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Talented duo do NCA proud at Ontario Winter Swimming Championships

Attending the 2024 Winter Ontario Swimming Championships last month as representatives of the Nickel City Aquatics, the tandem of Shane Clapham and James Mongeon did the local club proud.

Competing in the U15 division, Mongeon competed in four separate events, enjoying his most notable results in his debut against the very best swimmers in the province in the 100m butterfly (7th - 1:00.55) and placing 11th in the 200m butterfly, 100m backstroke and 200m backstroke, showcasing his versatility in the pool.

As for Clapham, who was also attending the event for the very first time, a pair of PBs highlighted his performance in the 17 and over males grouping, raising his own personal bar in both the 100m breaststroke (1:09.48) and the 200m breaststroke (2:37.66).

It's the latest in the continued rise for the grade 12 student at St Benedict Catholic Secondary School, his post-secondary studies set to continue in the fall at the University of Waterloo (Nanotechnology Engineering).

"Right after Covid is when I realized that I had gotten fast at swimming and was doing a lot better," said the youngest of three boys in the family, all of whom pursued competitive swim training with NCA.

"I had grown so much throughout Covid. That's when I noticed that if I start coming out to all of the practices and trying as hard as I can, I can really make something out of it."

But for as much as Clapham was nipping at the heels of some key standard times, it wasn't until just a few months ago that he broke through in earning a place at the OSC meet in Whitby.

"I was super close for a couple of years so it was really nice getting that time at the Dave Kensit Meet (in February in Sault Ste Marie)," he noted. "I was 0.80 seconds off going in and I cleared it by over a second."

"I was pretty ecstatic with my performance."

Physical development provided the devoted swimmer a base, but it was a far less physical hurdle that needed to be cleared to pave the way to finally hitting the standard.

"For me, it was more of a mental thing," Clapham explained. "For me to be able to swim faster, I had to be able to push myself in the last half of the race when I am really feeling tired."

"I also had started really dialing in my training - every practice, giving it my all."

Having reached out to Waterloo head swim coach Jacqueline Beckford-Henriques, Clapham is hoping to latch on with the Warriors as a "walk-on" come the fall, already having planned out his summer workouts in order to enhance his chances.

"I plan to focus more on dryland with maybe a couple of (in pool) practices in between, not training in the pool as frequently as I would in our regular season," he said. "I just want to maintain my endurance and potentially get stronger for varsity swimming."

For this very well grounded young man, the move is not about hitting the podium at an OUA Championship anytime soon - though that would be nice.

"I'm hoping to take swimming as an escape from school; approach it like one of my free time things, instead of going to read a book for an hour, for instance," said Clapham. "I can really dial in on studying once I get out of the water because I always feel great right after practice."

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