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Granite Bay’s Haley Anderson earns Olympic silver

Family, friends follow every stroke in London and at Kaiser Permanente Roseville
By: Bill Poindexter/Roseville Press Tribune Sports Editor
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The clock said 6 a.m., confirmed by the rising sun in the east, but the commotion resembled happy hour on the fourth floor at Kaiser Permanente Roseville on Thursday.

Haley Anderson of Granite Bay was making a late sprint in the last 400 meters of the Olympic women’s 10km marathon open-water swim, and a small gathering of family, friends and co-workers were serving as a stomping, cheering alarm clock to the rest of the building.

Anderson pushed Eva Risztov all the way to the finish at Hyde Park in London and touched the wall four-tenths of a second behind the Hungarian, who won the gold medal in 1 hour, 57 minutes, 38.2 seconds. Anderson’s silver-medal time was 1:57:38.6. Martina Grimaldi of Italy earned the bronze with a time of 1:57:41.8.

“This is my first really big international 10k, so I’m really happy with the results,” Anderson said in an interview. “It took a lot of energy to catch her, but I’m really happy. She had a great race.”

Anderson next will return to college at USC, with which she earned All-America honors in three events at the NCAA Championships in March in Auburn, Ala., including a victory in the 500 freestyle.

In June, Anderson beat Risztov by 1.4 seconds to win the FINA USA Marathon Swim Qualifier in Setubal, Portugal. That put Anderson on the U.S. Olympic team. Her time was 1:44:30.6 that day. Anderson has been swimming the marathon for about two years and said she plans to continue to do so.

Anderson’s silver gives the family two medals in these Games. Sister Alyssa Anderson won gold a week earlier in the 4x200 freestyle relay and joined about 20 family members for Haley’s race.

“I’m so proud of her. She swam a great 200 relay,” Haley said of Alyssa. “It’s just exciting to have her here.”

Back home in Roseville, Kathi Conry was attending her second viewing party in a week at Kaiser, where she works as a nurse.

“I wouldn’t have missed this for all the tea in China,” Conry said, summing up the gold and silver medals won by her nieces. “This has been so exciting.”

There was no announcer for the online streaming of Haley’s race, which allowed the cheers of her family to be heard. Chants of “U-S-A” and “Ha-ley” quickly were picked up by the Kaiser contingent, which included the Anderson sisters’ grandmother, Jeanne Conry, 91.

“I am so nervous. I can’t tell you how nervous I am,” Jeanne Conry said as a crew from KCRA Channel 3 filmed the party.

Haley Anderson swam in the front pack for all six laps around the course, and she led after the second lap. She trailed Risztov by 3.3 seconds after five laps and was swimming fourth when she made her late push.

Anderson normally starts near the back of the field and works her way toward the front. Elbows to the body, including the face and head, are common, though not as much so for her Olympic competition.

“Since I was toward the front from the beginning, it wasn’t as rough,” Anderson said. “There were still some elbows to the face and stuff, but you kinda just roll with it and let it go.”

She said her strategy was to swim with the leaders from the beginning.

“I knew if I was at the front and conserving energy, it would end up being a good race,” she said.

Kaiser co-workers Cathy Stapelfeld, Cate Webb, Mary Lou Helfrich Jones and Mary Jean Smith cheered and applauded every time the camera focused on Anderson, even when she reached for a quick gulp of Gatorade.

Starting the race at 4 a.m. local time served as a reminder to Smith that she hadn’t worked a graveyard shift “for a long time.”

“It is just the coolest thing to know somebody in the Olympics,” said Smith, who also attended the viewing party for Alyssa Anderson’s relay. “Did you see the way she pulled ahead at the end? Oh my gosh.”

Amanda Wirth, Kathi Conry’s daughter, arrived at the hospital with a friend about halfway into the race. Wirth played water polo at Granite Bay High School and now is a student at UC Santa Barbara.

“I am so excited their dreams are coming true,” she said of her cousins.

Kathi Conry said additional family members landed in London on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday to watch Haley’s race. Conry stayed in touch with Colette Anderson, the girls’ mom, and Jeanne Conry via Facebook, Skype and phone. They were texting when Haley Anderson made her late charge.

According to Kathi Conry, Jeanne said, “Tell Grandma to say rosaries.”