Montreal - Invitation Provinciale Groupe d’age de Noel

Josh Sorensen

Je Me Souviens de Montréal


This weekend saw 25 Halifax Trojan swimmers hop on a plane to fly westward to Quebec to swim in pools uncharted against racers unknown. Over 400 swimmers from Quebec, Ontario, Saskatchewan, and Nova Scotia descended upon Montreal to compete at the Invitation Provinciale Groupe d’age de Noel including some University swimmers and Junior and Senior National Teamer’s in attendance. A big thank you to the host club, Club Aquatique Montréal, for putting together a fantastic meet and experience for all of the competitors. 


Swimmers, Coaches, and Chaperones arrived in Montreal on Thursday morning from an early flight out of Halifax. Excitement was in the air and could be felt by all, despite the early start to the day. Upon arrival, the swimmers were able to get a glimpse and taste of the city as they went for a team brunch. Following their meal and a bit of down time, the team was ready to depart for the facility. The beautiful Claude-Robillard Complex awaited the swimmers and many were in awe of the natatorium they were getting ready to race in and were excited about the opportunities that lie in wait.


The very first session on Thursday afternoon is one that many of the swimmers will remember for a long time, however not due to any of the racing… During the opening sessions warm-ups, the building’s power cut off as the facility descended into a full blackout. Many swimmers were left disorientated in the water as they could not see where they were and had to find their way back to the wall and out of the pool. While one could imagine how this could throw many off their game, the swimmers saw the silver lining of being in a unique scenario and seemed to enjoy their time in the dark. Unfortunately, the session had to be abandoned and swims postponed as the delay was going to take too long to turn everything back on and get reorganized. 


The following day the swimmers were more than ready to dive in and get the racing underway. Friday saw the swimmers compete across 6 individual events and the 400 Medley Relay. The Trojans saw 15 swimmers take to the water in the first event, 200 Free, with 11 of them coming back for a stake in finals across the age groups. The event saw best times for Eadaoin McGrath, Madelaine Baikie, Rowan Lapointe, Mya Johnson, Etta MacLellan, Maya Rasic, and Mikeala van den Berg Smith. Shortly after, 7 swimmers took to the pool to contest the 100 Breast, all making the return trip for finals later that session. Charlie Leckey and Ethan Daniel both fought from start to finish to end up 4th and 5th in their race. The swim marked a huge lifetime best for Ethan. The next event, 50 Back, saw the first medals of the night for the Trojan’s. After a slew of 4th place finishes from Eadaoin McGrath (200 Free), Charlie Leckey (100 Breast), and Clara Durling (50 Back), two Trojans made their way onto the podium for the Boy’s 50 Back. Charlie and Christopher Nguyen garnered the silver and bronze medals as both swam to significant best times, both knocking off more than a second from their seed times and Charlie getting under 30 for the first time. The swim marked a club record for Charlie and leaves him within half a second of the provincial record. The Trojans saw lots of representation across the Finals for the 50 Backstroke. Ella Brocklehurst and Charlotte Evans were able to secure themselves places in the 16&O A Final with Katarina Brezovan and Carly Myrer joining in the B-Final. Mikeala van den Berg Smith was able to win the Girls 13-15 B-Final with Madelaine Baikie also swimming to a lifetime best in that race. Avery Stade battled through a rough bout of sickness to race the 50 Back and 50 Free, gaining a spot in the B-FInal in the former. Next up came the 400 IM where 5 Trojans competed in the grueling event with Ryan Hull, Etta MacLellan, and Yael Bloom all breaking their way into their respective A finals. For Ryan, it represented an 8 second drop from his previous best time, set only two weeks ago at Acadia as he moved up to 4th. In the 13-15 Year old A-Final, Etta was able to hold on to her morning placement to secure a 4th place finish after taking a second off from her entry time. Yael had a big drop across the day, taking a total of 14 seconds off between heats and finals to score a huge new best time in the event. In the B-Final, Isobel Hussey was able to put together a big time drop from the morning to lead her heat by more than 15 seconds. The final individual event of the night, the 50 Free, saw 15 swimmers take to the pool for the splash and dash. While we saw plenty of PB’s in the 50 Free, Mikeala van den Berg Smith put up the top finish with a 4th place, missing the podium by 0.3 of a second in the hotly contested final. Maya Rasic was able to swim under 29 two times in the same day for the first time as she almost topped the B Final. The night ended with the 4x100 Medley Relays. The women had two relays place in the top 10 for the 16&O category, and another two relays competed in the 13-15 category. The Boys relay of Charlie Leckey, Ethan Daniel, Christopher Nguyen, and Ryan Hull swam their way to a silver medal in their 13-15 year old final to close off the night on a high. At the end of Friday Prelims, the postponed 800’s from Thursday commenced with Eadaoin McGrath and Katarina Brezovan taking part in the distance event. 


