Black, Ludlow make Jr. Pan Pacific squad

After 12 years of making waves as a club swimmer with the Prince George Barracudas Swim Club, the end is in sight for Haley Black.

Her rite of passage into the adult ranks of the swimming world is happening this week in Winnipeg, where the 17-year-old Black is finding the fast lane in her final age group national championships.

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Last weekend at the senior national meet in Saskatoon, Black blazed to a second-place finish in the 200-metre butterfly event. Her time of 2:15.44 was quick enough to qualify her for the Junior Pan Pacific swimming championships in Maui, Hawaii, Aug. 27-31.

"I'm pretty excited, I've wanted to be on that team since I was 15," said Black, from her hotel room in Winnipeg. "It makes me feel pretty confident in myself, swim-wise.

"I want to make a final and hopefully win a medal and just improve my [best] times. It's Pan Pacific so that means China, America, Australia and a couple other countries will be there."

Joining Black on Canada's 18-female, 18-male Pan Pacific team is 17-year-old former Barracuda Danica Ludlow of Victoria. Ludlow made the qualifying standards in spectacular fashion, edging two Olympians for gold in freestyle events at the senior national meet in Saskatoon.

Ludlow stopped the clock one-hundredth of a second ahead of Savannah King in the 400m freestyle final. King, a resident of Vernon whose parents live in Prince George, was an 18th-place finisher in the 400 at the 2012 Olympics in London.

In the 200 freestyle, Ludlow edged Barbara Jardin of Quebec by 0.31 of a second to win the 200 freestyle. Jardin placed 10th in that event at the 2012 Olympics and helped Canada to a fourth-place finish in the 4X200 freestyle relay in London.

"This is actually my first meet where I've kind of come out on top," Ludlow told the Saskatoon Star-Phoenix. "I've watched Savannah and Barbara the last couple years make all the teams. I've always looked up to both of them. My 200 and 400 this meet were definitely by far the biggest races that I've won."

Ludlow, who also won silver in the 800 freestyle in a personal-best 8:52.43. She moved to Victoria last summer and now swims for Island Swimming of Saanich.

Black, who competed in the 2013 Canada Summer Games in Sherbrooke, Que., will travel to Edmonton for two weeks of training before she meets up with her Pan Pacific teammates in Victoria for a staging camp. She'll fly to Hawaii on Aug. 15.

Black has been recruited by the University of Western Kentucky on a full-ride scholarship and is enrolled as a biology major to begin classes this fall. She also set a personal best time of 1:01.29 in the 100 fly in the senior national pool in Saskatoon. On Wednesday, she was just off that pace in Winnipeg, placing second in the 100 fly final in 1:01.53.

"It's pretty weird seeing that this is my last meet with the Barracudas right now, it doesn't feel like I'm leaving," said Black. "I think it will hit me once I go away [to school]. I've been swimming with the Barracudas since I was six.

"I just want to make my times a little bit faster before I go to Junior Pans and get as many medals as I can get. I also want to swim faster in the morning [in the preliminary heats] because normally I don't do so well in the morning."

Two other graduating Barracudas are competing this week in Winnipeg, including University of Alberta recruit Sava Yungman and Josiah Binnema, who will attend Simon Fraser University this fall. Also in Winnipeg are Barracudas swimmers Sterling King (who attends the University of Calgary), Julie Wing, Hannah Esopenko, and Patricia Fortier. Barracudas head coach Jerzy Partyka is also at the meet.

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