River Forest natives Dan Beeman (pictured) and Brian Herbstritt participated in the Swim for Freedom across Lake Geneva this summer. The two friends have participated together in water sports/triathlons on several occasions. (Courtesy Dan Beeman)

Back in August, Dan Beeman contacted me about a story idea regarding a series of swimming and triathlon challenges that he and his friend, Brian Herbstritt, have taken on through the years. Unfortunately, as space in the paper became limited due to the onset of the busy high school sports fall season, their inspiring story got lost in the shuffle. My bad, Dan and Brian, but thanks for your patience.

In the spirit of better late than never reporting, however, here’s a synopsis of how Beeman and Herbstritt met, and the subsequent sporting adventures they shared through the years armed with a spirit of competitiveness, fun and fellowship.

The River Forest natives became friends in the fall of 1978 while swimming mornings in the Fenwick pool. The two Friars immediately developed a friendly albeit competitive relationship which would strengthen their bond the years.

Beeman fondly remembers their Fenwick days together, with Herbstritt driving a carpool contingent also including Tim and Jay Carroll and the Gazzola brothers. Since space was always tight during those crowded car rides, Beeman hitched those commutes to and fro Fenwick inside the trunk of Herbstritt’s classic Gran Torino. He recalls listening to music from the Who with embedded speakers in the car and loving every minute of it!

Like most high school pals, Beeman and Herbstritt parted ways post-graduation.

Beeman enlisted in the army as an Airborne Paratrooper. He would later attend Eastern Illinois University and settle in California. His personal accomplishments include swimming around Alcatraz from San Francisco without a wetsuit, winning a Gold Medal at the US Army Swim Championships and 10k Distance Swim Challenge, and diving more than 300 feet as a deep-water SCUBA Instructor in the Caribbean.

Herbstritt became a Purdue Boilermaker, attending college in West Lafayette, Indiana. After college, he returned to Chicago to work in the family business.

Maintaining their passion for sports (particularly in the water), Beeman and Herbstritt participated in SCUBA, snorkeling and triathlons as adults.

During their annual “golf weekend” reunion in Palm Springs, California, Beeman detailed his completion of the aforementioned Alcatraz Triathlon to his friend. Upon hearing of the incredible experience, Herbstritt predictably challenged his friend that they both swim not just from Alcatraz, but from San Francisco, around Alacatraz and back. Beeman upped the ante again by proposing they take on the challenging swim without wetsuits.

Their San Francisco-Alcatraz-San Francisco swim set the tone for finding an athletic challenge each year. Future endeavors included the Distance Swim Challenge in Los Angeles and the Lake Geneva Triathlon in Wisconsin. The latter event (owned by Competitor Group Inc.) is the company of Molly Quinn, who serves as the Vice President of Triathlon at Competitor Group. Quinn, another River Forest native and sister of former Oak Park and River High School swim coach Pete Quinn, invited Beeman and Herbstritt to take part in the Lake Geneva Triathlon.

After winning his age group in the swim portion of the LGT, Beeman opted to go mountain biking with his aforementioned carpool buddies from the Fenwick days. Herbstritt finished the entire Lake Geneva Triathlon.

Most recently, Beeman and Herbstritt competed in the Swim for Freedom across Lake Geneva on August 4. The eight-mile swim served as the perfect challenge, while also raising funds for the Special Operations Warrior Foundation. 100 percent of the proceeds from the event went to provide full scholarship grants and educational and family counseling to the surviving children of special operations personnel who die in operational of training missions and immediate financial assistance to severely wounded special operations personnel and their families.

Along with approximately 35 swimmers, Beeman and Herbstritt plunged into the water at 6:24 a.m. to kick off the Swim for Freedom across Lake Geneva. The friends swam side-by-side for several miles. Upon completion of the event, Beeman and Herbstritt celebrated with friends as per tradition.

They also indulged in another tradition- a discussion of what’s next in terms of their next aquatic pursuit with hopefully charitable aspect.

Good luck guys, no matter what upcoming adventure you choose, something tells me you’ll be up for the challenge.

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Marty Farmer

The Illinois Press Association recently honored Marty with the 1st & 2nd Place Awards for Best Sports Feature for his article He's in an Oak Park state of mind: Former OPRF star Iman Shumpert returns...

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