Ladysmith swimmers are making a splash on a national level.
Ladysmith-Chemainus Orcas Swim Club members Faith Knelson and Aileen Humphries recently competed at the Canadian Age Group Championships July 23-27 in Winnipeg.
At the meet, Knelson, 12, swam 10 events, made finals in every event and won two gold medals, five silvers and one bronze.
“The main thing for me with her achievements is making finals in every single event and eight of them medals,” said Orcas coach Dusan Toth-Szabo. “The other is she swam all four strokes, so that means even her so-called weakest stroke, the backstroke, she got fifth and fifth. The other three and individual medley were all medals.”
Humphries, who is also 12, swam five events and made finals in the 50m, 100m and 200m breaststroke.
“The good thing for me as a coach is she made finals in all three breaststroke events,” said Toth-Szabo. “You can see the huge improvements — a year ago, she couldn’t make finals at provincials, and now she made three finals in nationals.”
At the competition, Knelson broke the B.C. record in the 100m butterfly, which had stood for 25 years.
As well, Knelson and Humphries were the only two teammates swimming in the 100m breaststroke finals.
At the Canadian Age Group Championships, Knelson won the 50m breaststroke with a time of 33.31 and earned a gold medal in the 100m breaststroke with a time of 1:13.49. Knelson won silver medals in the 100m butterfly (1:05.82), 50m butterfly (29.19), 200m breaststroke (2:46.74) and 50m freestyle (27.76). And she won a bronze medal in the 200m individual medley (2:28.73).
“It is a big achievement for me to receive eight medals out of 10 events,” said Knelson. “I was quite happy to make finals in 50m and 100m backstroke because I’m not very good at backstroke, in my opinion. The competition was very stiff, and I raced a lot of girls that were really amazing and I met a lot of girls that are really amazing.”
Knelson qualified for the Canadian Junior West Team, and following the Age Group Championships, she swam with the Western team in the Youth Dual Meet.
“It means she’s on the radar for the SwimBC and Swim Canada higher-level coaches,” said Toth-Szabo.
Knelson says qualifying for the Canadian Junior West Team was a great experience because she doesn’t come from a large team, and it was amazing to do relays with the team, participate in large group cheers and have all those teammates cheering her on.
Humphries swam the 200m breaststroke in 2:56.72 to finish seventh, and she was seventh in the 50m breaststroke with a time of 37.29. She also finished eighth in the 100m breaststroke, finishing the race in 1:22.74.
Humphries thought competing at age group nationals for the first time was “really fun.”
“I had never competed outside B.C., and it was actually surprising I made finals,” she said.
Humphries says that when she’s competing, her motivation is to prove to people that she isn’t slow and that she “doesn’t suck at swimming.”
For Knelson, motivation comes in wanting to make her coach and her teammates proud.
“My mom’s also a big inspiration and motivation for me,” she said. “She’s always on the sidelines cheering me on. I thank her for being there and getting me to where I am today.”
With a couple of weeks off before the swim season starts again in September, Humphries says her goals for 2014-15 are to make the Canadian Junior West Team and to medal at the next Canadian Age Group Nationals. She also wants to make her team and coach proud.
Knelson is looking ahead to the next two years.
“My goals are to perform and succeed in the next two years and to hopefully make the Canadian Junior Team and start to swim worldwide,” she said.
Humphries and Knelson both hope they can share the age group nationals experience with more teammates next year.
“Hopefully some of our teammates can improve and progress — like Pamela [Little],” said Knelson. “I’m hoping she can make nationals next year. We’re very proud of Pamela for representing us at the North American Indigenous Games and medaling there.”