In appearance they looked to be competing against each other, but really they were competing against themselves.
Setting personal bests was the main focus of the first swim event of the season, the Ryan Downing Memorial Swim Meet, hosted by the Whitehorse Glacier Bears Swim Club on Friday and Saturday at the Canada Games Centre. The event had 108 participants, including 10 swimmers from Alaska’s Haines Dolphins Swim Team.
Little attention was paid to who won races, but instead swimmers were given ribbons at the end of the meet for setting personal records in events. However, while swimmers strived for improved times, eight new meet records were set, all coming from the Glacier Bears.
Bears Erin McArthur set two meet records, coming in the 100-metre breaststroke and 400-metre individual medley for girls 11-12.
Teammate Alexandra Gabor, who just returned from a swim camp in Calgary, also set two, in the 50- and 100-metre freestyle.
In the boys’ 15-and-over division, Brice Harding set a record in the 100-metre individual medley and Josh Kelly raised the bar in the 100-metre breaststroke.
Matthew Blakesley set a new high-water mark in the 400-metre freestyle for boys 10-and-under, while Greg Berube set a meet and a club record in the 100-metre individual medley for boys 13-14.
Although logic might say personal bests – or “PBs” as they are called in the swim world – are least likely to occur at the kickoff of the season, but apparently they do.
“Usually our older swimmers don’t get as many personal bests as our little swimmers quite often do because they grow from season to season,” said meet manager Bennita Parkkari. “Even some of our old swimmers got personal bests, but they might be events that they haven’t swam for a while.”
Looking at just one group of Glacier Bears, the Black Bears Group 2, for ages 9-13, almost every member set a personal best, with swimmers like Dannica Nelson and Gavin Young reaching faster times in all their events.
“I’d say about 95 per cent of my group had personal bests,” said Black Bears coach Kathy Zrum. “I think it’s good to see personal bests. It means the first six or seven weeks we’ve been swimming, the kids have been working hard.
“I’ve been going back to the basics, focusing on good streamlines, good kicks and working hard on turns. Those are things that help swimmers get faster.”
One particularly interesting success story out of the Black Bears came from first-year Glacier Bear Tynan Leong-Best, who just moved to Whitehorse from Australia. Leong-Best achieved a AA BC Swim time in the 50-metre freestyle.
“I really liked it,” said Leong-Best. “The 50-metre freestyle – it’s fast.
“I really like the Glacier Bears. I hope I can stick in it for a long while and keep swimming well.”
Gabor, who went to the meet straight from the airport, received national carded athlete status last week, resulting from her performance over the summer at the World Aquatic Championships in Rome and her ranking of 42nd in the world for the 200-metre freestyle.
“It’s definitely going to make it a bit easier to travel – it helps out a lot with trips, equipment,” said Gabor. “It takes that bit of added pressure off so I can just focus more on training.
Gabor will be one of a dozen Canadian swimmers going to Stockholm, Sweden and Berlin, Germany for the FINA World Cup in mid-November and will race in the 50-, 100-, 200- and 400-metre freestyle events. The event in Sweden ends November 11th and the German one starts on the 13th, not leaving much time for recuperation.
“It’s only a two-day meet and I have two events a day, and if I had any more events it would have been an overload,” said Gabor. “I don’t know if it’s enough time (between meets) but I guess we’re going to have to cope with it.”
The meet takes its name from Ryan Downing, a dedicated swimmer who joined the Whitehorse Glacier Bears at the age of four. He died from a heart problem at the age of 13 in 1995.
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