Second-grader swims from Alcatraz
SAN FRANCISCO - A 7-year-old Arizona boy on Monday became one of the youngest ever to swim from Alcatraz Island to San Francisco.
Braxton Bilbrey, a second-grader from Glendale who has completed several short-scale youth triathlons, completed the estimated 1.4-mile swim early Monday. His coach and two other adults joined him in the chilly waters of San Francisco Bay.
"I think it's pretty cool," Braxton said shortly after his father grabbed him under the arms and lifted him out of the water at Aquatic Park. He was greeted on the beach by reporters, photographers and well-wishers.
His mother, Stacey Bilbrey, wasn't originally sold on the idea, but accepted it once the boy proved he was dedicated, she said.
"For a 7-year-old to be that motivated and stick with a goal that long is amazing," she said. "Any time a 7-year-old has that strong of a desire, as long as it's a good desire, you should support it. He's worked hard for it."
Alcatraz, once a notorious federal prison that housed some of the nation's infamous criminals, including Chicago mobster Al Capone, is now a tourist site that attracts about 1 million visitors a year. It also draws a fair share of swimmers who attempt the crossing as part of the annual Escape from Alcatraz triathlon.
The Arizona second-grader got the idea when he saw a magazine story about a 9-year-old boy who made the swim. Johnny Wilson, a fourth grader from Hillsborough completed the swim in 53-degree waters last October in under two hours.
When Braxton asked his swim coach, Joe Zemaitis of Scottsdale, if he thought he could do it, Zemaitis said he thought the second-grader could, thinking he meant some time before he turned 9.
"If you were to ask me if a 7-year-old is old enough to do it, I'd say maybe one out of 10 million," Zemaitis said. "But he's that one."
Braxton trained two hours a day four times a week. He also swam in several Arizona lakes and in San Francisco Bay last month.