Eight swimmers representing the North Island Predators Association took to the pool July 24 along with 900 of the top swimmers from across the country to compete in the Canadian Age Group National Championships in Montreal.
Simply qualifying for this prestigious meet is a huge achievement, so when the Predators boarded their flights at the end of June, little did they know that by the end of the week they would have built on that success and raised their collective accomplishments into historic proportions.
The team was made up of four swimmers from the Comox Valley Aquatic Club and four from the Campbell River Killer Whales, all looking to swim their way onto the podium in their biggest meet of the year. The coaches were very excited to see what these kids could do, but no one was prepared for how successful the meet turned out to be.
Training 16-20 hours a week along with unrelenting determination over the past 11 months had made this group competition ready and contributed to an already incredible season for them at Vancouver Island meets and more recently at the AAA Provincial Swim Championships in Victoria. Each of them certainly saved their best for last at this year’s Age Group Nationals. Every member of the team, under the energetic coaching of Sarah and Daryl Rudolf, performed extraordinarily.
Conner Skuse and Brooke Lamoureux brought in four medals apiece at the national championships, exceeding both their goals going into the meet. Conner collected bronze medals in the 200 IM and 1500 freestyle, one silver in the 200 breaststroke, and one gold in the 400 IM.
In the 200 breaststroke, Conner smashed the club record (held by Alec Page, who is competing at the World Championships in Barcelona this month). Conner’s times in the 400 IM and 200 breaststroke put him in the top eight fastest 13 year olds ever to swim in Canada.
Brooke brought home bronze medals in the 400, 800, and 1500 freestyle, as well as a silver medal in the 5 km open water race. Brooke showed the nation that she is a queen of the distance freestyle events, and the coaches are excited to see what she can do in years to come.
Ben Neufeld (CVAC) showed he will also be someone to keep an eye on in years to come as he won bronze in the 50 and 200 backstroke. Swimming with confidence and a desire to win, Ben continued to smash all his goals throughout the weekend, putting together his most successful AGN championships to date.
Jordyn Ryan also smashed goals throughout the meet. Talking to her coach before the meet, Jordyn stated that her main goal was to make a final at the championship meet (i.e. place top 10). After having a great first day, making the final in the 200 backstroke (a bonus swim for her), Jordyn carried the momentum throughout the rest of the competition.
She went on to final in every event but one, highlighted by a bronze medal in the 400 IM on Day 2. Jordyn showed she is a force to be reckoned with, and as her confidence continued to build through the weekend, so did her desire to win.
Mackenzie Padington also became familiar with the excitement of finals. With six top-10 finishes, including an amazing swim-off in the 100 breaststroke to make it into finals, Mackenzie was always right in there battling for a medal during each session.
Her first AGN championship medal came on the last day of the meet in the gruelling 5 km open water race, where she joined teammates Brooke Lamoureux, Conner Skuse and Jordyn Ryan in the Olympic Rowing Basin. Mackenzie picked up a bronze in what was one of the most exciting finishes of the whole competition.
Juliana Bartemucci backed her teammates length for length the whole meet and when it was her turn in the pool swam a blistering 28.74 in the 50 metre freestyle – a personal best time that vaulted her to 19th place.
Kennedy Windle was the team rookie and one of the youngest Predators at the competition. Going into the meet looking to gain some experience, Kennedy blew all expectations out of the water, making her first ever AGN final in the 200 breaststroke. Moving up two spots in the final to finish seventh, Kennedy also finished with a Western Canadian qualifying standard, which allows her to compete at the Western Canadian Championships next spring.
The competition was the most successful meet in Predators’ history, with the team ending up with 12 medals, placing 15th overall, with the girls team finishing ninth overall ahead of over 130 other clubs from around the country. Coaches Sarah and Darryl Rudolf were very proud of the swimmers. The team came together as a family, supporting each other in their goals and celebrating together with their successes.
Any community, let alone small communities such as the Comox Valley or Campbell River, that are able to foster and encourage the development of national level athletes such as these swimmers should be over-the-top-proud and we should acknowledge what they have accomplished.
So next time you see one of these athletes don’t be shy – stop and congratulate them on what is one of the greatest athletic showings at a national event that our community has ever put forward.
FINISH LINES The Canadian Age Group National Swim Championships should be marked down in our collective sports memories as nothing short of historic, a Sharks’ spokesperson said … Age Group Nationals is one of the pinnacles of competitive swimming in Canada for youth aged 14-17 … very few meet the rigorous qualifying standards to be able to attend this meet and Swim Canada raised that bar this year to its highest level ever, eliminating almost 1,000 potential competitors compared to last year … those interested in joining the Sharks or the Killer Whales can check out their websites at www.sharks.bc.ca or www.crkw.ca … registration for 2013-2014 starts soon, so get off the blocks, dive in and start following your own dreams in the pool! …
– North Island Predators Association