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Stingrays' national contender helps set record pace

Led by national-level contender Savanah VanNieuwkerk, the Duncan Stingrays Swim Team have had a record-breaking summer, continuing the club’s trend for 2016.

“In total, the Stingrays swimmers this year have broken 83 Duncan Swim Team records,” head coach Leanne Sirup said. “Prior to this, the best year we’ve had was 42 in 2013-14. To say that we’re proud of our swimmers and their accomplishments is an understatement.”

Six club records fell in July alone.

On July 7, Savanah VanNieuwkerk set a new mark of two minutes and 45.50 seconds in the 15-17 200m breaststroke, breaking Tamara Garriock’s record of 2:45.58 from 2009.

On July 10, Malia Prystupa swam the 50m backstroke in 33.22 seconds, taking 0.07 seconds off Kelsey Rush’s 13-14 record that had stood since 2001. That same day, the 4x50m medley relay team of Prystupa, VanNieuwkerk, Robyn Zinkan and Brielle Woodruff set a new 15-17 record of 2:10.34, beating the mark of 2:10.48 from 2007. That quartet also finished the 4x100m medley relay in 4:44.17, to knock off the record of 4:49.93, also dating back to 2007, and the senior/open record of 4:47.53 from 2013.

On July 12, VanNieuwkerk became the fastest 200m breaststroke swimmer in Stingrays history with a time of 2:35.62, beating the 15-17 and senior/open records of 2:36.53 held by Tamara Garriock since March 2010.

VanNieukerk, 16, also represented the Stingrays at both the Canadian Age Group Championships in Calgary at the end of July, and the Canadian Swimming Championships in Edmonton in early August.

She was joined in Calgary by teammate Oliver Castle, 15, as they took on nearly 800 swimmers from about 150 clubs from across the country. In order to attend the meet, swimmers needed three Canadian Age Group qualifying times, a mark just narrowly missed by Woodruff, who had two qualifying times.

VanNieuwkerk’s best result at the meet was ninth in Canada for her age in the 50m breaststroke, and whe was 11th in the 100m and 200m breaststroke. Castle’s top finish was 18th in Canada for his age in the 200m breaststroke.

“Being at altitude and dealing with the great pressure of the national stage, our primary goal was to simply race each event with the competitors in our heats,” Sirup explained. “Some were seeded as close as 0.2 seconds separating 10 swimmers so it was high pressure from start to finish. Our greatest indication and celebration for success was the climb in rankings and our swimmers did so in eight of our nine races.”

Earlier this month, VanNieuwkerk became only the sixth Stingray in the club’s four decades of history to compete at the Canadian Swimming Championships, where she was one of 301 qualifiers from across Canada. Previous qualifiers have included Stephen Shumka and Leanne Wilkinson (now coach Sirup) in 1988, Veronica Reid in 2009, Tamara Garriock in 2010, and Natalia Garriock in 2013.

VanNieukerk qualified in the 200m breaststroke, and also competed in the 50m breaststroke. She was fifth for her age and 32nd overall in Canada in the 50m, and seventh for her age and 43rd overall in Canada in the 200m.

“Savanah competed very well with the fastest swimmers of Canada,” Sirup said. “This was the first time that she had swum solely in an open category nationally, and thus was of the youngest competitors there. To achieve the results of personal bests [for morning sessions] and climb the rankings in both of her races for the first time on the biggest stage Canada offers is extraordinary. Her quiet day-to-day diligence in practice has created the success she is enjoying as both a fast swimmer and a great competitor.”