“I like this meet, because all of the fast people come up.”
Sudbury Laurentian Swim Club senior swimmer Jérémi Aubin is not wrong. Over the course of the past decade or so, the Jeno Tihanyi Regional Swim Championships have expanded to include not only the traditional Northeastern Ontario region, but also Huronia, as well.
The increased competitiveness that comes by virtue of adding another seven clubs or so to the mix, the powerful and largely-numbered Barrie Trojan Swim Club among them, has helped keep the annual June meet within the realm of the most anticipated events of the season for local participants.
And though the scheduling of the swimming extravaganza is relatively late in the season, there is still enough at stake to help ramp up the intensity, as athletes attempt to attain various qualifying standards.
“This meet, in general, is usually one of our bigger meets in the calendar,” noted 15 year-old Ryan Tom, a teammate of Aubin with SLSC. “We usually try and race as hard as we can at this one. We taper before-hand.”
“Going into this meet, I was feeling pretty confident, because I've been racing pretty good the past few months,” Tom added. “I was expecting good results, and I am getting them. I broke 5:00 in the 400 I.M., and went 2:20 in my 200m fly, which is good. I've been training a lot harder, these past few months.”
Heading into his senior years at Lo-Ellen, Ryan Tom is arguably nearing make or break time, the point at which he must decide about just how much he wants to commit to his sport in order to perhaps reach a goal of continuing at the post-secondary level. It's not a goal that he is likely to reach without help.
“Dean (Henze – SLSC head coach) and I had a talk, talked about my goals and everything like that,” said Tom. “After that, I had an extra incentive to work harder. Without a coach, swimmers wouldn't have that extra push and motivation. What I like about Dean is that he never stops. He makes you keep going, and that's good.”
With his sights also set on competing beyond his high school days at Collège Notre-Dame, Jérémi Aubin understands the difficult balance between swimmer and coach, specifically as it relates to realizing just how much an elite athlete can be challenged, in training, before it becomes counter-productive.
“Dean is a hard coach,” said Aubin, without the slightest hint of bitterness in his voice. “He likes to push us, so it's difficult, but we know we have to push through. It was good for me, because I've always wanted to get better, and he always wants us to get better. So we had that connection, between Dean and me.”
Though there is seldom a lack of goals to be reached, Aubin has currently targetted nailing the standard for the Ontario Junior International meet in December, an accomplishment that would require him to shave a few more seconds of his time in the 200m butterfly. “I need to try and time my dolphin kick better with my stroke,” said Aubin.
“Apparently, it's a bit off. I need to kick while my arms are up, moving forward. I was pretty surprised when he told me that. And I also need to work on my walls.”
The SLSC crew were certainly not alone in enjoying some breakthrough performances on the weekend. Having returned to the pool in December following a shoulder injury sustained last March, Tristen Aikia-Lauzon of the Nickel City Aquatics can suggest, at least for now, that her time away proved fruitful, in the end.
“I missed being active every day,” she said. “It definitely changed my perspective about how much swimming was a part of my life. When I came back, I really just wanted to see what I could do, and then just keep growing, from there. I just kept getting better and better, and tonight, I just made my times for “AA” provincials.”
“I was kind of iffy about coming back next year, coming back to swimming, but now I know that I want to continue throughout high school, and possibly university.”
If that is to be, her meal ticket is likely the breaststroke, achieving her qualifying time in the 100m distance of that event. “I've really had to work on my legs, because they have been giving out on me, and also my head position when I am doing my strokes,” explained the grade 10 student at Lasalle Secondary School. “I don't glide for very long, and I shorten up my strokes too much.”
Perfection, indeed, is what all of these young athletes ultimately strive to obtain. Sixteen year-old Alexandre Landry, a long-time member of the Valley East Waves, would agree that he has not yet achieved that. Still, he has perfected his 200m breaststroke enough to allow him to qualify for Junior Nationals in Calgary, later this summer.
“I qualified by almost a full second,” said Landry, recalling his race at Eastern Canadians in Québec City in April. After also besting the standard last year, the grade ten student at Ecole Secondaire Hanmer would have to try it all over again twelve months later, given that the 2018 Jr Nationals conflicted with a planned summer family vacation to the west coach of the United States.
In the end, a combination of a few key skills, coming together at just the right time, worked in favour of Landry. “My last fifty metres, I am able to keep going, to not lose energy, where others sometimes struggle the last fifty,” he said. “You always try and qualify, at every meet, but it's usually easier at the bigger meets, because you have more competition.”
Local swimmers who finished in the top five, in their age bracket, of the High Point Performers at the Jeno Tihanyi Regionals, included:Dorothy Dong – 2nd - Nickel City Aquatics (10 & under girls) – 41 points
Matteo Ceccon – 5th - Nickel City Aquatics (10 & under boys) – 33 points
Shane Clapham – 4th - Nickel City Aquatics (12 year old boys) – 37 points
Coralie Bernier - 5th – Valley East Waves (13 year old girls) – 39 points
James Bertrim - 3rd – Sudbury Laurentian Swim Club (13 year old boys) – 43 points
Keegan Lepage - 5th – Nickel City Aquatics (14 year old boys) – 39 points
Isabella Mastroianni - 1st – Sudbury Laurentian Swim Club (15 & over girls) – 46 points
Nina Kucheran - 3rd – Sudbury Laurentian Swim Club* (15 & over girls) – 34 points
Ethan Thomas - 3rd – Sudbury Laurentian Swim Club (15 & over boys) – 34 points
Chris Eastick - 4th – Sudbury Laurentian Swim Club (15 & over boys) – 34 points
* also swims for the Florida State Seminoles (NCAA)