If you’re going to go into the Christmas break, do it riding high.

That’s what the Polar Bear Swim Club did as the club returned from the JP Fiset Invitational Swim Meet in Edmonton on Sunday with a pocket full of personal bests and, in the case of one swimmer, a couple of medals from one of the biggest meets in western Canada.

Gabriel Leclerc, seen during the Canada Summer Games in Winnipeg this past August, was part of the 20-strong Polar Bear Swim Club squad that travelled to Edmonton for the JP Fiset Invitational Swim Meet this past weekend.
photo courtesy of Thorsten Gohl

Madison Penney was the lone medal winner for the club as she snagged silver in the 200-metre individual medley and a bronze in the 50-metre butterfly, both in the girls 13-14 division. That was all part of a busy weekend for Penney as she ended up competing in a total of 16 races, including her preliminary races and the relays.

Carol Lockhart, who was coaching in place of Jane Mooney, who was unable to make it to Edmonton with the team, said it took a lot for Penney to maintain the required standard to be successful.

“She started with the prelims in the morning and then had to do the relays and then the event finals,” she said. “Same thing for Gabriel Leclerc, where he had to race the 200-metre breaststroke in his division and just eight minutes later, he’s in the pool racing the 50-metre butterfly. It all adds up and it takes a lot of stamina to do it.”

Penney would end up with four top-five finishes over the course of the weekend.

This was the largest team the club had ever sent to the event with 20 swimmers in total making the trip and while a majority of the swimmers had experience competing in events like this, some had never done a four-day meet.

Lockhart said that’s where the veterans stepped up to be leaders.

“Jane always has a policy about the younger swimmers following the big ones and that’s exactly what happened there,” she said. “That’s the great thing about this team – they’re always supporting each other and the older swimmers are always giving the younger swimmers tips and lessons on how to do certain things in the water.”

Something else the amount of veteran swimmers provided was a sense of going out and getting the results instead of just hoping and wishing, she added.

“Our calibre of swimming has gone up big time,” she said. “There’s no more learning now. They’re in the pool and pushing everyone else. There isn’t a stroke specialty now, either. Bailey Johnston is a good example of that where he can compete and challenge in several disciplines and Madison Bell also.”

Aside from the placings, personal bests have always been what the club preaches for its swimmers to get and several swimmers did that to the tune of 78 per cent, which is the total number of races in which a swimmer nailed down a personal best time.

The other big thing is that 17 of the 20 swimmers managed to qualify for the Alberta Age Group Trials, which are happening in Edmonton in February.

James McCarthy

After being a nomad around North America following my semi-debauched post-secondary days, I put down my roots in Yellowknife in 2006. I’ve been keeping this sports seat warm with NNSL for the better...

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