La Jolla's Coggan Family Aquatic Complex a veritable fountain of youth

Some Coggan Pool regulars take time out for a photo. From left, they are, Bill Watts, lifeguard Joey Cavallo, Joan Henderson Brown, Virginia Flagg and Jo Nerini. Photo: Rick LeBeau
Some Coggan Pool regulars take time out for a photo. From left, they are, Bill Watts, lifeguard Joey Cavallo, Joan Henderson Brown, Virginia Flagg and Jo Nerini. Photo: Rick LeBeau

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By Rick LeBeau

Contributor

The year after Columbus landed on the shores of what came to be known as America, fellow countryman and explorer Juan Ponce De Leon was following tips from natives of Cuba, Puerto Rico and southern Florida, in search of the Fountain of Youth.

Apparently, he was simply searching on the wrong coast. More than half a millennium later, the Fountain of Youth may have been discovered. As it turns out, it’s at the corner of Fay & Nautilus Streets on the La Jolla High campus and goes by the name Coggan Family Aquatic Complex.

Built almost a decade ago, the pool has been home to many high profile athletic events, including national and world class water polo tournaments, CIF championship meets in swimming and water polo, and year-round workouts for numerous high school and club aquatic teams. The pool has become a draw for college and club teams from as far away as Canada and the East Coast of the U.S. Two snow-bound college teams are even calling the pool home this week, as they escape the freezing winters of Colorado and Pennsylvania to train in paradise and shed a few layers of clothing for a week.

A daily fix

Don’t be surprised, though, if researchers discover what many local La Jollans have known for years — whether it’s the water, the air, or just the activities and camaraderie itself, a daily dip at Coggan is one of the best ways to keep in shape and enjoy the longevity that most people only read about or see on TV.

You won’t find much down time in Joan Henderson Brown’s schedule. She arrives at the pool daily with a smile on her face and true affection for everyone she runs into. Like most of her fellow future centagenarians, she sets aside a few minutes to chat with lifeguards Courtney Camin and Joey Cavallo, who warmly greet each regular patron by first name. One gets the sense that the momentary stop at the lifeguard tower on the way to and from your swim is as indispensable as the time in the water itself.

Revving up for the day

In her white cap, matching goggles and blue suit, Joan looks literally 20 years younger than her chronological age, which this journalist was sworn to keep a secret. It’s no wonder Joan is still active in real estate and nonprofit activities. After spending two hours in the pool, she’s got to do something with all that energy she gets from swimming.

Greeting Joan with a hug several times a week is the matriarch of the swimmers at Coggan, Virginia Flagg. At 84, she’s more active than almost anyone you’ll meet. With no need for a car, she walks three to five times a week from her residence near La Jolla Cove, a mile from the pool. Once she’s in the water, she’s all business, which you’d expect from the woman who has won the La Jolla Rough Water Swim in her age group more times than she can remember. She no longer has any competition, she says, but still does the swim with her sons and their wives.

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