A growth in the depth of talent has Laurentian swim coach Phil Parker excited about what lies ahead for the Aqua Vees.
“The numbers are up,” said Parker. “It creates a training environment that is a little more exciting with more people in the pool. I think that it’s carried over into the races.”
Historically, the LU crew has been challenged to match the numbers of the larger schools, but with 17-18 ladies swimming consistently and practising and 13 or so on the men’s side of things, Parker knows the gap is closing. Of course, getting key contributions from one and all really helps.
“There is a solid core of vets that have really stood up and kept us strong in the standings, and we’ve had a couple of nice surprises,” Parker said. “The biggest thing with this sport is if they train well, they will race well.
“For the athletes to stay healthy, accounting for sleeping, recovery and nutrition, they have to make it part of their lifestyle. If they can get their head around that, it has to spill over into the meets.”
The women’s crew will be led once again this year by Orangeville native Emily Jones. The fourth-year backstroke specialist is coming off her best year yet, capturing a bronze in the 50m event at the OUA Championships and finishing first in the B final of the same race at nationals in Calgary.
With P.E.I. native Brittany Maltais having graduated, Parker is looking to others to join Jones in qualifying for the CIS championships this year. Jessica Pothier and Erica Buehlow have both looked strong in training, while rookies Leah Derro and Jessica Chambers have both adjusted to the OUA ranks quite quickly.
“Leah was one of our top recruits that I knew could step right in and have an impact,” said Parker. “Jess (Chambers) is another one with good experience who can really help the depth of our team, especially in the butterfly.”
On the men’s side, there remains some rebuilding to be done, though Laurentian veterans Nicholas Lapointe and Dan Juhasz continue to lead the way. Lockerby Composite graduate James Clendenning has also looked impressive in his first year with the Voyageurs, especially after taking some time away from the competitive swimming ranks in his senior high school years.
“I’m not sure that we’ll have any males at the CIS’ championships this year, but James (Clendenning) should give the 50 and 100 fly a pretty good run,” Parker said.
Realistically, the head coach who took over the program in 2002 in targeting sixth place at the OUA championships in February, anticipating a great four-team race that should also include Waterloo, Brock and Laurier.