14-year-old is youngest to swim length of Lake Tahoe, earn Triple Crown

Miranda Jacobson

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — 14-year-old James Savage this past weekend became the youngest person to swim the length of Lake Tahoe and earn Tahoe’s Triple Crown.

Savage completed the 12-hour, 21.3-mile swim on Sunday when he swam from Camp Richardson in South Lake Tahoe to the Hyatt Regency in Incline Village.

Earning the Lake Tahoe Triple Crown involves a series of three different swims, all of them spanning above 10 miles, including the true width, length and Vikingsholm, that traverses the southern portion of the lake.

Last August at 13-years-old, Savage, of Los Banos, became the youngest to complete the 12-mile true width swim, also known as the “Godfather” swim, from the Godfather Mansion in Homewood to Cave Rock.

Savage and his mother agreed that the physical training for the swim was a lot easier than the mental endurance it takes for a person to complete such an enduring swim.

“I had no doubts whatsoever,” said James’ mother Jillian Savage. “He’s been swimming almost every day, six, seven days a week since he was eight. With open water, it’s just what he does. But mentally, even though it takes a whole bunch of us to make the swim possible, he’s really out there by himself.”

James Savage is only 14 years old, and is the youngest person to swim across the length of Lake Tahoe, which is 21.3 miles. Provided Jillian Savage

The swim was piloted by Captain Tom “Reptile” Linthicum of Lake Tahoe Marathon Swim Federation and John Grunstad with Cathy Harrington as the official observer and Jillian Savage as the kayaker for the trip. Catherine Breed served as a pace swimmer and the crew chief.

“It’s not like he can sit and talk to us when he gets bored,” said Jillian. “His face is in the water and so really, he’s by himself. That’s what I sometimes worry about: is he just going to get bored a few hours in and say, ‘Screw this,’ and want to get out? But this time, he kept telling me, ‘Mom, I feel so much better mentally prepared this time.’ And he went out and he just did such a great job. I knew within the first mile that this was going to be done.”

James said that his love for swimming started at age 5, and participated in his first competitive swim at 6.

“At first, I didn’t really want to swim,” said James. “I was on a swim team and my brother was doing it too, and we were there and my mom told me, ‘Why don’t you just hop in?’ and then I did, and I seemed to like it and it just kept going until I found open water and did it even more.”

James said that even though none of his friends share his passion for swimming, they’re all very supportive. Pictured above is James finishing his swim at the Hyatt Beach in Incline Village, surrrounded by friends and family. Provided Jillian Savage

Now, nine years later, James says that his love for the open water is still just as strong as when he started, due to the freedom the open waves offer.

“I definitely liked exploring different places because the pool … you get to go to different places, but it’s all the same,” said James. “Open water, you can swim in oceans, lakes, and you get to travel around.”

With the title of the youngest person to ever achieve the Triple Crown, James said he isn’t sure what he wants to do next. His mom said she’s almost afraid to find out.

“I think I’ll just wait,” said Jillian. “When he started this whole open water thing and he told me, ‘Mom, I want to swim from Alcatraz,’ and we kind of laughed in his face. We let him do it kind of hoping and thinking it would be a one and done, and he got out and he said, ‘I want to do this again. When’s the next one?’ And it just kept going and going and going and his feats kept getting bigger and bigger and bigger, and I’m kind of afraid to see what he wants to do next. But whatever it is, we’ll make it happen.”

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