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Finish line in sight for local swim contingent

Early June and the Jeno Tihanyi Regional Championships means that the finish line is in sight for the local competitive swim community, both metaphorically, as well as athletically, in the pool.

Sure, perhaps one more quasi-fun/quasi-serious meet might lie ahead for members of the Valley East Waves. And some within the Sudbury contingent are still eyeing the long-course provincial championships later this month. A very small handful might even extend their training schedule, with national caliber events in July or August.

But for the most part, the Tihanyi gathering at the Laurentian University Olympic Gold Pool allows swimmers in our area to both look back upon the season that was, and attempt to add maybe one more crowning moment to the resume, just for good measure.

Ali Bertrim, a grade eight student at Lo-Ellen Park elementary, was targeting the high point total within her age bracket as she looked to complete her first season of working out with the “big boys”. Bumped up to the senior group of the Sudbury Laurentian Swim Club squad, last June, under the tutelage of head coach Dean Henze, the talkative 14 year-old could definitely see the fruits of her labour.

“It was really scary for me, moving up to Dean’s group,” she said. “The first couple of months were tough, he pushed us hard. Then I started to get better, more endurance. In practice, I see improvement and then I feel more confident. It got a little easier, but now I have more difficult pace times.”

Having spent the past few years with SLSC coach Connor Watson and others, Bertrim acknowledged a slightly different focus, even in terms of a general overview of her training with each group. “With Connor, you would focus on your technique, you would really try and perfect your stroke,” she said.

“Dean is really trying to improve your speed to get to the next level.” And as for the weekend at hand, no time to take the foot off the gas, quite yet. “We are really trying to get prepared for provincials,” noted Bertrim. “Dean is looking for us to try our hardest, not to hold back. Even in prelims, he wants us to go.”

And go she did, as Bertrim shared the 14 year-old girls high point total award with Arianna Miller (Barrie Trojans), both you ladies finishing with 48 points. Fellow 14 year-old Jeremi Aubin has not trouble whatsoever relating to exactly what Bertrim is feeling. Teammates with the SLSC, Aubin joined his female counterpart in ascending from the junior to senior ranks, within the club hierarchy, last fall.

“I’ve been pushing myself a lot more in practice, which has led to me being better,” stated the grade nine student at College Notre-Dame. “I’ve been working on stretching my arms a lot farther and pulling the water longer. I’ve been training a lot better.”

In fact, only a week or so ago, coach Henze and company threw something of a curve-ball at their competitive swim talent, bringing in a southern Ontario club for a weekend of workouts, helping to raise the bar for his crew while exposing the visiting youngsters to an environment they seldom see. “We had training camp with Oakville last week,” said Aubin.

“When I was with them, they pushed me a lot, which made me work even harder, which helped me succeed. Some of them were really quick, so I got a little scared, but I got used to it.” And while Aubin fell just short of his weekend goal, trimmed 49-48 in the race for high points but Collingwood rival Cole Mitchell, he did manage to just barely hold off a hard charging group of teammates, with Jordano Piccoli (46), Ryan Tom (45.50) and Ethan Thomas (37) hot on his heels.

Sixteen year-old Logan Drane, a seven year veteran of the Valley East Waves, was looking for something else entirely for his experience at the Tihanyi competition. A grade 10 student at Lockerby Composite, Drane is an accomplished pole vaulter, mixing in track and field workouts, at this time of year, with his swimming commitments.

“I just had a competition last week, and track (NOSSA) in the middle of the week, so I’m pretty tired,” said Drane. “Just making finals in a few of my races would be good for this weekend. I’m getting older now, I’m in the 15 and over age category. It’s harder to place, so I wanted to take at least a bit of time off in all of my races this year.”

“I think I might have done that now, which is good.” And though he has his feet planted firmly on the ground in terms of his realistic swimming expectations, Drane is not about to drop something that has become such a big part of his life, at least not until his high school days are done.

“My teammates make going to practices a lot of fun and just the competitiveness of the meets, I like that,” he said. “And working out keeps me in shape, which helps me out for all of my other sports too.” Speaking of his teammates, there were certainly some Waves which caught the eye of Valley East head coach Sharon Leger at Tihanyi Regionals.

For the second straight weekend, Coralie Bernier would show the way for the Waves. At the Ontario Team Challenge in May, the 12 year old secured a total of seven medals (3 gold, 2 silver, 2 bronze), and followed that up by dominating the individual medley at the Tihanyi Meet, finishing first in both the 200m and 400m races.

Alexandre Landry added a bronze medal in the 200m breaststroke to the Waves hardware haul, and will now attend the Ontario Provincial Championships at the end of the month. Finally, Bianka Vitiello competed in her first set of Regional Championships, posting a pair of personal best times.

Highlights for the Nickel City Aquatics included Mikayla Vizza (5th in 10 and under high points – 27) and Keegan Lepage (5th in 13 year old boys high points – 37), while remaining top point leaders from SLSC featured James Bertrim (12 year old boys), Abby McDonald (15 & over women) and Thomas Boyd (15 & over men).

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