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Swim team crosses Lake Mary Ronan

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LAKE MARY RONAN — Some kids spend their final days of summer soaking up the sun on the docks at Salish Point or diving off the seawall at nearby Sacajawea Park, but on Aug. 4 the Lake Monsters swim team took their summer adventuring to different waters.

Joining distance swimmer Emily von Jentzen of Kalispell on the 12th leg of her 30-60-90 charity swim challenge, nearly a dozen Lake Monsters, both youth and Masters swimmers, traveled to Lake Mary Ronan to swim about a mile with von Jentzen, sporting bright balloons tied to their suits. A handful of kayakers and paddleboarders watched over the small school of swimmers, who waded gingerly through the tall plants lining the shore and pushed off into open water to meet von Jentzen.

“I think the biggest challenge for all of them at first was there were so many weeds along the shore and the water was murky … they were kind of freaked out by that,” swim coach and Masters swimmer Ali Bronsdon said.

The young athletes discussed strategy while waiting for von Jentzen to return from swimming to the end of the lake and when her bobbing white cap neared, the pack took off in a flurry of splashing. Despite a strong breeze that threatened to push the group into the shore, they reached their goal, the boat launch area at Lake Mary Ronan State Park, about an hour after setting out.

Von Jentzen kept going to complete the length of the lake, a total of 2 miles, and was joined by Lake Monster Landon Shipley, 15. 

The first woman to swim the length of Flathead Lake (30 miles) in 2010 — she did it in just 18 1/2 hours — von Jentzen also founded a nonprofit called Enduring Waves to help local kids battling serious health issues. Her current project is called 30-60-90 — she is swimming across 30 Montana lakes in 60 days for a total of 90 miles in the water. And it’s all to raise money for Lily Crist, a 15-year-old battling a hereditary blood disorder called thallassemia, and Hayden Sherman, a Bigfork teenager with multiple disabilities. Lily’s siblings swim on the Lake Monsters and 14-year-old Elissa and 12-year-old Tiana both did the Lake Mary swim.

“I think for our team being part of that event was great,” Bronsdon said. “When we found out (Lily was sick) we had a big event at the pool; all the kids cut their hair … since then it’s been hard to feel close to Lily while she’s been gone to Seattle for treatment. So it was nice for the kids to feel like they could contribute and be a part of raising money for her.”

After swimming Bowman and Kintla lakes in Glacier over the weekend, von Jentzen says, “I get a few days off now, but with lakes 15 and 16 in the books, I am now over halfway (both in numbers of lakes and miles). Yippee!”

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