Melissa finished her university swimming career with Brock University in the summer of 2005 and wanted that career to be topped with a "Big
Swim". She completed that Big Swim on 9-10 August 2005, at age 23, with a time of 16 hours 11 minutes to complete the Lake Ontario course from
Niagara-on-the-Lake to Marilyn Bell Park. Melissa's coach was Peter Bradstreet, her Manager Lynsey Rivest and four pacers were all members of
Brock University. Melissa and her exuberant crew are seen in the photo above.
Melissa's swim raised about $8,400 for cancer research at Sick Children's Foundation, Toronto. In the photo above, she's seen being welcomed at the finish by her mother.
With the risk of a thunderstorm forecast for late in the day of August 10, Swim Master, Marilyn Korzekwa, agreed to start the swim early in the evening of August 9 and reported:
Melissa applied lanolin only to chafing areas. The water was 79°F (26°C), the air was 80°F (27°C), and there was a southwest wind blowing in Niagara-on-the-Lake. Melissa, wearing a standard Speedo lycra suit and single competitive thin swim cap, started at 8:01 p.m. with a strong smooth stroke at 64 to 66 spm. We skirted the west side of the Niagara sandbar and then encountered 2-3 foot (up to 1m) rollers. Although the wind also created waves at an angle to the rollers, Melissa sliced through these without difficulty and, with the aid of the outflow of the Niagara River, covered 11.5 km (7.2 statute miles) in the first 2 ½ hours. Mercifully, the wind died down at around 1 a.m. and picked up some at 3:30, but did not cause problems again until after sunrise. During the night, the wind blew from 210° to 240° on the compass (SSW to WSW). The water temperature fell linearly throughout the swim, from a balmy 79°F to at the start and reaching 68°F (20°C) in the last 5 km. The air temperature was very good, starting at 80°F, dipping to 72°F at 4:20 in the morning, rising to 79°F by 07:50, before falling again to 70°F with the impending storm. With an 8-11 knot SW-SSW wind, the waves picked up to 1 metre during the final two hours, and Melissa completed the swim just two hours before the thunderstorm hit Toronto.
The following article on Melissa and her swim appeared in Canadian University Sports and provides a fine overview of her motivation and swimming career:
ST. CATHARINES - Brock University women's swimmer Melissa Brannagan became the 39th individual in history to swim across Lake Ontario as she completed the 51km swim from Niagara-on-the-Lake to Toronto in 16 hours and 11 minutes, one hour off the women's record. Her time is the fifth fastest time in history by a female swimmer. The last female to complete the swim was Nicole Mallette (Aug 8-9, 1997).
A very close friend of Melissa's lost her mother to cancer two years ago and she wanted to do something in her memory. And so in a sense, she took what she was most passionate about- athletics, swimming in particular, and applied it to a cause that she also believes very strongly in which is cancer research. All the funds raised in Melissa's venture today which she called "Swimming for our future" will be donated to the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto.
23-year old Brannagan has been a competitive swimmer on the Brock varsity swim team from 2001-present under head coach Herb deBray (2001-2004) and Peter Bradstreet (2004-present). Previously a member of St. Thomas of Villanova high school swim team from 1996-2001 under head coach Steve Gombai.
She was a gold medallist as part of the 200 freestyle relay at the OFSAA championships (2001). She also capped off her high school swimming career with a silver medal in her individual 200 freestyle at the same meet. She was captain of her high school team from 1999-2001, assistant captain for Brock (2003-2004) and women's team captain (2004-2005).
Brannagan was also a competitive soccer player from 1994-2001 and cross-country runner 1998-2001. She regularly competes in triathlons throughout the summer months. She was winner of the Repko Cup as Windsor and Essex County's most outstanding female student-athlete (2001) and was named Female Athlete of the Year of her high school (2001).
An Ontario scholar in high school, Melissa has just recently graduated from Brock University with her Bachelor of Science in Health Sciences, with Honours.
Written by Shawn Whiteley: Brock University Sports Information & Marketing Coordinator
Modest in her accomplishment, Melissa was grateful of the unending support she received in the following comments on the swim, which were reported by Swim Ontario:
"My crew and the people behind the scenes made this swim happen for me," Brannagan said. "I did the easy part. The actual crew on the swim gave so much time and effort - most of them staying up for the entire swim, if not only to support me, but also to allow me to focus on the swimming part." The swimming part was certainly something that will feature as a highlight in the university's sporting history. The recent graduate completed the swim in the fifth fastest time recorded in history for a female, and became the 39th swimmer to cross Lake Ontario.
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Created: 24th November 2007
Last Updated: 9th December 2007