September 11, 2021
8 a.m. Ohio Street Beach, Chicago, Illinois
George F. Wendt (1947-2021)
The morning of Big Shoulders XXX began with a beautiful sunrise, calm, warm (70F) water, and clear skies. As swimmers amassed on the beach, the excitement for our return to Lake Michigan as an organized event after 2 years was palpable. The race began like so many other years, with the UIC Men's and Women's swimmers cheering us on as we charged into the lake to start our waves. Our good friend, George Wendt, entered the water as he has for every Big Shoulders, and by all accounts was excited for a good race. What none of us knew was that this would be his last Big Shoulders.
As we mourn the loss of our good friend, a role model and a swimming icon, it is incredibly difficult not to feel sorry for ourselves as we contemplate this tragic loss. George was one of the best people I had the pleasure to call friend. But I have been reminded by many including his family that George died doing something he loved, swimming Big Shoulders.
For those who can make it, a memorial gathering will be held the morning of October 3, 2021 (George's birthday) at Promontory Point. Details on the time will be posted here. Here is a nice story about George that came out today.
Despite the loss of our hero, 775 swimmers completed Big Shoulders XXX, 464 in the 5K, and 311 in the 2.5K. Congratulations to Heidi Musser, who once again completed Big Shoulders as a blind swimmer, with the aid of Andy Holck. Congrats also to all of our swimmers who were able to overcome adversity and complete the distance.
Results are available here. Congratulations to Tyler Hines (1:08:45), the Men's 5K winner, followed by Craig Frederiksen and Devon Healy in second and third, respectively. For the ladies, Danielle Schumacher took the top honors at 1:09:11, followed by Lola Mull and Ashley Whitney. For the neoprene dependent (wetsuit division), 25 yr old Bailey Biwer edged out Chicago Masters' own consigliare, Bob Lewis in a time of 1:11:31. Brady Anderson came in third. For the women, Polly Surhoff swam 1:17:43 for the win, with Maggie Alexander in second, and Kellie Moran-Jones in third.
For the 2.5K, Alex Van Huis took the honors for the men, in 39:03, with Alec Mull and John Kennedy filling out the top spot. Kelly Perry (41:01) edged out Kelsey Prasse (41:11) in the women's 2.5K, with Julie Peterson in third. On the wetsuit side, Fares Ksebati blazed in at 34:58, with Mark Hallman and John Kennedy going 2, 3. For the women, Jessica Achstatter won it with a time of 39:28, followed by Jennifer Vallo and Karen Glenn.
Thanks to the Chicago Park District Lifeguards, the Chicago Fire Department Marine Unit, Lifeline Ambulance, and all of our amazing volunteers from UIC Men's and Women's Swimming and Diving for helping make this race possible.
While it will be difficult to move forward, we know George would want Big Shoulders to continue, so we will soldier on without our fearless leader. Big Shoulders will return in 2022 on September 10, 2022. Registration will open on March 1, 2022.