Going into the B.C. AAA Short Course Age Group Championships swim meet Feb. 28 to March 3 in Victoria, Faith Knelson had a goal to get her third national time.
And the 11-year-old member of the Ladysmith-Chemainus Orcas Swim Club far exceeded that goal, coming home with six medals, two meet records and three national times.
Knelson already had her national times for her age group in the 100m breaststroke and 50m breaststroke, and she needed to reach one more national standard in Victoria. She did that and more. She earned national times in 50m free, 100m fly and 100m free. Knelson also earned new meet records in the 100m free and 100m fly.
“I was pretty shocked in the 100m fly because I went in second and went in with 1:14, and in the finals, I came out with 1:10,” said Knelson. “Probably, my favourite moment was my favourite stroke, breaststroke, and the fly, being on the podium with the two other girls was pretty amazing. I was on the podium with two other girls who are already amazing and are top in Canada.”
Knelson won the 50m free with a time of 29.18. She finished first in the 100m free with a time of 1:03.42 and was first in 100m breaststroke (1:17.88), 100m butterfly (1:10.02) and the 200m individual medley (2:35.87). Knelson also won a silver medal in the 100m backstroke with a time of 1:12.62.
With these performances, Knelson earned a trip to the nationals in Montreal in mid-July.
Knelson says she didn’t worry about the pressure to get that third national time.
“[My coach] said to me on the day of the 100m free and 100m fly, he says ‘I want two national times, two meet records and two golds,’ and I had to take it all in and say ‘I have to do this,’ and I did it,” she said.
Knelson was joined at the AAA Championships by clubmate Aileen Humphreys,11, who earned a trip to AAA after earning qualifying times in the 200m and 100m breaststroke at the AA Championships.
“I always used to go to AAA alone, and then Aileen came,” said Knelson. “I liked having another teammate along, and she was very supportive.”
Humphreys competed in the 100m and 200m breaststroke and although she didn’t make the finals, she felt her first AAA Championships was a great experience.
“It was very, very fun – exciting,” she said. “I didn’t get any best times or anything, but I tried, and I did AAs two weeks ago, and that was pretty good.”
Humphreys says just being there and supporting Knelson, as well as the other swimmers, was a lot of fun.
Orcas co-coach Dusan Toth-Szabo says the AAA Championships was good for Humphreys.
“Her main swim meet was AA, and one of her main goals was to qualify for AAA,” he said. “It was a really good experience for her for the future. That was the biggest level of meet she had attended.”
Toth-Szabo says they knew Knelson had good chances to medal at the meet, as they know the other swimmers.
“It’s hard to say it was expected to get five golds, but a good result was expected,” he said. “She got the good swim, she got the medals, and she got the national qualifier, so you can’t reach for anything more. The other good thing is we got to the point where she’s a contender in every stroke. Basically, she became a very well-rounded swimmer.”
After the meet, Toth-Szabo checked the Swim Canada website and found Knelson is No. 1 in Canada in three events – 50m fly, 100m fly and 50m breaststroke – and Top 3 in a number of others.