History - The early years
The South "Y" Patriots Swim Club (South Calgary YMCA) started as a recreational swim club organized by Ray Forseth in the fall of 1971. Before too many months passed, it had changed to a competitive swim club. Ray Forseth ran the club completely for the first two years; he was the coach, arranged pool times, entered swim meets, and organized gatherings at his home to make out entry cards. To get some help with coaching, Ray lured several parents out on deck and these deck hands - Jack Dondlinger and Alex Strucken - soon became full-time coaches. When sufficient pool time was tight at the Y, Ray approached Glenmore Pool. As city policy prohibited the use of pools by a competitive swim club, each swimmer in the 1973-74 season paid to get into the pool, and once on deck, Ray conducted a workout!
This happy-go-lucky group did some improbable things. Spring of 1973 found 38 of the 74 athletes entered in a swim meet in Spokane. They returned with 15 medals and ribbons, proving their ability. The following spring found 28 swimmers qualified for the "Y" Nationals in Winnipeg. This was their first trip by plane to compete and they brought home a second place relay ribbon and a bronze medal - a credible showing for such a young club at a National meet. Tim Strain (the bronze medal winner in Winnipeg) became the club's first Provincial qualifier that spring qualifying in Short Course Boys 10-and-under 100m breaststroke.
Fall of 1974 saw the formation of the Patriots parents' organization with Don Ericson as President. Under Ray Forseth's continued guidance, the swimmers excelled themselves in the wind-up meet of the 1974-75 season. After two days of frantic competition at the Helena Relay Meet, the Patriots edged out the home team of Helena to win the Governor's Trophy. The club was also represented at the first Tier 11 Championships, a new meet sponsored by C.A.S.A. with qualifying times slightly slower than those for Nationals. Melinda Cornell, Terry Gordon, and Chris Grayston represented the Patriots in Vancouver and were the first swimmers of this club to qualify for a meet of this caliber.
The 1975-76 season was an eventful one. Under President Dave Grayston, the club gained a more formal organization with the Constitution and by-laws being written. The first Chinook Invitational was held. It was hosted by the Patriots and Thornhill to repay the many invitations from other clubs. Ray Forseth retired to devote more time to business and family. Jack Dodlinger took over as Head Coach in the summer of 1976. Jack's duties started immediately with a trip to Regina when he accompanied Mike Olson and Chris Grayston to the Tier 11 meet.
The start of the 1976-77 season looked like the beginning of a banner year but in the fall of 1976, tragedy struck; newly elected President Harvey Glover passed away suddenly (Harvey Glover Memorial Trophy). Rey Herrick stepped into the gap and the club continued to thrive.
Anne and Lambert Olson became Co-Presidents for the 1977-78 season. The Chinook Invitational became so popular the number of entries has to be limited. Swimmers continued to improve and a major milestone was reached in the early part of 1978 when Mike Olson achieved two qualifying times for the Winter Nationals. He went on to qualify for the Summer Nationals (100 Free, 200 Free, 200 IM), winning a silver medal in the 200 Free. On the strength of his showing at this meet, Mike was named to the Canadian team to compete in a dual meet later that summer. Several swimmers qualified for the Western Division 11 Championships and the Patriots were also well-represented at the Provincial level. This was an excellent record for a club whose numbers were relatively small. It was felt that a move away from the Y was now necessary for continued growth and the Olsons worked toward this end.
Fran Gilley, as President of the 1978-79 season, led the Patriots through a rather trying first year away from the Y. At the end of the 1979-80 season, volunteer Head Coach Jack Dondlinger said good-bye and went on to coach the Masters Swim Program. It should be noted here that Mike Olson made the Canadian Olympic team in 1980. Sadly, this was the year that the Olympics were boycotted by Western Countries. Nevertheless, this was still an exciting event in the Calgary Patriots history - our first swimmer to make it to the top!
The Early Eighties
Neil Muir became the new Head Coach for the 1980-81 season and had a very successful year with the seniors, taking many to the Winter and Summer Nationals. These swimmers went to the Varsity team at the University of Calgary with scholarships. Unfortunately, Neil found water polo to be his sport and left to coach in that arena.
In the years of 1981-83, younger swimmers were fortunate to have Rosemary Bishop as coach and she developed them well. However, by 1983, the club was in danger of folding due to financial strain. But, thanks to the advent of Bingo and along with Angie Dodd's hard work, it was decided to continue with a 1983-84 season with Mike Dodd as Head Coach. The Besslers, Cressmans, Steeves, Demaeres, and Langdons became the backbone of the Club and the Patriots continued to show progress. It also became the year of the RETURN: Mike Grayson, Jim Ericson, and Sandra Penman, all ex-Patriots, decided to help out as coaches.
The 1984-85 season was the Olympic Run. During this season, there was a large increase in membership. Jim Ericson, as Head Coach, has his hands full showing new members the ropes. Things were looking positive.
1985-86 was a tough season that the Executive at that time helped pull the club through. During this year, there were two Head Coaches - Doreen Young and Chuck Pratt. The season came to an optimistic close with the hiring of yet another new Head Coach, a young man named Richard McGill.
