of $40,000. Initially, the goal was $25,000 — $1,000 for each mile.
The Neptune Swimming Foundation has been purchasing supplies and will distribute them throughout the month of June.
You can donate to the cause here.