Saturday kicked things off with the multistroke discipline of 200 IM. The Trojan’s came out swinging in prelims with all four boys who competed gaining best times and a spot in the A-Final. The final looked like a Montreal vs Halifax affair as the teams combined for 8 out of the 10 Finalists with Charlie gaining the top result for the team in a 3rd place finish. Not to be outdone, the Trojan women were able to put 3 in the A-Final, 3 in the B-Final and another in the C. Eadaoin McGrath garnered her first medal of the weekend with her own Silver medal performance in the medley. After taking 3 seconds off her seed time in the morning, Maria McDougall took off an additional 5 seconds in the B-Final to take the convincing win, taking the lead during the Breaststroke leg and extending it during the free. Six swimmers came out for the next event, 50 Fly, looking to prove their sprinting chops. Mikeala made it two top 5 sprint finishes adding to her 4th place finish in the 50 Free from the night earlier. Maya Rasic put together a great double as she competed in both 200 IM and 50 Fly A finals in subsequent events. She was able to get into both finals with best times in both events in the morning. On the boys side, we saw Christopher Nguyen contest the closest final of the weekend with the top two overall finishers within 0.01 of each other. Luckily for the Trojans, Christopher Nguyen had the better finish, getting his hands to the wall first winning 27.72 to 27.73. The win represented the first gold medal for the Trojans and Chris’ second medaling performance in as many days. Eleven girls competed in the following 100 Free, with six of them returning for B and C Finals. Almost all of the girls were able to lift from their prelims swim, taking off additional time and improving their ranking. Rowan Lapointe, Maria McDougall, Katarina Brezovan, Carly Myrer, Maya Rasic, Allison Redfern, and Mikeala van den Berg Smith all swam to either lifetime or seasons best times. The next event was not for the weak of heart as only one Trojan, Clara Durling, competed in the 200 Fly. However, she made sure to leave her mark on the meet and show what the Trojans are capable of. In a battle for second in the final, Clara swam neck and neck with two other swimmers before a decisive final 50 where she out split both of her opponents, passing one and increasing her lead over the other to secure her first medal of the weekend. By the end of the day, Clara had knocked off over six seconds from her previous best. Keeping on the theme of tough events, the swimmers next tested their mettle in the 400 Free. The Trojan's had three women in the 16&O B-Final with Juliette Mercier, Allison Redfern, and Katarina Brezovan all securing season's best times with their efforts. Juliette ended up taking the win in the consolation final, the swim marked a lifetime best in the 400, as well, her 200m split was also under her lifetime best for that event too. Quickly following, in the Men 16&O B-Final, Daniel Sutherland was able to have his own big time drop, almost taking 10 seconds off his seed time. It seemed those swims set the tone for the Girls 13-15 400 Free finals as 4 Trojan's competed across the A & B Finals. Rowan Lapointe completed huge strides in the morning managing to steal the final spot in the A-Final before taking more time off at night to move all the way up to 5th. Immediately following in the consolation final, Taryn Donnelly, Mya Johnson, and Yael Bloom all placed top 5 with Taryn and Mya making it a 1-2 finish for the Trojans. The races represented the first sub-5 minute 400 Free's for Rowan, Taryn, and Mya. In the penultimate event of the night, 100 Back, we saw plenty of new best times with swimmers putting their skills on full display. In the women's 16&O final, backstroke specialists Charlotte Evans and Ella Brocklehurst both fired off new lifetime bests as the pair finished 7th and 8th respectively in the A-Final. Isobel Hussey and Madelaine Baikie saw themselves go 1-2 in the B-Final, both improving their lifetime bests by over 2 seconds to push each other from start to finish. Looking to keep the momentum going, Charlie Leckey and Ryan Hull stepped up for their 100 Back A-Final with Ryan dropping another second from the morning to finish 7th and Charlie taking the decisive win by almost 4 seconds over second place. The swim for Charlie was his second club record of the weekend, coming in almost a second faster than the old record of 1:02.70. The night finished off with the always electric 4×50 Freestyle relay. In the Women's 16&O rendition, the A-Team of Ella Brocklehurst, Katarina Brezovan, Allison Redfern, and Charlotte Evans were powered to a 6th place finish off a pair of 28 splits by Katarina and Charlotte. On the B-Team, Isobel Hussey swam to her first ever sub-30 relay split garnering a 29.99. In the 13-15 year old girls rendition, the Trojan A Team battled the whole way with CAMO A-Team to finish less than a second behind to gain a bronze medal to their name. Mikaela van den Berg Smith and Clara Dueling got the team off to a hot start, both splitting 27s before Maria McDougall and Eadaoin McGrath came home in 28 lows to secure the medal. Each swimmer on the relay swam under their lifetime bests to help propel the team. The B team finished a few spots behind with Taryn Donnelly, Isobel McBride, Maya Rasic, and Mya Johnson combining together for a 8th place finish. The leadoff leg of 29.77 by Taryn marked her first time under 30 seconds from a flat start. Battling a long string of ailments over the past few weeks, Isobel McBride was able to step up and be dependable for her team, and the quartet averaged sub-30s to finish just under the 2 minute barrier. The final race of the night, Boys 4×50 Free relay saw another tantalizingly close race with the Trojan's picking up 3rd, finishing less than 2 tenths ahead of the CAMO B team. Ethan Daniel had a huge 26 second split as the anchor to pass the CAMO team and put the boys on the podium. The overall night was electric and memorable for many swimmers, with many of them discussing it as their favorite session of the weekend. 


