The pool at the Memorial Sports Centre will be a beehive of activity this weekend as the Fort Frances Aquanauts host swimmers from across Northwestern Ontario for the Boston Pizza Fall Frolic Invitational.
This year’s event marks a change in date from when the meet has been held in the past—moving to October from its usual February date, which has resulted in a jump in the number of swimmers taking part (from 98 last year to 126 this weekend).
“I personally think the change in dates has really helped to improve the amount of entries for the meet,” noted Aquanauts’ head coach Dawnn Taylor.
“For a lot of the swimmers, it’s that first kick at the can for the new season so a lot of them want to get out there and see what they got,” she reasoned.
“And I think it also helps that the conditions and the travel times are a lot better now than in February.
“The hockey guys also have their tournaments and things going on to around that time of year, so getting housing and hotels was very difficult,” Taylor added.
“But now by moving the meet to the fall, things are a lot easier.”
Joining the 21 members of the Aquanauts will be swimmers from Kenora, Dryden, and Thunder Bay. The latter two squads will compete on all three days while Kenora only will be taking part Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning.
“As soon as the swimmers from Kenora show up here for warm-ups at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday, the pool is going to be rocking,” Taylor enthused.
“If someone wants to come here and watch, they are going to have to come in here early as there’s not going to be enough room for everyone in the stands, let alone on deck,” she joked.
This past Saturday afternoon, 11 members of the Aquanauts began their season by taking part in the Dryden Dolphins’ 400 M Challenge, where a number of swimmers set personal best times.
“We had 66 percent personal best times for the swims that we had during the meet, which was really good for just getting back into the season,” Taylor noted.
“One of the highlights of the weekend was how [seven-year-old] Ayiana Gagne did in her first time out there,” she recalled.
“She wasn’t nervous or scared at all out on the blocks, and she was just fantastic in the 100m freestyle.
“Mitchell Riordon had all personal bests in his events and Levi Rittau was first in all of his races, so they also had excellent performance,” Taylor added.
“We did have a few issues, though, with things like our goggles and our turns, but it’s good to get that out of our systems in Dryden instead of having the issues at our home meet here, which is exactly why we went up there,” she explained.
Going into this weekend’s meet here, Taylor is expecting some strong performances from a number of her swimmers, especially from three who will make their season debuts at their home meet.
“Donovan [Taylor] has been working hard on his conditioning as of late,” Taylor said of her son. “With that extra bulk, there are still some things to work around with that, but he should still be strong.
“Adam [Stromberg] has kicked in some extra time this year and I’m looking for him to do something this weekend, and Regan [Danylchuk] has also been doing very well in getting ready for the season.”
From a team prospect, though, Taylor has a number of different goals in mind for how her younger swimmers and her more veteran ones fare during the three-day event.
“My goal for the young ones is to make sure that they enjoy the meet and that they want to do it again,” she remarked.
“I also want to make sure that they also feel like they are part of the team here, as sometimes when someone comes into a new team, it’s hard to feel like they fit in.
“So we need to make sure that we are all cheering for them during the weekend,” she stressed.
“For our mid-line swimmers, I want them to come back into the pool and have some strong swims,” Taylor continued. “And for our senior swimmers, I want to see them get as close to their personal best times as possible.
“We broke 15 records last year at our own meet, and this year I would like to set at least 17.”
The Fall Frolic will begin Friday at 6 p.m., with warm-ups taking place a half-hour prior.
On Saturday, the morning session will start at 9 a.m., with the afternoon one getting underway at 3 p.m.
The meet wraps up Sunday with the final session starting at 9 a.m.