• Last modified 928 days ago (Oct. 7, 2021)


She's in the swim of things for the long haul

Staff writer

Throughout her childhood, Cheri Ochs Wheeler’s father, Vincent Ochs, fostered her love of swimming.

He took her to lakes and pools to swim when she was as young as 6 months old.

“I love to swim and I swam with my dad as a little, little girl,” Wheeler said. “My mom carted me around to swimming lessons. My mom, Gloria Ochs, actually signed the petition to have the Cottonwood Falls pool.”

She has many happy memories of her times in the water.

“I remember diving off his shoulders in the Chase County lake,” she said. “He even took me to the LaCrosse pool when it opened.”

On Thursday, Wheeler reached a goal she set for herself three years ago. She swam 200 miles in one year.

That’s 7,000 laps in 365 days.

The first year she tried, she set a goal of 100 miles, but reached only 80.

The following year, while swimming in Andover, she heard about a 200-mile club and a 500-mile club.

“I thought, I wonder if I could get 200,” she said. “I got 186.”

In 2020, COVID-19 interfered with her plans because Marion’s pool was closed for months.

When the pool reopened, she set a new 200-mile goal, with September 2020 as her starting point.

“This year, I swam a lot to make sure I got it done,” she said. “I swam very regularly.”

She worked toward her goal by swimming five days most weeks.

When she realized she lagged behind, she shared her goal with her water aerobics students, who cheered her on and nudged her to the finish line.

To catch up, she swam six days a week, twice swam seven days a week, and some days swam more than once.

One of the things Wheeler likes best about swimming is the camaraderie among swimmers.

“With people who come here, it’s really a culture of health, and people support what others are doing,” she said.

But there are other reasons she likes swimming.

“It’s very relaxing,” she said. “It just feels good.”

Swimming has been good for her health, she said, and has other benefits for her.

“I ride bikes also and I find the breathing that you do with swimming really helps you with other things,” she said. “Swimming is such a good form of exercise.”

It’s also good in other ways.

“I do think it’s really helpful for your mental health,” she said. “With that beautiful blue water, it lifts your spirits.”

She finds a spiritual aspect to swimming, as well. It reminds her of her father.

“Lots of times, I even feel his presence when I’m swimming,” she said.

She might challenge herself to swim 200 miles again this coming year. But if she does, one thing will be different.

“I’m going to make sure I don’t get behind this year,” she said.

Last modified Oct. 7, 2021