Jim Clements started swimming laps at Union College’s Larson Lifestyle Center in 1984 — just a couple of years after the pool opened. Now 9,000 miles later, he’s swum far enough to cross the Atlantic and back and made some great friends along the way.
Although Clements didn’t have any connections to Union or the Seventh-day Adventist church, he loves to swim and found Larson’s pool to be very convenient.
He developed a love for swimming during his days spent lifeguarding in Japan, where he lived while his father was stationed at a naval base in Tokyo. During his time in Japan as a high schooler he taught swimming lessons to sailors and others in the area.
Clements swam competitively in high school and looked for a location near his home to continue practicing his swimming skills. Larson Lifestyle Center proved to be the perfect spot, allowing Clement to get in a daily swim 5:45 a.m. before breakfast and the start his workday at Lincoln Machine, Inc., where he worked as a toolmaker.
Now retired, he continues to swim in Larson’s pool because of the supportive swimming and workout community that formed around him. “There was a good group of people there and I developed friendships among the other members and some of the students who worked as lifeguards,” he explained.
9,000 miles of community
Clements’ 9000 miles in Larson’s junior Olympic-sized 25 meter pool means Clements has swum more than 579,000 laps in the past 36 years.
“I’m not sure I was even counting when I first started to swim,” he said. “But around ’86 they gave me a T-shirt. They gave out a T-shirt if you swam 100 miles in a year.” This inspired him to begin tracking the fitness center. “I would continue to swim even if they weren’t recording laps,” Clements said. He could swim and record laps at any other pool in Lincoln, but he wouldn’t have the same community that is offered through Larson Lifestyle Center.
The 100-mile club and the 2,000-mile mark
One of the friendships Clements formed through the Larson Lifestyle Center is with Jean Heuke. She began frequenting the center in 2010 when she and her husband moved to Lincoln after he retired. Heuke is not a Union College alumnus but, like Clements, she lives near the school. She joined the center to exercise and started attending water aerobics, then began swimming laps with her husband.
When she found out about the 100-mile club it caught her attention, and she has been involved in this motivational group ever since. “If you reach 100 miles — either swimming or walking — we have a recognition gathering,” explained Heuke. The group recognizes each person with a T-shirt or other reward, depending on their achievement. “So far, I have received a plaque and a jacket. And I’m close to the 2,000-mile mark,” she said.
Heuke built many relationships through the Larson Lifestyle Center as she became more connected in its strong community. “I’ve made friends at Larson. We talk to each other and look forward to seeing each other. Jim Clements and I even have a little competition to see who can get the 100 miles first each year,” laughed Heuke. “We just do it in fun— no actual competition. We do it as a motivator.”
Heuke said she has also felt a significant improvement in her health since she began swimming at Larson’s pool. She has enjoyed swimming since she was young, but where she lived before moving to Lincoln didn’t have a pool. “Being in a warm water pool has helped me a lot health-wise,” she said.
She also made friends with Larson Lifestyle Center Director Maria dos Santos, back when Maria worked at the pool as a Union student.
“Maria was a student teaching autistic kids on Sunday afternoons and I was going to the pool,” said Heuke. “Sometimes the pool would get to be full, and I would let her work with the kids in my swimming lane. And we just got to be really good friends. We still have lots of laughs when we see each other.”
58 memorial gifts toward something better
When Larson Lifestyle Center opened, it was a health facility for Union College students, but it quickly turned into more than that through individuals like Jim Clements and Jean Heuke. It has offered the Lincoln community and Union College a way to connect and grow with each other through health and exercise.
Clements and Heuke are two examples of community members who have built a deep, lasting connection with Union College solely through the Larson Lifestyle Center. Neither attended Union College. Both found the college and its warm community by using the resources offered to them by the fitness center.
The level of care and connection offered by the fitness center is unique. “It’s like a supportive family,” says Heuke. “If we know somebody has had something difficult happen to them, we try to be there for them with prayer and listening.”
Heuke has even become a strong donor for the school and has given 58 gifts to Larson honoring people across the community since September 2014. “I just feel like something good can come out of it through Larson,” said Heuke.
The right time for better athletic facilities
The upcoming expansion to create the AdventHealth Complex offers a way to build on these strong relationships and increase the school’s connection with the community. Clements and Heuke both offered supportive words for the upcoming expansion, saying they are excited to see the upgrades and additions coming to the fitness center.
“I think it’s a good time to have better athletic facilities,” said Clements, adding that it is important that the school maintains the community access to the facilities. “I think that’s always been a good thing,” he said.
“I’m very excited about it—very positive about it,” Heuke said of the AdventHealth Complex. “They’re going to do a lot of improvements at the pool, which need to be done. And they’re going to have a walking track! If I get injured and can’t use the pool, I can use that,” she added.
They both hope that students use the new facility as well. “I’m hoping more students come and use it,” said Heuke. Clements added that he recommends students use the facilities that are available to them, and get into an exercise routine early in their lives.
Through members like Clements and Heuke, Lincoln community members and Union College students can learn that the Larson Lifestyle Center—and the upcoming AdventHealth Complex — is much more than a fitness facility. It is a community—both for the school and the people of Lincoln.
by Brennan Hallock ’11