When Richard Hauptschein's 11-year-old son, Jeff, a swimmer and baseball player, told him a year and a half ago that the father needed to do something competitive, Hauptschein wasn't about to let the challenge go unanswered.

After all, the 48-year-old Kennett Square resident and manager for the DuPont Co. had been a swimmer for Columbia University for four years, and was good enough to win a triathlon (biking, swimming and running) in Massachusetts, which qualified him for the Ironman competition in Hawaii in the mid-1980s.

He also knew it would take some work no matter what he did to get in shape. After college, where he was a butterflyer and distance freestyler, Hauptschein felt he had enough swimming.

"I swore I'd never swim [competitively] again," said Hauptschein, whose job brought him to Kennett Square in 2004. "At 22, I had enough of those days when we swam 20,000 yards."

But when Hauptschein, who finished in the top 10 percent at the Ironman, looked around for something competitive, he decided to come back to the very sport he had sworn off.

He's now training to enter the U.S. Masters National Short Course championships, scheduled for May 17-20 in Seattle.

Why go back to swimming? He says there are several reasons.

"It had been so many years I'd forgotten the swimming," he said with a laugh. "Now, I don't have to spend five hours a day swimming."

The other reasons are his children's interest in the sport, and a second challenge from some former college teammates. Jeff; his sister, Lauren, 9; and brother, Matt 6, swim for the Kennett YMCA team.

"Watching the kids take to the sport inspired me," Hauptschein said.

The clincher for Hauptschein was the annual homecoming swim at Columbia in January 2006.

"A couple of my ex-teammates - one lives in Seattle - began talking about the masters championships. They started egging me on," the 5-foot-9, 170-pounder said. He began training when he returned home, knowing it would take him at least a year to get his stroke back.

In December, he did a time trial with some swimmers from the Kennett High team, who persuaded him to keep going.

Hauptschein plans to swim six events in Seattle, the 50-, 100- and 200-yard races for both freestyle and butterfly in the 45-50 age bracket. His goal for the 50 freestyle is to finish in less than 25 seconds. He and his wife, Heidi, will fly out.

His wife, the lone non-swimming member of the family, said she was not surprised that he had taken up the challenge.

"I think he's crazy, but I'm excited for him," she said. "He's always been very competitive."

Although Hauptschein is not working out five hours a day at the Y, as he did in college, he is swimming two miles five to six days a week.

"I was shocked that he decided to do this at his age," said Jeff, who can swim the 50 freestyle in 30 seconds. "He's a good swimmer, and he's taught me all the mechanics of being a good swimmer."

Contact staff writer Don Beideman

at 610-701-7613 or dbeideman@phillynews.com.