The Sudbury Laurentian Swim Club barely even had the chance to get their feet wet back in the Division II ranks.
Less than 12 months after being relegated back from the Swim Ontario Division 1 grouping, the local swim club has returned, knocking at the door of the provincial elite once again.
The SLSC crew finished first in the Division 2 championships hosted in Sudbury over the weekend, topping the standings in the closest team race that many swimming observers could remember.
With a final point tally of 610.50, the club that calls the Jeno Tihanyi Olympic Gold Pool home edged out the Halton Hills Blue Fins by just two and a half points.
With the top two teams promoted to the Division 1 group, both squads had given themselves some breathing room, finishing well ahead of the Brantford Aquatic Club in third place with 499 points.
“Everybody really stepped up to the plate,” said SLSC head coach Dean Henze late Dec. 16 as the top two were still flipping back and forth between first and second place.
“No really big surprises, but some of the kids that are not feeling particularly well have swam really, really tough,” he said. “Kids like Kasey Thompson and Chris Eastick.”
“And the young kids have really stood up. The heroes, so far, are the 12 and unders.”
Many of those who were expected to excel did not disappoint, including 14-year-old Erik Wainman – (although Dec. 19 marks his 15th birthday).
Wainman has enjoyed a great start to his season, breaking a long-standing regional record in the 100 metre breaststroke a few months back.
“I wasn't quite where I wanted to be (this weekend), but overall it was pretty good,” said Wainman.
Like so many swimmers in this meet, Wainman would compete in multiple races, finishing first in the 200m breaststroke and second in the 200m individual medley, events that were held roughly 15 minutes apart.
“I had the same schedule this morning (in the preliminary races),” said Wainman. “I tried to keep it fluid and not overpower my breaststroke, just so I had enough left for the 200 IM.”
“Tonight, I decided to go all out on the breaststroke and see what I had left for the IM.”
Coming off a 2011-2012 season where he showed a marked improvement, Wainman has continued the upward trend, one that sees him eyeing ever-increasing goals to surpass.
“I had a big breakthrough at the start of the year,” he said. “I was around 1:13 in my 100m (breaststroke) and now I'm at 1:07. I want to bring it down to sub-1:05, maybe at Eastern Canadians (in early 2013).”
While soon-to-be high school graduate Kelly Hotta is also no stranger to impressive personal best times, a nagging shoulder injury has forced her to ground her goals in reality, at least temporarily.
“If I didn't have this shoulder thing, the focus would have been to win and get good times,” Hotta said. “But at this point, it was kind of about conserving my energy and making sure nothing is hurting, but getting some points for the team.”
That she did, winning all five individual events in which she competed. Well established as a provincial and national calibre swimmer, Hotta was one of many who was thrilled at the prospect of seeing the SLSC team return to the Division 1 ranks in Ontario.
“In Division 1, you get an idea about what really, really fast swimming is all about,” she said. “It's the best in Ontario. It's an eye-opener for many swimmers.”
Completing Grade 12 at Lockerby Composite, Hotta also confirmed that she will be attending the University of Western Ontario in the fall, swimming with the powerful Mustangs team and studying Kinesiology in London.
“I'm really looking forward to the next four years,” she said. “I'll still be able to see all of them (former SLSC teammates) at the meets.”
Along with both Wainman and Hotta, other SLSC swimmers who finished top three in at least one event included Philippe de la Riva, Christopher Eastick, Julie Langlois, Sam Reich, Jessica Pothier, Everett Smith, Alex Langlois, Emily Jones, Hannah Nordquist, Nina Kucheran, Alex Sarvas, Emilie Whipple and Kasey Thompson.