Never underestimate the power of a good cheering section.
A sleuth of boisterous Whitehorse Glacier Bears helped cheer each other to numerous finals, abundant personal bests and a pair of podium placements at the Christmas Cracker Invitational Swim Meet last weekend in Victoria, B.C.
“For the last couple of months, we have really been focusing on team dynamics,” said Glacier Bears head coach Stephanie Dixon. “I think it’s really important that the swimmers support each other. When you feel like your whole team is behind you when you get up behind the blocks, you feel confident to really put yourself on the line and to do a best swim.
“So we might have been one of the smallest teams at this meet, but we definitely had the biggest presence. Every time a Glacier Bear was behind the blocks, the entire team was cheering for them. There was no other team that was that supportive of their teammates.”
A total of 16 Whitehorse swimmers competed at the event with all but one setting a personal best time. In fact, 80 per cent of the Glacier Bear swims resulted in personal best times.
Though Whitehorse’s MacKenzie Downing did not achieve a personal best time, she didn’t leave empty-handed. Downing took first place in the open women’s 200-metre butterfly with a time of two minutes, 10.44 seconds – about two seconds from her best.
“It was a pretty good time for me in-season,” said Downing. “I’ve been working really hard, so I was quite happy with my time.”
Whitehorse’s Erin McArthur also reached the podium, placing third in the 100-metre breaststroke for females 13-14. She also grabbed fifth in the 50-breast and eighth in the 50-metre freestyle.
In the same age group, teammate Haley Braga made four finals, the best finish being seventh in the 200-free. She also took eighth in the 400-free, 200-fly and 800-free.
“Haley had the 400-free and the 200-fly on the same night and those are really hard events to swim back-to-back,” said Dixon. “So I was really proud of how she conducted herself. She’s really turning into such an amazing role model for the younger kids and she’s a real leader of our team.
“To do two really hard finals back-to-back, to keep herself together, put forth a great effort, and to place really well, really sets the bar for the rest of the Glacier Bears.”
Her first time competing at the Cracker, Dannica Nelson topped the Bears with five A-final appearances. In the 12-and-under division, Nelson swam to fourth in the 100-free, fifth in the 50-free, seventh in the 400-free and 50-fly, and then took sixth in the 100-metre backstroke, shaving 11.21 seconds off her personal best.
“I was really happy for myself and really proud,” said Nelson. “The 100-back, I haven’t really done that race that much, but I did really well in it so I’m happy about that.
“I think it has to do with our new coach because we’ve been working a lot on technique. So that probably helped a lot.”
In their respective age categories, other Whitehorse results include Jessica Bakica who took 37th in the 50-back for her top finish. She also cut 11.69 seconds off her best time in the 100-breast.
Luke Bakica hit 15th in the 100-breast, 16th in the 200-breast, 17th in the 400-free, and 18th in the 50-fly and 100-fly.
Matthew Blakesley snagged 11th in the 50-breast, 14th in the 50-fly and 16th in the 50-back.
Zoe Bourget nailed 18th in the 400-metre individual medley and 20th in the 800-free, shaving 112.67 seconds off her best.
Taylor Campbell achieved 14th in the 200-back and 19th in the 50-back.
Cassis Lindsay swam to 11th in the 100-fly, plus 15th in the 50-free and 100-back.
Rennes Lindsay, a young up-and-comer in the Whitehorse club, took 16th in the 200-fly.
Erin McBryan secured 35th in the 50-back and 38th in the 200-breast, slicing 14.46 seconds off her previous best.
Danielle Smith racked up a 26th in the 50-back and 27th in the 50-breast.
Karine Smith set a personal best for 31st in the 800-free, eliminating 37.54 seconds from her previous time.
Sam Storey cruised to 16th in the 100-fly and 50-free, 17th in the 100-free and 18th in the 100-back.
Gavin Young also took in top-20 results, finishing 15th in the 50-free and 19th in the 100-back.
At the meet Dixon, who is currently in her first season as head coach of the Glacier Bears, was inducted into the UVic Swimming Circle of Excellence at the meet Saturday evening.
The honour goes to University of Victoria swimmers who go on to compete at the international level and was capped with the raising of a banner emblazoned with her name at the pool.
“It was really amazing for my kids to see that,” said Dixon. “They know me here as a coach … and they know the results of my swimming career, but they don’t know me as a swimmer. So I thought it was special for them to see me recognized for my accomplishments as a swimmer.
“I know what it’s like to be where they are and so I felt that was a really important moment.”
In her competitive career, the 27-year-old, who was born with one leg, has competed at three Paralympic Games for swimming, winning a total of 19 medals, including seven gold and 10 silver.
Dixon, who holds four world records, was the first Canadian to win five medals at one Games and is only behind one other athlete for total medals.
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