The Richard McGill Years
Richard McGill became the longest-serving Head Coach with the Calgary Patriots; his tenure of Head Coach went from 1986 to 1993 and as Co-Head Coach (with Russel Gibson) from 1993 to 1995. When Richard took control of the Patriots, they were provincially ranked 25th and were not nationally ranked. His goals were to help the Patriots become the Number 1 small club in Alberta and to help all athletes in the club achieve success in whichever Age Group they were swimming. By 1991, the Patriots were the 4th ranked club in Alberta and 36th ranked nationally. The goal of best small club in Alberta had been made! The Patriots were also recognized to have one of the best parent-run programs in Alberta. During this time, the Patriots had Provincial Record Holders - Megan Gillis and Matthew Tomasson - and consistently sent swimmers to Youth Nationals, Junior Nationals, and Nationals. Coaches serving with Richard were Sandra Penman (Sandra, along with Richard, was instrumental in setting up the non-competitive program, ESSO Swim Canada in the Patriots - this has evolved into P-Too!), Sascha Cudmore, Susan Webb, Iris Weaver, Mark Hlady (currently an MLA in the Provincial Government of Calgary), Jim Ericson, Christine Jones, Chris Scissons, Dave Vanderstelt, Pam Grof, Albert Bergund, and Russel Gibson.
Presidents during Richard's tenure were Jennie DeMaere, Gary Tomasson, Annette Gillis, and Sharon Pattison. Numerous athletes continued on their swimming careers at University, which was also one of Richard's goals - to keep swimming while they were in school. Sarah Agnew and Nate Webb went to Simon Fraser (scholarships), Brock Carscallen, Willow Sinclair, and Trish Petch made the UBC team, Shane Besler and Bo Simpson swam for U of C, Trevor Gillis swam for 4 years at U of T while Esteban Cooper made the triathlon team there. Bryan Normandin swam for Waterloo and Alison Frank swam for U of A. Matthew Tomasson received a scholarship for BYU, and Gavin Carscallen went to Pennsylvania State on scholarship. Pretty impressive! Involved families during these times were the Husacks, Baths, Hideghs, Pollards, Macketts, Carscallens, Webbs, Tomassons, Winds, Massiahs, Cuschieris, Leungs, Gillis, Hons, Bishops, Normandins, Aldouses, Pattisons.
Life changed for the Patriots when Richard decided to seek some security and stability in his life and became a fireman. He didn't want to give up coaching and the Patriots didn't want to loose him. A trial basis was attempted and, in 1993-94, Richard and Russel Gibson became Co-Head Coaches. In the 1994-95 season, another merger took shape. The Patriots and Cascade formed Calaq (Calgary Aquatics). The goal was to streamline energies and resources at the top end, to provide relay teams that were not possible separately, and to have a stronger presence at higher meets. Both the Co-Head Coaching and Calaq proved to be untenable and 1995 ended with the resignation of Richard, the termination of Calaq and the hiring of Russel Gibson as new Head Coach.
Russel Gibson served as Head Coach for two seasons: 1995-96, 1996-97. This was a rebuilding period for the club and Russell and his coaches (Diana Comessotti, Karl Felsman, Vivian MacDonald, Pam Robinson, Sascha Cudmore, and Leslie George) worked hard to maintain and grow the P-Too! program, which is a breeding ground for new competitive swimmers. A strong middle group was emerging, the 11/12 year-olds, and the older swimmers worked hard to show leadership and support for the younger ones. Families emerging in leadership roles during these years were Eubanks, Kittlesons, Sherwoods, Nowrys, and Gibsons. Russell was finding outside opportunities beckoning and left to become part of Sports Performance Technologies.
The 1997-98 season came under the direction of new Head Coach Tom Ponting, a former three-time Olympic swimmer (his coaching staff included Pam Robinson, Trish Shea, Susan Webb, Maren Esch, Robin Looey, and Jenny Janssen). Tom led the club until the 2000-2001 season, when he decided to pursue other career choices outside swimming. During this time, the club achieved six new Junior National and Youth qualifiers and greatly expanded our P-Too groups using the "Sears I Can Swim Program”.
Under Tom's leadership, several Patriot swimmers also began their coaching careers with P-Too.
The New Millennium
The 2001-02 season included a new Head Coach, Steven Vander Meulen, a 1988 Olympic swimmer and former world record holder in the 4 x 100 Medley Relay. After 21 years of competitive swimming, Steven entered his 7th year as a swim coach as he became Head Coach with the Calgary Patriots. His staff included Chris Renaud (former Olympian and world record holder in 50 Backstroke), Alex Ramsvig (former Patriot swimmer), and Serjey Mukminov. During his first season as Head Coach, three swimmers attended Youth and Junior Nationals. Vicki Chugg represented the Calgary Patriots at the Nationals. The club also continued to expand the P-Too program, offering more training groups at the Calgary Jewish Centre.
