Wilmette, Community

Better weather allows open-water charity race to return to Wilmette

The weather turned just in time for the annual Wilmette Open Water Race on Saturday, June 17, at Gillson Beach.

Unseasonably low Chicago temperatures in early June yielded to a warmer sun for about 150 swimmers competing in the fifth iteration of the charity swim, which returned after a weather-caused year off.

The event brings together community members and organizations in support of the Ouilmette Foundation, which raises money to benefit programming and facilities of the Wilmette Park District.

“This is just an outstanding example of how you build community as you go,” said Phil Andrew, one of WOW’s chairpersons.

More than 120 swimmers finished the race, which raised funds for the Ouilmette Foundation.

The WOW Race began on the north end of Gillson Beach, and swimmers headed south to the rock jetty and looped back to the main beach. Participants received an official race towel and swim cap.

The Wilmette Open Water race was the brainchild of Andrew and Holly Gilson, the Ouilmette Foundation’s president, in 2018. 

Year 1 welcomed more than 80 participants and Year 2 grew to 100. The race went virtual in its third year, 2020, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and in 2021, about 150 swimmers participated. Weather canceled the swim in 2022, leading to a big turnout this time around.

Lachlan Andrew — Phil’s son, an All-State Loyola Academy swimmer and incoming freshman at the U.S. Naval Academy — conquered the field by finishing the 1-mile open-water swim in 20 minutes 42 seconds.

The event is a volunteer collaboration that has about doubled in size since its debut in 2018.

Six seconds behind was Annika Wagner, a Northwestern University swimmer, who was followed by Bob Lewis (20:50), Will Gardy (20:56) and Andy Kelly (20:58).

Click here to see full results from the race.

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joe coughlin
Joe Coughlin

Joe Coughlin is a co-founder and the editor in chief of The Record. He leads investigative reporting and reports on anything else needed. Joe has been recognized for his investigative reporting and sports reporting, feature writing and photojournalism. Follow Joe on Twitter @joec2319

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