Two carp and 78 bass. That was the inventory of fish taken by Jenny Hodges in a serene Lake Oahe on Saturday morning.
She counted them during her 2.25-mile swim, from the west shore of the lake, along the face of the dam, to a spot on the east shore, down the hill from the Oahe Chapel. Counting fish in the clear water helps Hodges pass the time for the swim, which took her a little over an hour.
She was one of 32 registered swimmers for the fifth edition of the "I Swam the Oahe Dam" event in its current form. The swim across the dam face was revived based on an event that Hodges remembered from her youth. At that time, it was an age-group event for youngsters from 11 to 18 years. By the time she was old enough to participate, it was no longer being held.
The revival effort, which she pushed, started with a test swim six years ago, Hodges told the Capital Journal. For the last half decade it's been hosted by the Prairie Swim Team, a statewide organization, and sanctioned by U.S. Masters Swimming.
The designation "masters" just means older than 18, Saturday's winner, Megan Peterson, told the Capital Journal. She completed the swim in 51:56, which was a little outside the range of fastest times in years past that official timer Lisa Reuland described. But it was well under an hour, which seemed to be the informal standard that some of the top swimmers of the day were aiming for.
Peterson didn't compete in the other open water dam swim in South Dakota in early July – the PurePactola, on Pactola Lake in the Black Hills – because she was training for a 10K pool swim.
Second place finisher on Saturday, Mandi Meredith-Dunlop, finished the PurePactola as first competitor in the wetsuit competition. Unlike Peterson, Meredith-Dunlop wore a wetsuit for Saturday's swim, too, but said the water was warm enough that she briefly considered not donning the neoprene.
Weather conditions were ideal, several participants said. The National Weather Service recorded "CALM" at the 9:30 a.m. start and winds no stronger than 5 mph for the next couple hours. The haze from wildfires in the western part of the country didn’t impact the swim.
A flotilla of kayaks, and the Pierre fire department, rescue boat watched over the swimmers as they made their way across the waveless water. That made Meredith-Dunlop feel "safe and supported."
In college Meredith-Dunlop swam the 50M freestyle and the 100M butterfly
One of the swimmers on Saturday was content to dog paddle the whole way across the lake.
Not registered for the swim, but still earning a participation medal from her owner, Randy Turner, was Maggie, a black Labrador, who arrived at the western shore literally dog tired, maybe 30 yards from where Turner was standing – he'd finished ahead of her. But Maggie perked up when called by Turner, and trotted along the beach to put her nose right through the loop of the medal ribbon that Turner was holding open for her.