Despite many long days and races, the swimmers came on deck Sunday morning ready to leave it all in the pool. The day kicked off with some wonderful 200 Breast swims, seeing multiple swimmers score personal bests in the heats injected excitement into the air as the swimmers could feel they were ready to rock. Daniel Sutherland had a breakthrough swim, taking over 20 seconds off his previous best in prelims and his first time under 3:00 in the breast. Daniel was able to qualify for B-FInals in both 200 and 50 Breasts in the morning before flying back to Halifax. The girls kept the hot streak going as 4 of them qualified in the top 11 spots for the 13-15 category. Both Maria McDougall and Taryn Donnelly joined Daniel in having their first ever sub 3:00 breast swims as well. Isobel Hussey was also able to go a new lifetime best in her way to a 5th place finish in the morning heats. At night Juliette was able to cap off her weekend with a 4th place finish and Charlie was able to add a bronze medal to his already impressive haul. The Trojans were able to continue an impressive Sunday in the 100m Fly, with 3 Trojans, Eadaoin, Chris, and Clara, initially qualifying for A-Finals. At night, 6 swimmers represented the Trojan’s across the 100 Fly finals. Yael Bloom was able to go best times in morning and night to swim under 1:15 for the first time in her career. The 200 Backstroke saw some more standout performances from some of the members of the team. After a stellar 100 Back the night before, Madelaine Baikie was able to knock an astonishing 10 seconds off her 200 Back seed time to qualify in 4th and break 2:30 for the first time. Joining her in the A-Final was Clara Durling who was able to break that same barrier at night. Etta swam to a personal best in the 200 Back as she completed the tough 200 Back and 200 Breast double. After a bit of a shaky prelim swim, Katarina Brezovan was able to respond in her 200 Back Finals, dropping almost 10 seconds from prelims and securing a multi second lifetime best. Ella Brocklehurst and Charlotte Evans both swam to season best times in the Women's 16&O A Final as well. The Boys 13-15 200 Back Finals saw some impressive swims of their own, with Ethan Daniel competing in his first short course 200 Back race, coming in 4th in the B-Final. And Charlie Leckey saw an outstanding 6 second drop from his seed time to bring home the Gold Medal in another backstroke race. Christopher Nguyen was able to qualify for both 100 Fly and 200 Back A-Finals on the back of two lifetime best swims before traveling home Sunday night. In the last individual event of the weekend, we saw Trojans step up and deliver in the 50 Breast. In a bit of a fun off event, Allison Redfern and Rowan Lapointe were both able to swim to 3 and 2 second best times to finish their weekends off. At night, Maria McDougall and Taryn Donnelly represented the Trojans in the 13-15 A Final with Maria dropping almost 2 seconds off her previous lifetime best. It was an excellent final race to cap off an excellent weekend.


In the end, the meet saw plenty of best times, racing opportunities, and team building experiences for each of the swimmers. In a testament to the number of positive experiences to be had, we heard a great deal of variety in favorite elements of the meet. Many remarked on the opportunity to swim at a venue much different to any of the pools they had been to before. Others thought back to certain sessions they attended and all of the racing, cheering, and energy they felt. And for some, the opportunity to stay and spend a weekend with their teammates was a success all on its own.


A huge thank you to Coach Mat Bernier for filling in for me during my absences and showing leadership with the athletes. Massive thank you's to all of the chaperones, Tia McDougall, Staci Durling, Craig Durling, and Jenn Leckey. They fed, transported and looked after all of the swimmers from start to finish, making sure everyone was safe. And an extra thank you to Jenn for organizing so much of this trip.

And finally a thank you to all of the parents that sent your swimmers. These trips and experiences can only happen with your support and I thank you for putting your trust in us coaches to help your swimmers along the way.

Full meet results can be found here.