Man, 43, dives into college swimming

TACOMA, Wash. – They call him Old Man Turc.

Mike Turcott is a 43-year-old college swimmer. He has Speedos older than some of his teammates.

He has hair so thin Matt Hasselbeck could appreciate it, with gray sprinkled throughout. His cell phone rings classical music. His ginger gait after a morning practice suggests soreness.

Stroll Pacific Lutheran University’s student center in search of Old Man Turc, and you only need to say you’re looking for Mike.

“Everybody knows Mike,” the cashier lady in the cafeteria says. “He’s downstairs getting coffee.”

This weekend, a wild yet rewarding period in Old Man Turc’s life comes to an end. He’s retiring from college swimming after one season. He’s competing in the 200- and 400-yard individual medleys and the 1,650-yard freestyle at the Northwest Conference Championships, which continue through Sunday in Walla Walla. After that, he just wants to be a dad/cop again.

No more rising at 4:55 each morning to drive from Olympia to campus in time for a 6 o’clock practice. No more hustling from practice to class to his job with the Washington State Patrol. No more working through lunch to finish up in time to make an afternoon practice. No more balancing fatherhood with school and athletics.

“I’ve enjoyed every minute, every moment,” Turcott said. “No regrets. I’m ready for it to be over, though.”

Old Man Turc swam only two years in high school. He first attended Pacific Lutheran from 1982-1985, but he didn’t want to compete then.

For 21 years, Turcott stopped swimming competitively. He left college in 1985 to join the state patrol. In 2003, he hit the pool again to get in shape. He started competing in Masters events. He lost about 30 pounds.

Two years ago, he returned to PLU, intent on finishing his sociology degree. He added a physical education minor and began taking aquatics courses. That is how he came to know Jim Johnson, the PLU swim coach.

In Division III, the NCAA has no age restrictions. But Turcott needed to become a full-time student to compete.

“Some people might think that’s crazy,” Old Man Turc said, “but I had to do it.”