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Monday, Aug. 20, 2018
Plenty of swimming success for Sudbury
by Randy Pascal

Come February and March of every year, it gets to be next to impossible to try and keep up with the local competitive swimming contingent.

From the Dave Kensit Memorial Championship in Sault Ste Marie, to the various Top Fish meets, and on to long-course provincials and other specialty items thrown in the mix, the youngsters representing the Sudbury Laurentian Swim Club (SLSC), Nickel City Aquatics and Valley East Waves provide enough highlights to fill a sports section on pretty much a weekly basis.

The SLSC recently sent a contingent nine strong to the 2017 Ontario Spring Provincial Championships, a group that accounted for a 10-medal haul in Brantford.

Leading the way was Everett Smith, who grabbed gold in the 50 and 100 metre freestyle events, and bronze in the 200m backstroke and 400m individual medley. “He swam fast enough to win and medal, but I think he has more in the tank, and he felt the same way,” said SLSC coach Dean Henze.

“He’s going to be really good at Easterns in Toronto at the end of April.” In fact, as of right now, Smith remains under consideration for the squad that will represent Ontario at the 2017 Canada Summer Games in Winnipeg. Joining him on the podium was Natalie Lefebvre, who won the 400m freestyle and took silver in the 1,500m freestyle, the latter providing for the bigger news.

“She qualified for World Trials in the 1,500-metre free, which was the highlight of the weekend as far as the team is concerned,” said Henze. “The only one who beat her was Olivia Anderson from the national team. She (Lefebvre) took 20 seconds off her PB.”

Isabella Mastroianni (silver, 200 breaststroke) and Hannah Nordquist (silver, 100m breaststroke) rounded out the medal count for the girls, while Desmond Wood-Anderson, who moved from Sault Ste Marie to train with the local club, capped off things for the boys with a silver (400m freestyle) and bronze (200m freestyle) medal performance.

“Bella swam lights out the first two days,” said Henze. “She was crazy good in the 200-metre breaststroke final. For some reason, she had a rough Saturday, but rebounded on Sunday pretty strong. I couldn’t have been more proud of that girl.

“Same with Hannah, whose been dealing with a ton of injuries, for the last two years, essentially,” added Henze. “When she is healthy, she is going to be a beast.”

Also representing SLSC at provincials were Joseph Deni, Ryan Tom, Megan Tom and Ryllie Tryon, while Alexandre Landry and Justin Watson both donned the colours of the Valley East Waves at the event.

Another SLSC pairing was also in action, though much further from home, as Nina Kucheran and Thomas Boyd were selected to be part of a Team Ontario grouping that travelled to Florida for a two-week training camp, beginning on Family Day weekend, and then made their way to Indianapolis to compete in an international pro-am meet.

“Nina made second swim in three different events, so top 24,” said Henze. “She swam OK, considering the fact that she was deathly ill throughout the entire training camp.” As for Boyd, safe to say that the trip offered the eye-opening environment that is so critical to the development of elite athletes.

“He’s a 15-year-old boy racing against 25-year-old Olympians,” Henze said. “He swam the 200-metre freestyle in the same heat that included the world record holder in the 100-metre breaststroke. He swam really well, right on his PB’s."

“He was there to watch what the best in the world do,” Henze continued. “The experience was great for him, for both of them, actually.”

In February, the Nickel City Aquatics travelled to the Sault for the annual Kensit Meet, taking a crew of 14 swimmers, just barely enough to qualify the team as one of the large team squads. Still, the NCA ranked right in the middle of the pack, seventh out of 14, with 10-year-old Ben Schell accounting for 42 points on the weekend, 15 more than teammate Keegan Lepage.

Schell was competing at the Kensit Meet for the first time, rightfully proud of the effort made to reach the standards. “I usually think that the qualifying times must be hard to get, so I have to do my all, especially the last 25 metres,” said Schell.

Based on the results he posted, small wonder the gregarious youngster was much than just a little pumped to be making the cut this time around. “The one that I am most looking forward to has to be the 200-metre backstroke,” he said in the week leading up to the Kensit. “It’s my favourite stroke. You have to keep your arms straight and above your head, so that they’re not under water. If they’re under water, you get a slow projectile.”

With 16 points to her credit, Georgia Lepage of the NCA was one of six swimmers on her team to hit double digits. The remaining three were Joshua Clapham with 22, Aislinn Munro with 24 and Lainna Munro with 14.

Quite the performance, considering she did not even know that she had cracked the lineup until well after her 100m backstroke at an earlier meet. “I didn’t know until my dad told me that I had qualified for the time, about an hour and a half after the race,” she conceded. “I thought I went pretty quick.”

Also 10 years of age, Lepage has certainly amped up her involvement in the competitive scene this year. “We used to swim at the lake just for fun, but not all of the strokes,” she said. “This year is harder, I’m practising a lot more than before.”

And judging from the accomplishments of Sudbury and area athletes in the pool, right across the board, she is certainly not alone in practising hard.

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