78-Year-Old Monk Swims His 2,000th Mile Man Overcomes Injuries, Operations to Reach Mark at Benedictine Pool

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Byline: Marni Pyke Daily Herald Staff Writer

You can set your watch by the Rev. Zachary M. Hrisko, say staff members at the Benedictine University pool.

At 11:30 a.m. sharp most weekdays, the 78-year-old Benedictine monk swims laps for an hour.

He has kept swimming despite four painful knee surgeries, a heart attack and a subsequent double bypass operation.

Usually, there's just some fellow swimmers and the Dan and Ada Rice Center pool staff on hand to watch.

But Wednesday, a crowd gathered to cheer on Hrisko as he completed his 2,000th mile.

"Who among us will be next?" Hrisko said with a broad smile as he gingerly stepped out of the pool to applause.

"I was here when he hit the 1,000 mark," friend Philip J. Dambach said.

"Now the question is - at his age, can he shoot for 3,000 miles?" Dambach said. "I've done the calculations and he'll have to live to be 128 years, six months and 14 days."

Hrisko's progress along the length of the pool is a study in determination.

Because of the pain in his knees, he can't kick his legs as swimmers normally do. Instead, Hrisko uses his upper body strength to propel himself forward with his arms, using a small floating device to keep his legs buoyant.

"I wouldn't take him in arm wrestling," aquatics director Ken Hannah said.

Hrisko "was the first person I met when I started out 15 years ago," Hannah recalled. "He said, 'I'm Father Zachary and I'll be swimming here a lot.'"

The St. Procopius Abbey monk has watched and inspired many swimming teams over the years.

"He's shared in the excitement of competitive swimming," Hannah said. "The old guard sets an example for the young swimmers. But he looks at it as the young kids set an example for him. …