When Andy Miller watched his young daughter Deb first learn to swim, he never would've imagined what would happen almost a half-century later.
At last month's Florida Senior Games in Coral Springs, Miller and Deb Halterman brought home a combined 11 medals in swimming competition.
"I think it's really cool that we get to have these experiences together,” said Halterman, of the Village of DeLuna. "I don't take it as seriously as Dad does. I do it because I want to do it with him.”
Miller, 80, collected five medals in the men's 80-84 division, including gold in the 100-yard butterfly and 100 freestyle. He also took silver in the 100 individual medley, 50 butterfly and the 50 freestyle.
Halterman, 53, also won gold in the 100 freestyle among six medals in the women's 50-54 division. She also claimed silver medals in 100 IM and 100 backstroke, and bronze in the 200 freestyle, 50 backstroke and 50 freestyle.
What made the competition even better was how much they saw each other compete. Many times, Halterman's heat in her event finished right before Miller's began. The father and daughter cheered each other on vigorously in what they said gave them extra motivation.
Swimming has always served as a bond for Halterman and Miller. Halterman swam competitively from age 6 to her freshman year of college. Miller, a resident of the Village of Virginia Trace, started swimming competitively around age 10 and swam two years at Michigan State University before stopping. He restarted at age 66 in The Villages.
After Miller watched his two daughters grow up swimming, all these years later seeing Deb still swim competitively is still special. Even though he won five medals, he drew greater satisfaction from his daughter's success.
"Watching her and standing there watching everyone praise her,” Miller said of his favorite part of the Games.
This wasn't the first time they competed in the Florida Senior Games together. A year ago, Halterman ended a 30-year hiatus from competitive swimming to join her father in the competition. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the state Games did not require a qualifying time from a previous meet.
"She totally surprised me as to how good she still was after 30 years off,” Miller said.
In 2021, Halterman improved all of her times. She went from jumping off a starting block for the first time in 30 years and worrying about her goggles coming off, to winning six medals.
Though Miller has competed in every Florida Senior Games since 2005, he still gets nervous — even before the most recent meet.
Miller has been a member of the Villages Aquatic Swim Team since 2007. While not a member of VAST herself, Halterman still received encouragement from her father's coaches.
"I'd be standing there at the end of the pool when she'd be finishing," Miller said, "and often our coach was there with me and asking me when she was going to join the team.”
The two just didn't go to Coral Springs to see each other swim. They spent as much time as they could together and made a trip out of it — one they will always remember.
"I told a couple of my friends that I was doing this and they just thought it was the coolest thing ever,” Halterman said. "We took a couple pictures together and everyone was just amazed at my dad.”
Staff Writer Ryan Weiss can be reached at 352-753-1119, ext. 5408, or email@example.com.