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Friday, May. 24, 2019
Varsity swimmers show the way for regional prospects
by Randy Pascal

There were vastly different perspectives in play as a large group of very talented swimmers from across the province gathered at Laurentian’s Olympic Gold Pool this past weekend. The wide spectrum of viewpoints only stands to reason, given the fact that the event in question was an OUA “Dual Meet” between the Laurentian Voyageurs and Ottawa Gee Gees, which also included a large high school contingent representing the "Team" NEOR (North Eastern Ontario Region).

Now in his fourth year under the tutelage of head coach Phil Parker, L.U. team captain David Ahong is noticing a different mindset as he completes his university career in Sudbury. “The first three years, I really focused on the 1500m,” he said. “I was really going for time in that event.”

“This year, it’s more focused about my team and the shorter events. It’s my last six months of swimming left, and I want to focus on having fun.” In fact, that idea transcended much of his thoughts, as he pondered exactly how he might address the NEOR contingent, the bulk of whom enjoy aspirations of perhaps moving on to post-secondary competition.

“You always stress academics first,” Ahong stated. “Swimming should always come second, because after four years, it’s most likely going to be over. But have fun with it. If you have fun, the times will come. If you’re not having fun, what really is the point of swimming?”

There are, hopefully, still more memories to be made, but Ahong actually noted the accomplishment of a teammate as ranking among his top moments at Laurentian. “Last year, James Sutherland went 1:56 in the 200m free, dropping like four seconds,” Ahong said.

“He’s my roommate and one of my best friends, and that was such a good race for him. It’s one of my favourite memories of swimming.” That type of camaraderie prevails within the Voyageur lineup, it seems. A long-time representative of the Sudbury Laurentian Swim Club (SLSC), Alex Langlois enters her sophomore year with the blue and gold.

“A year ago, I didn’t know what to expect with the team – I really didn’t know them,” she said. “This year, I know everyone on the team and it’s such a big family. I love our team so much. We do everything together.”

A high-end backstroker at both the 100m and 200m distances, Langlois is looking to advance to nationals for the first time this year, having just missed standard in 2015-2016. With plenty of hours of training and competition still ahead, the College Notre-Dame graduate suggested that targets are toned down, to some extent, at this time of year.

“You still have some small goals to set for yourself,” she said. “They’re not exceptional goals, because it’s the first meet, but you still want to see improvements in your time, work on your technique and strategies to get your time lower. Everybody is a little bit rusty right now.”

That feeling is shared by 16 year old Ryllie Tryon, one of eight local swimmers with Team NEOR. A long-time competitor with the Valley East Waves, Tryon is competing with the SLSC this year, partly in the hopes of making the jump to the next level.

“There’s a lot more people my age (with SLSC),” she said. “It was mostly about swimming with more people my age, and also about getting out to some of the bigger swim meets. I am going to university soon, so I wanted to get out there a little bit more,” added the grade 11 student at Bishop A Carter in Hanmer.

Looking to crack provincial standards in the same events that Langlois prefers, Tryon has some work to do in very specific aspects of her race. “I need to work at getting further off the walls underwater, for sure,” she said. “That needs to be fixed a lot. I run out of breath too quick.”

Just one year younger, Everett Smith hasn’t quite entered the mode where his university destination is top of mind. In fact, the 6’1” fifteen year-old is still getting a feel for a somewhat different approach leading into 2016-2017.

“I took this summer off from big competitions, on purpose, to give me some time to recover from the year,” suggested Smith. “I’m figuring this coming year is going to be a pretty long one. Right now, there’s not a lot of pressure at this meet, really just to see how you’re doing with relatively little training, and I find it great. I’m not doing too bad, very near PBs.”

And where there were little to no meet-specific pursuits last year at this time, such is certainly not the case some twelve months later. “Last year, I really didn’t have any long-term goals in mind,” said Smith. “This year, I’m really setting my sights on Trials, and the Ontario Junior Internationals in December.”

Rounding out the local NEOR participants were Joshua Clapham, of the Nickel City Aquatics, as well as SLSC teammates Nina Kucheran, Natalie Lefebvre, Megan Tom, Thomas Boyd and Joseph Deni.

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