The Fort St. John Inconnu Swim Club will be flying its largest qualifying group in club history to Richmond this week to compete in the 2012 B.C. AAA Long Course Open Championships.
Six-hundred swimmers will embark on Watermania in Richmond July 5 to 8 to find out who will finish the season with the best times in the province, and who will go on to nationals at the end of July.
“It’s going to be a good time,” said head coach Steve Sadownik. “We’ve had teams about the same size, but this time we qualified 12 and 10 decided to go, two are choosing not to. It’s the best numbers we’ve ever had qualify for provincials.”
Local swimmers from ages 11 to 17 will compete in a variety of individual and relay categories, but some Inconnu members have more pressure on them than others.
“It’s actually really important for me because I’m actually trying to make my age group nationals,” said Lange Huang, 17. “I’m really close to it, less than a four-tenths off my age group. Because I didn’t go to the [50 m meet in Kamloops] I need Richmond so I can warm up and practice in a 50-metre pool for nationals because it’s a 50-metre meet.”
“If I make my qualifying time for nationals then I can go with these guys,” Huang added, pointing to Chris Amstutz and Skyeler Kerr, both who already qualified for age group nationals July 25 in Calgary.
Since Amstutz and Kerr don’t feel the same pressure as their colleague Huang, they’re going to use the provincial championships to hone in on some other skills.
“For us it’s just kind of a last chance, just to see what our times are going to be around,” Amstutz said. “It’s good to see what you’ll place in the province for sure.”
“I’m racing lots of races I’m not going to be racing at nationals, so for the last time being 13 to race some of these swims, [it’s important] to see what I can physically do in these,” added Kerr. “And also the odd prep for nationals, to see how I’m seated and what parts I have to improve to possibly medal at nationals or improve overall.”
Unlike her older counterparts, who have competed in provincial championships before, eleven-year-old Alex Hedges will be swimming her first, and is openly nervous, as well as excited, about it.
“I’m rated fifth place in all of my races, so that’s pretty intense,” she said smiling. “I love being in the water, so it’s going to be fun.”
“She swam against some girls from southern B.C. in Kamloops and she dominated her age group pretty well,” her coach, Sadownik, said. “She’s moved up now, she was 10 and now she’ll be swimming against 11 year olds, so it’s a new challenge now, but I have a lot of confidence that she’s going to come through.”
Also going will be Jordan Eyles, Kira Edwards and Emma Murock, as well as Tate Haugen, Cole Murdock and Ben Blackmon, all who were missing from practice Tuesday night.
“We’re going to have a 12-and-under relay team; it’s the first time we’ve had that, and Alex is going to be a part of that,” Sadownik said.
“For some of them, it’s their last chance to qualify for age group nationals. Really it’s just a measure of how they rank provincially.”
Sadownik added that all could technically rank for nationals, but some are further off from the qualifying times than others, like Huang, who is only a fraction off.
All have been training hard as if they are going to nationals as a group, which Sadownik says they planned on purpose, so as to leave the option of nationals open to everyone.
Sadownik is also confident that more of his swimmers will join Kerr and Amstutz in Calgary at the end of the month.
“Lange is very close. It wouldn’t be unreasonable for us to pick up a couple more age group national qualifiers,” he said.
“It’s going to be pretty exciting.”