And so the competitive season is done for the Polar Bear Swim Club, their first real racing season in more than two years, and they closed it out by hitting the road.
Twenty-two Yellowknife swimmers were in Edmonton last weekend for the Silver Rays Invitational Meet with the results being both a glimpse into the future and cementing just how good the established competitors are.
Jacob Mitchener was perhaps the top finisher of the entire bunch as he left with a podium sweep in the boys 14-15 division. He won seven medals, five of those gold coming in the 50-metre, 100-metre and 200-metre backstroke, 200-metre individual medley and 200-metre freestyle. He was a second-place finisher in the 100-metre butterfly and third in the 100-metre freestyle.
Carol Lockhart, the club’s head coach, said the results were great but even more so because Mitchener — and a few of the other swimmers — were getting over an illness.
“It was a non-Covid sickness and so they were laying low for about two weeks prior,” she said. “They recovered very well and Jacob ended up being the big winner for us.”
Alex Ketchum brought home five top-three finishes from the boys 16-and-over category in what would be his final event as an active club swimmer. Two of those were gold as he won the 50-metre and 100-metre backstroke while he finished second in the 200-metre breaststroke and was third in the 50-metre butterfly and 200-metre freestyle.
Victor Lumacad won three medals of his own in the boys 14-15 division. He was tops in the 200-metre breaststroke and finished second in the 50-metre and 100-metre distances.
On the girls side, Scarlett Robb managed to medal three times in the girls 13-14 age category. She was a silver medalist in the 200-metre breaststroke and finished third in the 50-metre backstroke and 100-metre breaststroke.
“She was a late bloomer but she’s stuck with it and had some great races in Edmonton,” said Lockhart. “She’s become one of our senior swimmers and had a great year with Kirsty Ketchum, our technical specialist with the younger group. They had a great connection this season and she, along with that entire group, is getting better because of the work they’ve done with Kirsty.”
Kara Nelson was a gold medallist in the girls 13-14 50-metre freestyle race but it would be the 800-metre freestyle, the final race of the meet, that proved to be the team’s choice. And she very nearly won a medal in that, finishing fourth.
“The whole team walked the race with her, cheering her on, and I think they would have jumped in the pool and swam it with her if they could,” said Lockhart.
Lockhart was also full of praise for a couple of the younger swimmers who made the trip.
“Jedidiah Kehler did the 400-metre freestyle and spanked it out of the park,” she said. “He took about 10 seconds off of his time from one week ago. And Josie Henry will be one to watch as well. All eight of her finishes were personal bests and she really performed. She’s a racer.”
Perhaps the big difference the swimmers faced in Edmonton was the length of the pool itself. It was an Olympic standard 50-metre pool, twice as long as the Ruth Inch Memorial Pool, and the same length that those heading to the Canada Summer Games in August in Ontario will face.
Lockhart said until you swim it, you don’t know how hard you have to work.
“It takes a lot of strength and power, especially in the longer races,” she said. “You get to one end after doing 50 metres and you touch the wall, you look back and it looks so far away. But I’m really happy they got to experience a long-course pool.”
Something else Lockhart was happy with was the size of the contingent that travelled.
“It’s been a long time since we’ve taken a team that large to a meet,” she said. “They were all able to do it together and got to experience what it was like and I couldn’t be prouder of how they performed.