Off the Clock: Public Policy Adjunct Is Master Swimmer

Posted: December 19, 2006 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By David Driver

Frank Manheim, as a student at Harvard University in the early 1950s, was among the top 10 college students in the country in springboard diving.

Now, more than 50 years later, he is again one of the top athletes in the country – this time in Masters adult swimming, where he currently holds the top time in 2006 for the 50 meters long course backstroke (42.5).

“It is a demanding athletic undertaking,” says Manheim, an adjunct professor in the School of Public Policy (SPP). “But it pays off in terms of health, fellowship and ego gratification … because medals get easier the older you get.”

Frank Manheim
Frank Manheim
Photo courtesy Frank Manheim

Manheim began Masters swimming in 2003 after retiring from a 36-year career as a research geochemist with the U.S. Geological Survey. He joined the School of Public Policy the same year, cooperating with Don Kash, an internationally-known expert in science and technology policy who has since retired.

In August of this year, Manheim competed in the world championships in Palo Alto, Calif., in an overall field that included more than 7,000 swimmers from about 73 countries. The Fairfax resident competed in the 75-79 age group, and was third in the 50-meter and 100-meter backstroke.

Manheim notes that people in their 60s and 70s usually see their times decrease markedly. “But thanks to good coaching and improved swimming skills, my times have actually improved since I started. This shows how much more efficient modern strokes and other techniques have become.”

Manheim trains four times a week with the Reston Masters Swim Team at the Reston Community Center, where his coach is Frank Koval. He swims 90 minutes each on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and one hour on Saturdays and Sundays.

Manheim plans to compete in late May in the one-mile Open Water championships at Lake Audubon in Reston. He may compete in the FINA World Championships, to be held in Melbourne, Australia, in 2008.

Before he began competing, Manheim observed a Masters meet at Mason in 2003. He explains that he didn’t want to embarrass himself, so he scouted his future competitors.

“This is a very active region (in Masters swimming), with some excellent clubs,” he says.

Since then, he has competed several times at Mason. “It is always a pleasure to compete at the Mason pool,” says Manheim, who notes that besides the excellent facilities, Mason students who serve as timers and officials are efficient and courteous.

Manheim grew up in Kansas City, Mo., and says both of his parents were good athletes. His father, a long-time professor in Kansas City, was born in Hungary, fought in World War I and died about four years ago at the age of 102.

Away from the water, Manheim’s research at Mason includes the study of conflict between environmentalists and industry in the United States, which he concludes is a major cause of political polarization and gridlock. He is also planning research with Connie McNeely, associate professor in SPP, on aspects of African American educational history in the United States.

In addition to his undergraduate degree from Harvard, Manheim has a master’s degree from the University of Minnesota and a doctorate from the University of Stockholm in Sweden.

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