Tuesday, January 29, 2002 E-mail This Article

Superior Court Judge Bruce Mohl is getting it done in the courtroom and in the swimming pool for the Great Bay Swim Masters. (Barry Carr/Democrat photo)

Judge rules in the pool: Superior Courtís Mohl won 10 events at championship

By Jen Bengtson

Special to Fosterís

DOVER ó Superior Court Judge Bruce Mohl sits in a brown upholstered chair by the window in his chambers behind Courtroom 1 at the Strafford County Courthouse.

He is calm and well spoken, seeming to choose each word carefully as he presses his fingers together and leans back. But Mohl is a busy man. Very busy. "I take on more than I should," he says.

Fifty-five year-old Mohl is busy both in the courtroom and excelling out in the local swimming community. Most recently, Mohl, who is a member of the Great Bay Masters swim team, won all 10 events in his age group at the New England Masters Championship Meet on Dec. 8 and 9 at Wheaton College.

He also set a New England record as part of one of the five relay teams heís on. He was also the high point scorer for the team. The Great Bay Masters took home first place from the meet. But Mohl doesnít like to talk too much about his stellar performance that weekend. In fact, it just seems to be another accomplishment under his belt.

Superior Court Judge Bruce Mohl won all 10 events in his age group at the New England Masters Championship meet. (Barry Carr/Democrat photo)

Mohl, who was elected 14 years ago, did not resume swimming after college until his early 40s when he moved to the area and joined the Great Bay Masters. Mohl gained All-American status in the sport while attending Hamilton College in upstate New York. During his hiatus from swimming, however, he made great strides in his career. Mohl attended Boston University Law School and practiced law for 10 years before moving to New Hampshire.

Mohl says he got involved with swimming again because of his children. Mohl has two daughters who began swimming at about ages 8 or 9. Both were state champion swimmers at Oyster River High School in Durham, Mohl said.

His oldest daughter was an All-American swimmer in high school and was nationally ranked at Stanford. Mohl credits Seacoast Swimming Association coach and close friend Mike Parratto for not only resuming his connection with swimming, but for the evolution of the nationally recognized Seacoast Swimming program.

"Mike developed the program with few resources," says Mohl, noting that it was a great fortune that Parratto came to the Dover area and created a successful program.

Mohl also happens to be the president of Seacoast Swimming as well as a chairman for New England Swimmers for the past 10 years. Mohl has also evolved Seacoast Swimming on his own accord by making it accessible online. Seacoast Swimming Vice President John Barbary says Mohl forced the issue of putting the program online to make it more effective and efficient. Prior to Mohlís online development, the program was handled entirely on paper and was very cumbersome.

"It just needed to be done," says Mohl, his simple answer contradicting a rather difficult task.

Mohlís involvement in the swimming community eventually got him back in the pool. He joined the Great Bay Masters in his early 40s and claims he has been competing on and off ever since. According to Ed Gendreau, Great Bay Masters coach since the fall of 1997, the team consists of men and women ranging in age from 18 to 78. Practices are held at the Dover, Portsmouth, and University of New Hampshire pools three times a week and increase to four practices a week during the summer.

Gendreau says the team keeps its emphasis on practicing, the goal both fitness and camaraderie in a friendly atmosphere.

"We rally around events," Gendreau says.

The Great Bay Masters go to the New England Masters Championship Meet twice a year. The event is held in April and December and the team also prepares year round for the Hour Swim in January. Competitors swim as far as they can in the elapsed time for the

event. On the weekend of Dec. 8, Mohl had laryngitis, but he didnít tell anybody.

"I didnít have to tell anybody," he says. "[You could tell] by my voice."

Despite being sick, Mohl won all 10 events in his age group and set a New England record in a relay. Even more amazing is the fact that Mohl had not competed in 5 years prior to that weekend in Norton, Mass. He spent this down time swimming for fitness and taking up golf. Mohl trained for about two and a half months before the December meet.

"I was surprised how quickly I came back," he says.

But this success cannot be considered ordinary. Perhaps Mohlís outlook on competition keeps him ahead of the crowd.

"[In swimming], your competition is against the clock and yourself," he says. "The clock never lies."

Parratto believes that Mohl is successful in the pool and in the courtroom partly due to his competitive nature. Parratto says he had the opportunity to watch Mohl in action in the courtroom. He says Mohl was very prepared and professional.

"Bruce likes to be in charge," Parratto says.

Mohl agrees that experience makes a better judge.

"You become a much better trial judge the more you do it," he says. He continues by emphasizing the importance of being prepared. "You never know what will happen in the courtroom."

Mohl seems to take a similar approach to his swimming ethic. Not only does Mohl swim for the exercise and the love he has for the sport, but also for the challenge of the workout both in and out of competition. And although Mohl is a few years older now, his success in the pool is still prevalent.

"Iím slower," he says. "[But maturity and focus] keeps you physically fit and mentally sharp."

And itís this focus and determination that not only brought Mohl success in the pool a month ago, but has made him a leader among the entire community.