It will be a day she won’t soon forget.
Kelly Lyons had her talent on full display at the Alderwood Teddy Bares Masters Swim Club’s 43rd-annual swim meet held Jan. 21 in Etobicoke.
The Fort native–who now resides in Toronto where she works as an associate professor at the University of Toronto–dazzled at the Alderwood Pool, claiming top spot in all six of her events in the female age 55-59 division while also setting provincial records in three.
Representing the North York Gators swimming club, Lyons set provincial records in the 100m free (1:08.37), 200m free (2:29.26), and 500m free (6:34.82).
She also placed first in the 200m fly (3:12.22), 100m breast (1:33.49), and 100m back (1:25.33).
“I had never raced a short-course yards meet before so I knew all of my swims would be personal bests,” Lyons told the Times last week.
“My coach [Wes Musial] wants us to peak at provincials [March 23-25] so my game plan was just to have some good swims, practise racing and race strategy, have some fun, and hang out with friends,” she added.
“I knew there was a chance I could set some records so that gave me a bit of anxiety,” Lyons admitted.
“But my main goal was not to set records.”
Overall, Lyons said her experience at the meet was very rewarding.
“The pool was very nice; the temperature was perfect,” she enthused.
“My teammates and coach are all super encouraging, and we support each other throughout the meet.
“My coach [also] set a record in the 100m backstroke for the male 60-64 age group,” added Lyons, noting Musial is an incredible swimmer and coach.
“We all had fun together,” she remarked. “After each race, Coach Wes would critique each aspect of our races and give us tips and pointers for the next one.
“It’s a constant learning experience, which is part of the fun.”
Lyons said balancing a competitive swimming career along with the rest of her day-to-day activities can be a challenge, but she looks forward to the camaraderie she gets to have with her teammates.
“I try to swim four times per week with my team and coach. But some weeks, my work and life get in the way of one or two of those workouts,” she conceded.
“I also try to go to yoga once per week to augment my swim training but timing for that has been challenging lately, as well.
“One big challenge for most masters swimmers, I think, is making time to get to practice and balancing swimming with all the other stresses in our lives,” Lyons noted.
“I work all day, come home late, get comfy on my couch, and sometimes have trouble getting back up and going out to swim,” she admitted.
“Some of my teammates and I drive to swimming together so that definitely helps,” Lyons added.
“The joys are all related to the people I’ve met, many of whom have become dear, long-time friends.”
Being that she has to deal with a sometimes hectic schedule, Lyons said she leans on her peers for support.
“My coach and past coaches are amazing motivators, and provide a lot of guidance and support,” she remarked.
“In particular, one of the women on my team [who has also been her coach] is in the 85-89 age group and she is an incredible swimmer.
“Her name is Judie Oliver and she holds many world, national, and provincial records–some going back over 30 years that have not yet been broken,” Lyons noted.
“Watching Judie continue to dominate the sport well into her 80s is a huge motivation for me, [and] she is also a wonderful, supportive coach and teammate.
“I have raced on relay teams with her in the past and two of our recent relays set records–one nationally and one provincially,” she enthused.
Lyons next will be competing in the Burlington Winter Splash meet, being hosted by the Burlington Masters Swim Club on Feb. 11, then will participate in the Stephen Forsey Invitational Swim Meet in Thornhill on Feb. 25.
After that, she’ll show her skills at the provincials in Nepean, where she has aspirations to advance to the nationals in Calgary in May.
How long does Lyons see herself competing?
“I would love to be able to do this for the rest of my life” said Lyons, who turns 55 this year.
“In fact, I hope that retirement, whenever that happens, will bring even more opportunities to compete and travel to swim meets around the world.”