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Glacier Bears hang tough at AAA championships

The BC Provincial AAA Long Course Championships were a test of mental toughness for four Whitehorse Glacier Bears, says assistant head coach Stephanie Dixon.

The BC Provincial AAA Long Course Championships were a test of mental toughness for four Whitehorse Glacier Bears, says assistant head coach Stephanie Dixon.

With the pool at the Canada Games Centre closed by the June 24 fire, and with no reopening date set at the time, the Glacier Bears decided to fly the swimmers down to Vancouver a week early to give them a fighting chance at the AAAs, held over the weekend in Victoria, BC.

“They were all thrown into a situation that was not a part of preparation heading into the meet, with the pool closing,” said Dixon.” We had a practice in a lake after the fire had happened. We gave them, maybe, 12 hours notice, flew them down to Vancouver and suddenly they were training in a brand new pool, not sleeping in their own beds.

“The highlight for me was seeing how well they adapted to that. It was not an ideal situation, but they went out, made no excuses, swam their hearts out and came out with best times and finals.”

The training regimen seemed to have done the trick.

Not only were about half of the Glacier Bears’ swims done in personal best times, Whitehorse’s Haley Braga set her fourth club record this year in the 200-metre backstroke with a time of two minutes, 34.71 seconds.

Braga also came the closest to reaching the podium, finishing fourth in the 400-metre freestyle with a time of 4:54.97 in the 14-year-old girls division. She also came seventh in the 200 free and 800 free, eighth in the 200-metre butterfly and 200 back, and 14th in the 100 free.

Teammate Erin McArthur made two finals in the 13-year-old girls division, swimming to eighth in the 100- and 200-metre breaststroke events. She also took 10th in the 50 free.

Competing in the 15-years-old girls division, Taylor Campbell made the finals in the 200 back, ending in eighth place. She also had some strong B finals with a ninth in the 200 free and 11th in the 100 back.

Bears’ Kristen Berube, swimming in girls 16-and-over, placed 19th in the 400-metre individual medley and 100 back, 20th in the 100 free and 21st in the 50 free.

“We found out on the Monday we wouldn’t have a pool for a week or two, and that wasn’t acceptable for the girls to prepare for the meet,” said Dixon. “So we got some long-course training time. The Canada Games Centre here (in Whitehorse) is short course and it can be challenging to train short course and go compete long course. So, since it’s the long-course season now, it was a great opportunity for the girls to have a chance to train long course.

“The highlight was everyone swimming really well, adapting to training in Vancouver and adapting to a new coach at a big meet.”

All four swimmers will be on Team Yukon at the Western Canada Summer Games next month in Kamloops.

Dixon will be taking over the club’s head coaching duties after current head coach Marek Poplawski steps down following the Western Games month.

Since assuming the role in September of 2004, Poplawski has coached swimmers to 884 club records, oversaw the Yukon’s first ever medals in swimming at the Canada Summer Games in 2009, has helped two of the club’s top former swimmers, Alexander Gabor and Bronwyn Pasloski, to full scholarships at NCAA schools, to name just a few accomplishments.

Dixon brings a wealth of experience to the club.

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 medal.

“There’d be no way to do a full-time job like this and still be training, because training is also a full-time job,” said Dixon. “So I hung-up my towel in September of 2010 - so almost a year ago. I felt I had more to offer as a coach than I did as a swimmer.”

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