The 2019 Ryan Downing Memorial Invitational Swim Meet hosted by the Whitehorse Glacier Bears Swim Club was Nov. 8 and 9 at the Canada Games Centre in Whitehorse.
Named in honour of Ryan Downing, a member of the Glacier Bears who died in 1996 at age 13, the meet included 92 swimmers ranging in age from six to 17.
The 92 swimmers comprised teams from the Glacier Bears, the Port Alberni Tsunami Swim Club and the Mackenzie Muskrats Swim Club in Inuvik, as well as a lone swimmer from the Kelowna Aquajets Swim Club.
Jennifer Wallace, one of the meet managers, said things went “amazingly well” at the event.
“All the swimmers did very, very well,” said Wallace.
“We had many, many personal bests. … Everyone had a good time — it was amazing. It was a really great meet.”
Downing’s favourite event was the 200-metre individual medley (IM) — a race consisting of 50 m each of butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke and freestyle — and Wallace said it’s always the main event at the meet.
This year, 36 swimmers competed in the event preliminaries.
“Every year, the 200-m IM is a very important event in the Ryan Downing swim meet,” said Wallace. “I know our coaches try and get as many of the kids who are ready to perform the IM in that event. That’s our flagship event because of the history with Ryan.”
A new addition to the meet this year was a 50-m free eliminator race.
Introduced to the meet by new Glacier Bears head coach Carmen Escobar, the race puts a twist on the finals.
Swimmers took part in preliminary heats and the top eight men and women each advanced to the finals.
In the finals, all eight swimmers raced and the bottom two finishers were eliminated from the event. Then, the remaining six swimmers raced again. The process repeated until there was just one winner left.
“It was so exciting. The kids were exhausted — they were doing multiple sprinting events with very little time in between — but it was so exciting to watch,” said Wallace.
“The crowd was … cheering. Everybody was totally engaged. It was a lot of fun.”
The Glacier Bears are hosting a time trial at the end of the month as well as the Yukon Championships in the spring.
Some members of the club will also be travelling to Victoria in December for the Christmas Cracker swim meet and Wallace said plans are in the works for a spring break training trip to Spain for some of the swimmers.
Early in the season though, Wallace said the year is off to a good start.
“The kids are completely engaged and dialed in,” said Wallace. “They’re set for a great season. They’re doing really great things already.”
Contact John Hopkins-Hill at firstname.lastname@example.org