Aquanauts striving for gold in Winnipeg

Eight is enough—or at least Roman Ramirez is counting on it.
The head coach of the Fort Frances Aquanauts and eight of his top swimmers are in Winnipeg this weekend for the annual Prairie Winter Invitational meet.
Newcomers Nicole Fontana and Nicole Lowey have joined past Prairie Winter competitors Heather and Rachel Dutton, Jessica Cousineau, Karli McKinnon, Boyd Badiuk, and Alex Parent at the meet, which features a top-quality field from Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and even the U.S.
“I’m hoping all eight will make it to the finals,” said Ramirez, who had six swimmers attend last year’s meet, with two qualifying for the finals.
“This is the first real test for them this year,” he noted. “I’ll have to analyze how they race very carefully. If they do okay, then we’ll keep the training plan we have.
“If they don’t, we’ll have to refine it.”
Ramirez wants to use the meet as a springboard in preparations for the junior provincial championships Feb. 27-March 2 in Nepean (near Ottawa).
Rachel Dutton credited Ramirez for helping bring out the best in the team.
“He’s pushing us hard in practice and really helping us with our technique,” said Dutton, 12, who broke her own club record in the 800m freestyle at the Aquanauts’ last meet in Kenora three weeks ago.
“I didn’t think before the season I’d be getting best times like I have been. Roman’s been doing a great job,” she remarked.
Dutton added another factor in the Aquanauts’ success so far this season has been the team unity that’s materialized over the passing weeks.
“It’s great to be part of this group,” she said. “We’re all there for each other. There’s a strong team spirit.
“The younger ones are excited to be here, and they’re always telling us older swimmers good luck before a race and don’t get hurt,” she added.