Masters swimmers, clockwise from upper left, Jeff Utsch, Jeff Krongaard, Al Jaegers, Barry Roth and Scott Shake have this saying regarding aging and performance: "He or she who gets slower slowest is who'll come out on top."

DEAN KNUTH / ARIZONA DAILY STAR

To hear Barry Roth talk about the current state of his swimming career, you'd think he was heading up the water aerobics program at an assisted living facility.

"I'm just trying to hold on for as long as I can," the 56-year-old Tucsonan said of his deteriorating physical ability. Some words Roth uses to describe himself: old, ancient and fogy.

A phrase he leaves out of his humble, and clearly exaggerative, self-description: world-record holder.

Roth and his Ford Aquatics 400 freestyle relay teammates, also self-described old farts, broke the world record for their 200-239 age group (combined age of the four teammates) at the Southwest Classic swim meet, held here last month.

The team of Roth, Al Jaegers, 48, Scott Shake, 53, and Jeff Utsch, 43, finished the relay in 3 minutes 57.73 seconds, nearly 18 seconds faster than the previous mark set a month earlier by a team from Britain.

Jaegers, Shake, Utsch and 56-year old Jeff Krongaard broke the world record for the 800 free relay as well, finishing in 8:51.74.

The relay records are a new addition to the world record books. The international swimming governing body, FINA, began accepting times for those events just last year.

Upon learning of the change, Roth and his teammates, who already own American records in both events, realized it'd be pretty easy to stamp their names into the international record book. So they did.

The Star chatted with Roth and Utsch, about swimming competitively at an older age, breaking the world record and defending it.

On staying competitive as the years wear on

"When you're older, it seems like you get more out of every stroke you take and every practice. You really have to make them count. … As Masters swimmers, we don't just get in there to play. We're just as competitive as we were when we were kids," Utsch said.

"My old coach at the U of A, Rick DeMont, used to say to me, 'Barry, you're gonna get slower and slower until you die.' It's true, but we have another saying about that, and it's: 'He or she who gets slower slowest is who'll come out on top,'"Roth said.

On the importance of setting the world record

"It's important to us from the standpoint that we're all competitive people. Every one of us were collegiate swimmers, so of course we want to be successful. … Setting the national record was really cool. But the world record? To have the fastest time in the whole world? Now, that's something," Roth said.

"If there's any importance in this for us, it's to be some sort of inspiration to guys 40 and over who think they're out of the game. You don't have to hang it up just because you get old. Whatever it is that you want to do, just get out there and get it done," Utsch said.

On defending the record

"We know people are going to come along and try to break it, and we welcome that challenge. That's part of what makes the whole thing so exciting. If somebody does beat it, we'll tip our hat to them and buy them a beer. But then, we're coming to get it back," Roth said.