Teammates Grace Dice (left)

Teammates Grace Dice (left)

First swims spawn big smiles for Orcas

A quartet of Ladysmith-Chemainus Orcas swimmers recently made their competitive debuts at the Duncan Sting Rays Spring Break Invitational.

A quartet of Orcas made their competitive debuts at the Duncan Sting Rays Spring Break Invitational March 16-17 at the Cowichan Aquatic Centre.

Cathryn Barney, 7, and eight-year-olds Grace Dice and Bethany Geiger competed in their first ever races at the all-ages meet, while teammate Courtney Chanin, 15, swam as an Orca for the first time since moving to Ladysmith from Kitimat late last year.  Chanin, Dice, Geiger and Barney were joined by 16 of their Ladysmith-Chemainus Orcas Swim Club teammates at a meet that set new benchmarks for team spirit.

“I was impressed with them,” Orcas coach Aisha Alsop said. “Not just as swimmers, but as people.”

The atmosphere at poolside was a blend of fierce, driven competition — “they were screaming and yelling for all their friends” — and confidence-boosting camaraderie, not only among teammates, but from coaches and the turning judges, too.

“There were lots of compliments and plenty of support doled out by teammates and judges,” Alsop added. “I think that had a lot to do with why every kid came out of the pool with a smile on their face.”

Alsop eased her youngest Orcas into the competitive side of the sport by having them start their races in the water rather than from on the starting blocks.

“I would’ve hated to see them pile-drive face first into the water,” Alsop said, “and never want to race again.”

Most young swimmers are introduced to racing through 25-metre events, Alsop said, but as there were no 25-metre races scheduled in Duncan, the eight-and-unders raced in 50-metre events instead.

All three girls swam the 50m free, Dice and Barney swam the 50m backstroke, and Geiger and Barney swam 50m breaststroke.

Chanin, meanwhile, swam a total of eight events ranging from 50m free to 200m individual medley (IM), scoring one first-place finish and half a dozen third-place times.

Overall, the Orcas posted significant improvements at the meet, with half the squad scoring double-digit improvements in at least one swim.

Credit to some extent goes to the support swimmers received from teammates. Alsop said she had never seen anything quite like it, as her youngest swimmers pushed turning judges aside to inch closer to poolside as they cheered on their teammates.

That friendly yet competitive spirit might help explain the club’s record-setting growth over the last 24 months. Two years ago, the Orcas could count off their entire squad using two pairs of hands. Fast forward to 2013, and the team’s ranks have swollen to include a total of 70 swimmers. This is one pod of resident Orcas that’s thriving.

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