University of Indiana head swimming coach Ray Looze remembers going to a Canadian swim meet a couple years ago to scout a swimmer from Calgary, only to see her finish second behind an even younger swimmer from Whitehorse, Bronwyn Pasloski.
“I was looking at another Canadian breaststroker from Calgary and we ended up not doing anything with that gal – Bronwyn beat her!” said Looze. “And Bronwyn was a year younger.
“I remember watching this one gal who came second, and Bronwyn won the 50-metre breaststroke, and I was like, ‘That’s not bad, but gosh, I’d rather have the girl that won.’ Bronwyn wasn’t predominately on our radar yet.”
Years later Looze got his wish when the 17-year-old signed a NCAA letter of intent to join the Hoosiers swim team on a full scholarship with the University of Indiana.
“A lot of people run around with potential and talent, but it really became clear to me that Bronwyn has a lot of passion too,” said Looze. “I feel she has the heart to get there, to fulfill her potential and become one of the finer swimmers in your country and also here in Indiana. And this has been one of the best places to come swim in college for many years.
“Once I got to meet her family, the brother and sisters, mom and dad, and spent time with her in person, I had to have her on my team.”
July 1 is the earliest NCAA schools are allowed to contact athletes to start the recruiting process, and needless to say, while she was trying to enjoy the Canadian holiday, Pasloski’s phone was ringing off the hook.
“It took my breath away,” said Pasloski. “When people started calling me, how many people were interested in me blew my mind. I was like, ‘Wow, this many people want me, I guess I’m pretty good.’”
Although she spoke to coaches from throughout the US, Indiana stood out for Pasloski early on, with not only cordial phone discussions with Looze and his staff, but an actual visit to Whitehorse from the head coach.
“Bronwyn is an interesting case just because of where she comes from,” said Looze.
“The Yukon isn’t exactly a bastion for swimming. But you have two of the finest swimmers in Canada in your city,” added Looze, referring to Pasloski and Glacier Bears teammate Alexandra Gabor.
“Out of all the schools, Ray and his coaching staff were the nicest,” said Pasloski.
“The swim team sounded amazing, just the program sounded different from what I’m used to. It’s a huge team with great team spirit.
“When I went down there, it felt just like home. I don’t think I could find anywhere else in the States with such a small town feel and it reminded me of Whitehorse so much. It was so green and everyone was just so cheerful and the school spirit was amazing – everyone was wearing their Indiana shirts.
“I knew that’s exactly where I wanted to go.”
Pasloski’s climb to be one of the best breaststrokers in Canada all started by following in the footsteps of her siblings, all of whom competed in swimming before moving on to other sports.
“My whole family was involved in swimming,” said Pasloski. “I have two older sisters and an older brother – I’m the youngest. My older sister Erin decided to join swimming and I don’t know how she got into it.
“When I got into it, she already made provincial times. I was really young, I think I was put in before I was six.
“My sisters definitely had a lot of talent in it and it was a huge part of their lives. They were a huge inspiration to me and they still are. They’re probably my biggest role models – and so is my brother, of course.”
“She was already in my group when I started to coach here,” said Marek Poplawski, who has been working with Pasloski for the past five years as head coach of the Whitehorse Glacier Bears Swim Club. “She was already a very promising young swimmer.
“I think she’s a very gifted athlete; she’s very athletic, and her breaststroke is her best stroke and not everyone can swim a good breaststroke. It takes a special body type to swim breaststroke and the special kick has to be there.”
In her career to date, Pasloski holds 42 Glacier Bears club records (26 short course and 16 long) plus four BC provincial age group records. In just the last year Pasloski has won silver at the Australian Youth Olympic Festival, won bronze at the Speedo Western Canadian Short Course Championships, won two bronze medals at the Australian Age Group Championships, three bronze medals at the Swim Canada Age Group Nationals, bronze in a Canada Cup event and added two more silvers at the 2009 Paul Bergen Junior International in Portland, Oregon in December. However, earning a full scholarship to Indiana ranks first on her list of accomplishments.
“Just coming from a small town and being able to say, ‘I got a full scholarship to go to the States,’ that’s a huge accomplishment because swimming in the States is a big deal,” said Pasloski. “To say a top-10 school in the NCAA recruited me is phenomenal.”
University of Indiana has been a top-10 NCAA ranked school in swimming for the last two years and Looze hopes the soon-to-be biology major will help bring the team to the next level.
“Bronwyn is a very fine breaststroker, but I also think she has the ability to swim some freestyle and some individual medley, so we’re going to keep a lot of options open to her,” said Looze. “We’re extremely motivated to get her on the senior national team.
“Canada has some of world’s best breaststrokers – they have the reigning world record holder down in Vancouver,” added Looze. “So Bronwyn has been battle hardened by the fine competition that Canada has right now in that stroke.”
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