Swimmers give their best strokes at Downing Swim Meet

Coaches hope for the best from their athletes, and nothing less. And few were disappointed after two days of competition at the Ryan Downing…

Coaches hope for the best from their athletes, and nothing less.

And few were disappointed after two days of competition at the Ryan Downing Memorial Swim Meet at the Canada Games Centre on Friday and Saturday.

In fact, both coaches and swimmers were overwhelmed by the results — so many personal bests were logged it was hard to keep track.

“There’s too many to remember — to answer right now,” said Glacier Bears coach Marek Poplawski. “Almost everybody, I would say (had personal bests)…

“(There were) a lot of personal-best times, so I think that shows the program is doing well,” added Poplawski.

Glacier Bear Joshua Kelly, 14, who was recently named to the development squad for next year’s Canada Summer Games, recorded personal bests.

Kelly finished second in the 1,500-metre freestyle, first in 200-metre breaststroke, second in the 50-metre freestyle and even recorded a 15-and-under AAA time in one of his races.

“Oh yeah, a lot,” said Kelly, when asked if he had some personal bests. “It was pretty good, I did a few good times.”

The Haines Dolphins Swim Team sent fewer members than usual to the meet. Only 12 swimmers competed compared to the Glacier Bears’ 16.

For the second year in a row, the Dolphins have had problems with their pool. It only opened a month ago, leaving swimmers less prepared for the Yukon meet.

“A lot of kids that normally come to this meet didn’t come because they didn’t think they were ready to come,” said Dolphins coach Steve Vick.

Because Americans race in yards, it can be difficult to determine if an American swimmer achieved a best time when racing in metres. But Vick nonetheless saw excellence in some of his athletes, specifically 10-year-old Alexandria Chapin and 11-year-old Casey Bradford.

“We’re a technique-heavy team,” said Vick. “So you can see a lot of the technique that they’ve learned well last year and retained over the long break … That technique really helps them out because they’re not fighting it, they’re not trying to muscle their way through it.

“And those two kids actually did a lot of events and got a lot of best times — with just a month of training!”

Spurred by the recent creation of a Whitehorse Masters Swim Team in September, for the first time in many years the meet featured a masters’ division.

“Masters are when they don’t qualify for age groups,” said Glacier Bears coach Olwyn Bruce. “Usually the cutoff for that is 17 or 18, so people older than that are masters.”

The masters’ club, which is affiliated with the Glacier Bears Swim Club, is made up of three groups, organically split into the three times they meet each week.

“We have some people that are interested in swimming in the mornings, we have some people that can’t do mornings but can do evenings,” said Bruce. “So basically we have two morning groups on Tuesday and Thursday mornings, we have another group that runs Wednesday nights and all of them have a choice between two practices Sundays.”

Numbers for the masters actually exceeded expectations, with 25 current members, and growing.

“I’d love to have more people,” said Bruce. “We have a little bit of room left, I think, and we’ll try to make more room for anybody….

“More than five years ago there was a masters’ swim club,” said Bruce. “I guess interest fell off or they ran out of pool space, or something like that. But there seems to be a really enthusiastic crew of people that wanted to get it started again.”

Ryan Mariner Downing was an enthusiastic swimmer and Glacier Bears member who began swimming at the age of four. Downing passed away in December of 1996 from a heart problem. The Ryan Downing Memorial Swim Meet was established a few years later.