Swim meet preview

Reaching the podium in competitive swimming requires countless hours of technical development and strategic planning, with success rarely coming right out of the blocks.
Connor Crook has a different perspective.
“I expect to get at least two or three medals,” said the self-assured 10-year-old, who will participate in his first-ever swim meet this weekend as he and three Cyclone Swim Club teammates, along with members of the Fort Frances Aquanauts Swim Team, compete in the Kenora Swimming Sharks fall invitational.
“I’m not that fast, but I’m going to try.”
Crook and teammate Daniel Murray will see their first action of the season in Kenora, while fellow Cyclones Peter Jensen and Donovan Taylor will be aiming to improve on their performance at the Thunder Bay Thunderbolts “Soon to be Classic” meet two weeks ago.
Murray, nine, admitted to a slight case of nerves heading into the competition, but is trying to keep his priorities straight.
“I just have to remember that I’m racing the clock, not the guy beside me,” said Murray, the youngest son of Cyclones head coach Debbie Murray, whom Taylor credited for his accelerated development in the pool this year.
“I’ve come a long way with my breaststroke,” said Taylor, 10, a member of the Aquanauts last year.
“Coach Murray has been out with me a lot of nights, putting in extra time with me in the pool. It’s really made a difference,” he added.
Jensen believes his experience from Thunder Bay can have nothing but a positive impact on his results in Kenora.
“I’m a little more prepared, knowing what I have to do heading into the races,” said Jensen, also 10.
The quartet’s coach is thrilled her swimmers are ahead of schedule in terms of when she believed they would be ready to compete.
As for the rest of the Cyclones, Murray and assistant coach Ashley Barker don’t feel the group is ready for prime-time yet, but believe their time will come.
One factor Murray sees as limiting her swimmers’ progress is the gradual elimination during recent years of the developmental divisions at regional swim meets.
“The whole region has gone back to competitive elite swimming,” she remarked. “We had a nice balance before. Now we’re not looking after the bottom end.
“We should be encouraging as much participation as possible.”
Full squad
For the Aquanauts, head coach Roman Ramirez is bringing a 27-member squad to Kenora—10 more than he had in Thunder Bay.
“I expect some of them to qualify for the high-profile meet coming up in Winnipeg in December, and for others to prepare for the regionals here in town [Jan. 31-Feb. 2],” he said.
Alex Parent and Karli McKinnon are among the Aquanauts competing in Kenora this weekend. The pair feels the hard-driving style in which their coach runs his practices is only serving to benefit their overall chances to reach their potential.
“I’m in way better shape than last year,” said McKinnon, 14, an 11-year Aquanaut veteran who will make her season debut in Kenora.
“We always work hard, but it’s a little more intense than last year,” she noted. “But I like doing different things in practice. It helps build the other parts of my swimming that are weaker.”
Parent, 13, put in a stellar effort in Thunder Bay last month. The disabled swimmer registered a third-place showing and four fourth-place finishes while racing against non-disabled competition.
“I thought I did pretty good, considering it was my first meet of the year,” he said. “The strange part was, I felt really tired the day before from all the training I had been doing.”
Placing in the top three in their races this weekend would be welcomed by both McKinnon and Parent, but self-improvement is the real name of the game for the duo.
“I’m going to go for the medals, but it’s more important for me to get some best times,” McKinnon reasoned.

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