Elizabeth Wenzel — a Darien English teacher — has faced challenges greater and scarier than skimming through the jellyfish-infested waters of Long Island Sound.
Indeed, when she dives into the water for the 25th Annual SWIM Across the Sound Marathon on July 28, Wenzel will be confronting a lot more than the salty difficulties the event itself will entail.
In 2009, a car accident left Wenzel with a spinal injury and long road to recovery.
“Most of my life had been spent in a pool, on a court, a mountain, a course or the road,” said Wenzel. “I doubted I would ever be able to lead the active lifestyle I had loved.”
In 2010, following spinal surgery, Elizabeth’s doctor encouraged her to begin swimming to help in her recovery.
Getting back into the pool was a challenge for Wenzel, as she began to rebuild her stamina and confidence, one lap at a time.
And just two years later, she says she’s ready for this next aquatic challenge.
Said Wenzel: “Swimming became a means for me to heal both physically and emotionally from my injury.”
An English teacher at Darien High School, Wenzel grew up in Fairfield and now resides in Southport. She will be competing with the club team, Black Rock Life.
“I have always wanted to participate in the SWIM,” said Wenzel. “I’ve always seen this event as a very unifying and uplifting experience for our community in our fight against cancer; a disease that continues to impact too many of our neighbors.”
Wenzel’s teammates include her brother, two friends and her boyfriend Justin Bechtold, also of Southport, whose aunt, Dori Bechtold, recently lost her battle with cancer. “Before Justin’s aunt died, we had the opportunity to tell her we’d be making the SWIM — and that really meant a lot to her.”
Dori Bechtold had been receiving treatment at St. Vincent’s Medical Center and was a big supporter of SWIM Across the Sound.
“Knowing what this would mean to her just gives us even more motivation.”
Black Rock Life’s other team members include Andrew Nicholas Crape and Jonathon Sabin of Bridgeport, and Elizabeth’s brother, Christopher Wenzel, of Southport.
These athletes join a field of over 250 swimmers for a 15.5 mile journey across the Long Island Sound from Port Jefferson, NY to Captain’s Cove Seaport in Bridgeport, CT. Each relay team must raise $7,500, averaging about $1,500 a swimmer. Any donation is appreciated by the team.
Donations can be made at: give.stvincents.org. Click on 25th SWIM Marathon/Support a Swimmer.
At this year’s event, which is open to the public, the fastest swimmers are expected to cross the finish line at approximately 2:30 p.m., depending on the weather.
The majority of the field will jockey for the finish line at about 4:30 p.m. with an awards ceremony to follow at 7:00 p.m. at Captain’s Cove Seaport.