Great story Jonathan.
Speaking of men and women swimming together. . .
All my #1 rankings (at least for now) were done when I was swimming in mixed heats and I had men to race. I find that to be interesting. You would think that would be disadvantageous to swim in heats full of men what with the added turbulence, bigger wakes and waves, etc. But, prior to getting more comfortable racing men in meets, I started racing everyone in masters practices regardless of gender and what kind of equipment they were using (fins, paddles, wetsuits). I think that was helpful. Challenging and difficult at times. Annoying, yes. But most helpful.
I will say that racing the kids (either gender) is much more intimidating than racing the men.