By J. Daniel Rollins
Register-Herald Sports Writer
Nik Wallenda may have walked a tightrope across the Grand Canyon on Sunday night before a national television audience of millions, but he wasn’t the only one with plans of a great feat of strength, concentration and defeating Mother Nature on his mind.
Ryan Longenette, a 23-year-old from Wheeling, was feeling the call of the wild himself.
Longenette took to the waters of Summersville Lake Tuesday morning in a test of endurance, hoping to swim the entire 10-mile perimeter of the lake.
He swam 13 miles instead.
“We started at Brock’s Bridge and swam to the beach. That’s 10 miles,” Longenette said. “I swam around the island and then back to the marina to get an extra three miles in. That’s 13 miles in seven hours.”
Longette was joined by his grandfather, 70-year-old Taylor McClusky, for four miles and Travis Colture for 10.
They did it to raise money for Young Life, an evangelical Christian organization that focuses on high school and college students. According to its website, there are more than 700 Young Life Clubs worldwide.
“We raised $1,400,” Longenette said. “We did it with minimal advertising. I was afraid I wasn’t going to make the swim, so I didn’t want to disappoint.”
Longenette swam at Wheeling Jesuit University, but he admitted in order to complete the task, he had to overcome a deep fear — literally.
“It’s crazy, my whole swimming career was in the pool where I could see the bottom, but when I started swimming in the lake, I discovered I had a fear of not being able to see the bottom of the lake,” Longenett said. “There were definitely some mental blocks.”
Longenette trained for two months to complete the swim, swimming three to five miles a day and was able to get over his fear.
Now that he’s accomplished it, he hopes to do it again next year — but on a larger scale.
“Next summer, we want to do it again with some more advertising,” he said. “Maybe turn it into a race. Make it a bigger competition.”
After completing Summersville, Longenette may have his eyes set on another milestone — swimming from Key West to Cuba.
“My dream is to do it,” he said. “It’s 92 miles.”
Anyone wishing to make a donation to Longenette or Young Life may do so by sending it to P.O. Box 432, Quinwood, WV 25981.