You are viewing this article in the archives. For the latest breaking news and updates in Ann Arbor and the surrounding area, see
Posted on Mon, Jul 30, 2012 : 8:15 a.m.

Ann Arbor women set world record swimming English Channel

By Cindy Heflin


From left: Susan Butcher, Bethany Williston and Amanda Mercer take a break during their training session in February to prepare for their swim of the English Channel.

Angela J. Cesere |

It was a big goal. “The Mount Everest of swimming,” Amanda Mercer said. Mercer was one of six women from Ann Arbor who left earlier this month to swim the English Channel and raise money for ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease).

But the women not only scaled their "summit," they did it in record time, breaking the world record for swimming the English Channel in a relay Friday night. Mercer did the swim after finishing chemotherapy treatment for breast cancer.

The relay team consisted of Amanda Mercer, Jenny Sutton Jalet, Melissa Karjala, Susan Butcher and Bethany Williston, all who live in Ann Arbor, and Emily Kreger, who moved from Ann Arbor recently to pursue a general surgery residency at the Detroit Medical Center.

The women swam the 42 miles across the channel in 18 hours and 55 minutes, 4 minutes faster than the previous record, the Detroit Free Press reported.

Mercer underwent surgery in March for an aggressive stage 2 breast cancer and finished 16 weeks of chemotherapy just before leaving for London for the relay swim, the University of Michigan said in a press release.

The relay team partnered with Ann Arbor Active Against ALS (A2A3), which was formed by friends of a University of Michigan professor who was diagnosed with ALS in 2008.

So far, the group has raised more than $80,000 for research and is still soliciting donations at its Web site,

The women know first-hand the effects of ALS. Bob Schoeni, who is their friend and neighbor, inspired the formation of A2A3. Schoeni is 48 years old and four years into his diagnosis. He continues to work at U-M's Institute for Social Research and also coaches his 14- and 12-year-old daughters.

"We wanted to do something really big, to get attention and raise awareness about ALS and help Bob and his family,” Williston said. “We hope this achievement, breaking the world record, will help researchers provide hope to those who are diagnosed with this disease."



Wed, Aug 1, 2012 : 2:18 a.m.

Woo0 hoooo!! You did it. The email updates were so exciting. Congratulations.... and thank you.


Tue, Jul 31, 2012 : 5:39 p.m.

Absolutely amazing, and to think that one of the swimmers had just completed chemo! And still got a world record, unbelievable! After reading the story, I was wondering: 1) Did this have any type of Olympic tie-in? 2) Has this made national, or international news (has this been a big story in England or France?) 3) Has this been covered at all by NBC during Olympic coverage, and if not, has anyone contacted them to see if they would? This would make a perfect "color or special interest" type of story that the networks like to include during the Olympics. Bravo to all six ladies!


Tue, Jul 31, 2012 : 12:59 p.m.

Congratulations! Email updates were so much fun! I hope donations continue to come in! We all know someone who has contracted ALS.


Tue, Jul 31, 2012 : 12:20 p.m.

These women are modern day heroes. I am honored to call them friends and proud that they are role models for my son.

Andrew R. Gorsuch

Mon, Jul 30, 2012 : 7:54 p.m.

Congrats Jenny Sutton Jalet and team! Awesome accomplishment!


Mon, Jul 30, 2012 : 4:05 p.m.

Not to take away from the other two women, but just beating cancer and the dreaded chemo is an amazing accomplishment in itself. As you all know chemo destroys your body from the inside out and depletes your system. I have no idea how this brave young woman managed to train during chemo. Ms. Mercer, you are strong and AMAZING woman. Congrats to you on two victories! Congrats to all 3 - what a great story!

Ed Kimball

Tue, Jul 31, 2012 : 12:27 p.m.

That's congratulations to all SIX! Either way, it's a great story.

Geoff Larcom

Mon, Jul 30, 2012 : 3:58 p.m.

What an astonishing feat, and what remarkable people. Melissa Karjala is also a Woodrow Wilson Teaching Fellow at Eastern Michigan University. The program prepares students (usually career changers) for STEM teaching careers in needy schools.


Mon, Jul 30, 2012 : 2:41 p.m.

Great work! It was awesome tracking the progress of your crossing via GPS on Friday! The fireworks in London were for your fantastic achievement!


Mon, Jul 30, 2012 : 2:34 p.m.

Amazing! So proud of your accomplishment.