The 2003-2004 season saw the Patriots under the direct of new Head Coach Jamie Connors. The staff was made up of many familiar faces as Chris Renaud, Amy Bauman, Chris Hogan, Jane Sponiar and Amanda Johnson return from last season. Also returning to the Patriots staff following a number of years away from the club was Pam Robinson. Highlights of the 03-04 season were: the club placed 3rd in the city at Age Group Provincials (7th overall); placed 11th in Provincial SC rankings and 35th at Western Canadian Champs. On the National scene Erica Morningstar finished 9th in the 50 freestyle at Olympic Trials and was selected to the National Youth Team to travel to Australia for the Olympic Youth Festival. Erica and Coach Jamie represented Alberta on the tour team to Manchester, England in August.
The 2004-05 season was a huge success for the Patriots as the club continued to excel at Provincial and National competitions. The coaching staff began the season relatively unchanged but saw a couple of departures during the season. Both Chris Renaud and Chris Hogan decided to put their respective educations to work in the business world and took positions in the oil and gas sector. Pam Robinson moved in to Black Squad for Chris Hogan and former Patriots swimmer Megan Eubank took over for Chris Renaud. The highlights of the 04-05 season were: the club placed 3rd in the city at Age Group Provincials (5th in Alberta): 18th in National SC rankings and placed 13th at Western Canadian Champs, (the girls team placed 4th). The club had 17 swimmers qualify for Club Nationals and placed 26th at the meet. 4 Patriot swimmers represented the club on Provincial Teams (Anna Goodway, Brittany Ozar, Stuart Gray & Erica Morningstar) and 1 swimmer and 1 coach on Team Alberta for Canada Summer Games. Coach Jamie was the Head Coach of Team Alberta and Erica Morningstar won 7 medals on the way to Team Alberta winning the Canada Games swim meet for the first time ever. Erica also continued to improve on the National scene and won the first Senior National medal in recent Patriot history (2nd place in the 100 freestyle at World Trials).
The 2005-06 swim season saw continued success for the Patriots on the regional and National scene and also saw the club make strides into International waters. At the Provincial level the club was 6th at Age Group Provincials and 5th at Senior Champs (3rd in the city at both meets). The club had 12 swimmers at Western Canadian Champs, placed 9th overall with the girls placing 4th. Medal winners from the meet include Brittany Ozar, Miranda Halasz, Courtney Kapustianyk, Erica Morningstar and Caroline Gagnon. Britt, Miranda, Erica and Caroline teamed together to win the 4x50 Free Relay in a time that matched the fastest in the country for the year. On the National scene the club sent 6 swimmers to Senior Nationals and 12 to Age Group Nationals. At Senior Nationals, Erica Morningstar improved on her performances from last year and won the 100 free at both Commonwealth Trials in November and at Pan Pacific Trials in July. At Age Group Nationals in July the club placed 31st at the meet and had Erica Morningstar, James Goodway and Anna Goodway win medals. The Club also sent 7 swimmers to San Francisco for Far Western Championships in late July to compete against the best young swimmers in that region.
Erica’s victories at Senior Nationals placed her on the National Team for the first time and gave her, and Coach Jamie, the opportunity to venture into International waters. Erica and Coach Jamie represented both the Patriots and Canada at the Commonwealth Games (in Melbourne) and at Pan Pacific Champs (in Victoria). Erica finished the year with 3 International medals from relays and as the Canadian Record Holder in the 100 free and in 3 relays (4x100 free, 4x200 free, 4x100 medley).
The 2006-07 season picked up right where the club had left off with a continued move to the forefront of Canadian swimming. The Patriots senior staff remained relatively unchanged but we did add three new coaching faces through the club. Alex Schultze joined the staff from Regina and took over the Black Squad coaching position. We also revamped the White Squad staff with Joanne Roestal and Melanie Carswell joining the staff to run that program.
On the World scene Erica Morningstar represented Canada at the World Aquatic Championships in Melbourne. She raced her way to a couple of Canadian Records and placed 5th in the final of her speciality - the 100 freestyle. Erica and Coach Jamie also represented Canada at the Paris Open in August. At this international competition Erica placed 3rd in the 100 free, was a member of the 4x100 free relay that placed 3rd and broke the Canadian Record and she anchored the 4x100 medley relay to a silver medal with the fastest 100 free split in Canadian history. For her International performances Erica was named both Swimming Canada and Swim Alberta Female Athlete of the Year. Coach Jamie was also honoured as Coach of the Year for both those organizations.
At the National level the club excelled at Western Canadian Champs placing 10th overall with the girls in 5th place. The team repeated these exact results at Summer Nationals in Calgary. The club had one swimmer and one coach represent Alberta at Western Canada Games (Brittany Ozar & Pam Robinson) with Brittany finishing that competition with 6 medals (2 gold-2 silver & 2 bronze). Brittany and James Goodway went on to represent Alberta at the inaugural North American Challenge Cup in Los Angeles. James secured a victory in his speciality, the 50 free and Brittany placed 3rd in the 200 back. On the Provincial scene the club continued to show our strength placing 4th at SC Senior Provincial, 8th at SC Age Group Champs and 5th at LC Provincials. On the club level the swimmers rewrote the record book breaking 61 club records through the season.