Matyseks splash their way to a family tradition
by Staff Writer
CORNELIUS – The Matyseks take family reunions to a physical extreme.
Several relatives annually compete in the Great Chesapeake Bay Swim, a grueling 4.4-mile race across the Chesapeake near Annapolis, Md.
This summer, brothers Carl and John Matysek were the top finishers from North Carolina. Carl, 18, graduated from Hough High the day before the swim, then finished 17th among 640 racers. John, 15, a rising sophomore at Hough, was 49th.
Carl finished in one hour, 38.57 minutes and John finished in 1:47.02.
The brothers led the family contingent this summer, which included uncles Jim and Tom Matysek, who’ve swam the event more than 25 times each, and uncle Bob, who traveled from Charleston, S.C., to swim.
“It really bonds you as a family,” Carl Matysek said. “It was great having all my family there at the end of the race. They’re so proud of you, and everyone’s so happy after we finish.”
The Matyseks have combined for more than 80 crossings.
It’s not as easy swim. First, there’s the crush of swimmers at the start, where it’s easy to get kicked in the head, or caught in traffic. It’s an open-water swim between two bridges. Swimmers have to be careful not to veer onto rocks or the bridges.
“It’s really different from normal swimming,” Carl Matysek said. “You can’t see the bottom, so you’ve got to lift your head every so often to make sure you’re staying on course.”
At the midway point, the swimmers begin to separate. Then, fatigue kicks in.
“You’re tired, so you just set your mind to finishing,” Carl Matysek said, “A lot of it is definitely mental.”
Carl Matysek improved his time by 20 minutes from the 2010 race, which was his first. He didn’t race last summer because there’s a lottery to enter. Carl swam freestyle the entire race. John Matysek mixed in some backstroke. They both swam for Hough’s team last winter, and are year-round swimmers for Swim MAC.
“It’s the longest I’ve ever swam continually,” John Matysek said. “At the midway point, you can’t see land either in front of you or behind. I was getting sore all over, but just had to push through.”
The final 800 yards were agonizing, Carl Matysek said. He swam hard, but didn’t seem to be making progress fast enough.
“It takes a lot of willpower at that point,” he said. “I was just trying to make it without dying.”
As the racers near the finish, the water gets shallow and they must run the last 10-15 yards onto shore.
“I was wobbling,” John Matysek said, laughing. “There are volunteers there to help you, and I told one of them `I can’t run, I’ve been swimming for two hours. I just wanted to lay down and go to sleep.”
John remembers seeing his first bay swim at age 10 and knowing he wanted to join the family tradition. Dad Joe has made the swim 14 times. A third son, Jake, swims on N.C. State’s team. He has bay-swim experience, too.
“It’s an amazing feeling to carry on what my family has been doing for a long time,” John Matysek said. “I’m glad to be a part of it.”