LINK to Whitehorse Daily Star sports article:
It was the big meet of the season for the Whitehorse Glacier Bears as over 100 swimmers filled the Canada Games Centre pool for the Yukon Invitational Swim Championships on the weekend.
Glacier Bears head coach Malwina Bukszowana said it’s an important meet for the team and the one they build up to all season long with their daily practices.
The meet was an opportunity for swimmers to set or improve upon qualifying times for the B.C. provincial championships in June and July. It was also a chance for the younger swimmers to race some events for the first time in a competitive setting.
Bukszowana said some of the younger groups were focused on learning breaststroke, so they raced in that event for the first time. Other groups swam the individual medley for the first time as they just finished learning all four disciplines.
The Swim Yukon meet also held official relays for the first time – both freestyle and medley – in order to give the swimmers that experience and also to be able to include the times in the club records.
“We hope it keeps the kids in swimming longer,” Bukszowana said of the relays. “A group of swimmers in relay will drag themselves together.”
The medley relays were swam in two groups – the girl’s and boy’s divisions – but not separated by age in the pool. So the more experienced older athletes were racing with the younger swimmers, some in their first relay race, which Bukszowana said was a great way to inspire the up-and-coming swimmers.
The day-and-a-half swim meet also had four athletes participate from Special Olympics Yukon as well as a group of 10 from the Haines Dolphins.
Another new element to the meet was a focus on adding finals instead of just having timed heats as the only race. Bukszowana said this is important to train for larger competitions where this is the format and the qualifying swimmers have to return later in the day and swim the event again in a final.
“Heats and finals, that attracts more coaches. We put in more events, try to put relays in the final session and try to make it more interesting if we can,” she said.
For the older swimmers, Bukszowana said the competition was more for training purposes as they were competing against the same people they train with in practice.
“It’s not as easy for them to get to their best at a swim meet like this. There’s no adrenaline and it’s the same environment. It’s challenging for them to really swim fast so I don’t expect them to swim an awesome best time,” she said, noting that she worked the older swimmers very hard Wednesday and Thursday to provide an imitation of larger swim meets that usually run three or four days.
But it didn’t stop the tired swimmers from breaking many Yukon Championship and club records.
The charge was led by 12-year-old Thomas Gishler who broke a record in all seven of the individual races he participated in.
“He’s a very hard-training boy. He likes to push himself hard,” Bukszowana said of Gishler after he already broke three club records by the end of the Saturday morning session. “He will be swimming faster and faster now plus he likes to train.”
Gishler broke five club records in the boy’s 11-12 division – two of which were already his – and one that dated back to 1996. He won the 100-metre individual medley in a time of 1:16.87, almost a full second quicker than Graeme Tozer’s 1996 record time.
Of the five club records, four of them were also meet records except for the 50-metre butterfly. He also set meet records in the 200-metre backstroke and breaststroke.
In the boy’s 15+ division, Alex Petriw broke the 400 and 800-metre freestyle records set in the mid-2000s. Luke Bakica just squeaked by the 200-metre breaststroke record set in 2015.
On the girl’s side, Cassidy Cairns was the sole record breaker of a 2002 time in the 100-metre breaststroke.
“The best is when they beat the old, old records because they’re pretty fast,” Bukszowana said of the team’s achievements.
But this isn’t the end of the season for the competitive team as they train for the B.C. Championships at the end of June and July.
The team might host their second time trial toward the end of May, Bukszowana said, but it is dependent on if they can get the number of officials and volunteers needed.
They will also look to participate in 50-metre long course competitions ahead of provincials, because the squad lacks that experience training in the 25-metre pool.
“All summer swim meets are long course. Even if we qualify now in a 25-metre pool, we’re still going to race in a 50-metre pool which is a disadvantage for us. It’s harder and a totally different swim meet,” Bukszowana said.
The Wolfpack Invitational Swim meet in Kamloops and the provincial championships will both be long course events, and the final opportunities for swimmers to meet qualifying times for the Canadian Junior Championships in Winnipeg, as they have to be set on a long course.