The close of the 2013-2014 competitive swim season draws near, but the local contingent has one last chance to strut their stuff in front of family and friends.
The three-day Jeno Tihanyi Long Course Championships will draw hundreds of swimmers from across the North and from the Huronia area for one of the final events of the season, from June 7-9.
All three local clubs — the Sudbury Laurentian Swim Club (SLSC), Nickel City Aquatics (NCA) and Valley East Waves — will be well represented, with swimmers anxiously awaiting the opportunity to shine.
Now in his third season with the host club (SLSC), Erik Wainman is fully aware of the potential for a breakthrough weekend.
"I started off the year on a great note, and then I started to plateau a bit, and I'm trying to break that right now," he said, recently.
Far from demoralized, Wainman sees his recent challenges as a springboard for future success.
"A bad race often helps get me to the next level," he said. "When I go back to training, I know I have to work on all the things that I didn't think went right in that race, focus on those and bring it to my next swim meet."
Having already qualified both for long-course provincials, as well as Age Group Nationals this summer, Wainman hopes to score personal best (PB) times in his forte, the breaststroke.
"This is a home meet, so I try and go in with the same mentality as if this was a national meet," he said.
For 14-year-old Valley East swimmer Amy Léger, regionals represent the final big meet of the year.
"Just the chance that I get to see all my friends makes it fun," she said, gathering with her teammates at the Howard Armstrong Recreational Complex.
“Swimming keeps me grounded, makes me more relaxed."
But as is the case for all athletes, progress provides motivation, with Léger shaving 13 seconds off her PB in the 400-metre individual medley (IM ) at a recent meet in Timmins.
"I almost got a perfect meet, where I get best times in every single event," Léger said.
Moving forward, she believes her strength will likely fit in the more long distance races.
While Wainman and Léger have a few years in the water, 13-year-old Joseph Deni is only just starting out. In his third year with NCA, Deni is something of a swimming rarity, having shown up on the doorstep of a competitive swim club without the benefit of prior swim lessons.
"I kind of learned with the family, just having fun in our pool," he said.
That lack of formal experience might seem troublesome, but Deni takes it in stride.
"My coach, Linda (Tenhunen), she was very welcoming, so my nervousness went away really fast," Deni said. "A lot of the swimmers came up to me and introduced themselves. I got put in a level with kids that were faster than me, but they explained that I would progress a little bit faster that way."
The game plan seems to have worked. Deni qualified for the short-course event earlier (called festivals) this year, the precursor to provincials for athletes aged 13 and under. He's now duplicated that accomplishment for the upcoming long-course competition, set to run a couple of weeks after regionals.
Gradually becoming accustomed to the noise and excitement that comes with large scale events, Deni hopes to maintain perspective when he takes to the starting blocks at Laurentian this weekend.
"I don't want to get the nerves too amped up, because that could mess up my swimming," he said.
Not to worry. There will be another race, another meet, another day of competition — even if it means waiting for next season, complete with a whole new set of dreams and goals for swimmers like Deni, Wainman, Léger and hundreds more across the north.