Local swimmers shine at meet here

Swimmers from both the Fort Frances Aquanauts and Cyclone swim clubs performed well at the annual Groundhog Invitational swim meet here over the weekend, including a number who were new to competitive swimming.
“We had some first-timers that had never competed before. They did great,” Cyclone coach Debbie Murray said of Oryn Albanese and Thomas Little.
Both boys participated in four events, with Little even taking first place in the boys’ 10 and under 50m breaststroke while Albanese was second in the boys’ 11-12 25m butterfly.
There were some strong performances among the Aquanauts’ first-timers, too.
“We had a few surprises,” admitted coach Tristan Hutton.
For instance, eight-year-old Bianca L’Esperance took first place in the girls’ 10 and under 50m backstroke while Monica Ball, Levi Rittau, and Michael Albanese also made strong showings, Hutton said.
Paralympic hopeful Alex Parent took first in all seven of his events, beating his personal best times in five of them. He did particularly well in the 100m freestyle and 100m backstroke, Hutton noted.
In related news, Parent, along with fellow Aquanauts Rachel Dutton and Nicole Lowey, all qualified for the all-Ontarios coming up March 6-7 in Toronto as members of the Muskie swim team.
Dutton took first place in all six events she swam, although she did not beat any of her previous best times.
Lowey, meanwhile, took first in four events and second in the other four, and beat her personal best in the girls’ 15 and over 100m backstroke.
The Aquanauts had 21 swimmers participate in the meet and Hutton said the overall performance was good.
“It went well. I’d say we had a 70 percent success rate,” he remarked, meaning his swimmers met or beat their personal best times in 70 percent of the events they participated in.
“A lot of the kids were swimming in events they had never participated in before,” he added.
“There were two little guys—Dylan Ossachuk and Adam Stromberg. They just spurred each other on,” Hutton continued. “They started responding to the teaching.”
Ossachuk beat his best time in four of the nine events he swam while Stromberg accomplished the feat in seven of eight.
The Aquanauts dominated in the girls’ 11-12 50m breaststroke, with Kaela Lowey, Jillian Gustafson, Katja Sutherland, and Serena Stromberg taking the top four places, respectively.
Gustafson, Stromberg, Kaela Lowey, and Caitlin Sande also teamed up to capture top spot in the girls’ 11-12 200m medley relay and second in the girls’ 11-12 200m freestyle relay.
Krista and Andre Emond improved their times in every event they swam, and each participated in two new ones.
Hutton, who said he was encouraging his swimmers to participate in some of the longer events, admitted he was surprised at how well they did, considering they only recently returned from the Christmas break.
“We haven’t done that much work in the month of January,” he noted. “We only got back in the pool on Jan. 10.
“I was surprised to see how well the kids responded after such a long break.”
The Aquanauts now will begin preparing for a meet in Dryden in early March and another in Kenora later in the month.
“The kids seem to be responding on a technical level right now,” said Hutton. “I’m going to start introducing more of a fitness aspect of the swimming right now to try to get them to push their limits a little further.
“Everybody’s gung-ho and ready to get back into it,” he added.
The Cyclone had nine swimmers participate in the weekend meet and Murray was happy with their performance—as well as their team spirit.
“We did absolutely awesome,” she enthused.
Shaleigh Nicholl recorded best times in all six of her events, as did Daniel Murray in his five. Erin Gustafson set p.b.’s in all but one of her six events.
“No one did anything less than 80 percent best times,” she noted.
The Cyclone swimmers also had new T-shirts, compliments of Betty’s, and they wore them with pride.
“My kids are so supportive of each other. I’m really proud of the kids,” Murray said. “They make coaching a very pleasant experience.”
They also will now begin training for the Dryden meet next month.
“We tend to work hard in practice. They understand what our objectives are, as far as having fun, participating, and fitness for life,” Murray noted.
The Groundhog Invitational was hosted by the Aquanauts, with swimmers from eight different clubs coming from as far away as Red Lake and Marathon.
“The Aquanauts did a great job hosting the event,” Murray said.
Both coaches also praised the efforts of the volunteers who helped organize the three-day event.
“We’ve got to recognize those people sometimes because without the officials, there are no meets for any of the swimmers,” Murray noted.
“There was great participation. The bleachers were full every day. There was great participation from the volunteers,” echoed Hutton. “I’m tickled pink about it.”