A History-Making Swim

Emily von Jentzen becomes the first person to swim length of Flathead Lake, down and back, while John Cole becomes the sixth to swim it one way

By Justin Franz
Emily von Jentzen swims in Somers Bay on June 23, 2017. Greg Lindstrom | Flathead Beacon

SOMERS — Fifty-six miles. Forty hours. One incredible accomplishment.

Emily von Jentzen, 34, an accomplished long-distance swimmer and local attorney, became the first person on record to swim the length of Flathead Lake, down and back, on July 30. She was joined by John Cole, 35, who cemented his spot as the sixth person to ever swim the length of the lake one way.

Von Jentzen set out on her history-making swim from the Somers boat launch shortly after 6 a.m. on Saturday and swam non-stop to Polson, arriving at about 1 a.m. Sunday. Cole joined her for the return trip north, which they completed together just after 10 p.m. Sunday night.

Von Jentzen has been swimming nearly her entire life and in 2010 became the first woman to swim the entire north-south stretch of Flathead Lake. The following year, she became the first person to swim the 55-mile Lake Chelan in northern Washington. Along the way, von Jentzen has raised thousands of dollars for children who are battling various diseases. This time around she raised money for Monte Matt, a 5-year-old boy from Bigfork who was born with a congenital heart defect, and Scottie Marie Woods, a 2-year-old girl from Joplin with Stage 4 neuroblastoma.

Scottie Woods, Scottie Marie Woods’ father, said the money von Jentzen raised will help his family cover his daughter’s medical treatment in Denver.

“It’s just unreal,” Woods said. “There are no words to describe what Emily has done.”

In 2011, von Jentzen used one of her distance swims to raise money for Katelyn Roker, a 6-year-old girl diagnosed with cancer who died later that year. Roker’s parents have continued to help von Jentzen, and Brian Roker piloted the support boat for her most recent swim. Besides serving as a spotter for von Jentzen, Roker and his crew stopped the swimmers every hour and provided them with food — everything from candy to tomato soup heated up on the boat’s motor. This was the third swim for which Roker has provided support to von Jentzen.

“She helped us so much and so we do anything we can to help her,” he said.

For more information about von Jentzen and her ultra marathon swims, visit www.EnduringWaves.com.

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