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Breakers light up Christmas Cracker

The Ravensong Breakers were in great spirits at the annual Christmas Cracker swim meet in Saanich. - John Campbell photo
The Ravensong Breakers were in great spirits at the annual Christmas Cracker swim meet in Saanich.
— image credit: John Campbell photo

In keeping with tradition, ‘tis the season to be speedy for Oceanside’s RAC Breakers, who lit it up again this year at the Christmas Cracker.

In the mix down Island at Commonwealth Pool Dec. 7-9 for the 11th annual festive swim meet — one of Canada’s largest invitationals numbering 650 swimmers from all over B.C. as well as Oregon and Washington — Breakers’ head coach John Campbell took 27 swimmers ranging in age from 8-17, “and we did extremely well,” he said, pointing out the Ravensong Aquatic Centre-based crew, aka ‘The Little Club that Could’ finished sixth out of 25 teams — bettered only by clubs a lot bigger than them.

Swimmers are allowed a maximum of nine events each, and in a heats and finals format that means the top competitors are turning in as many as 18 swims over the two days.

The swimmers were at the pool and on deck by 7:30 a.m. each morning and swam preliminary heats until 1:30 p.m., then a three hour break before returning for the finals which went from 4:30 - 8 p.m.

“It’s the biggest meet before our championship season,” said the Breakers’ longtime skipper, pointing to the busy home stretch coming up for the short course campaign that starts with the Regional Championships (VIR’s) in Comox mid-January; followed by the Western Canadian’s in Saskatoon in mid-February, and finally the AAA Championships in Surrey the beginning of March.

Leading the charge for Ravensong at the Christmas Cracker was 12-year-old Joanna (Jojo) Redenbach.

The spark-plug from Parksville won seven, count’em seven, events, touching the wall for first in the 50 Free, 100 Free, 200 Free, 400 Free, 50 Fly and 100 Fly, to go along with a second in the 200 IM. All of them personal best times.

“She’s really matured from where she was as a 10-and-under swimmer,” said Campbell, “and with her maturity were able to talk about race strategy and basically get the most out of her. A lot of her top competition was there,” he pointed out. “She swam great.”

Also earning extra props were Simon Gilmour, 12, who won three events (50 Fly, 100 Fly and 800 Free) and placed second in the 200 and 400 Free, along with Angus McGibbon, 17, who came through making four finals with four personal best times (50 Fly, 50 Breast, 400 IM and 200 Breast) in the senior division.

McGibbon’s time of 4:56.97 in the 400 IM “puts him in striking range of making the Western Canadians qualifying standard for the first time, he’s made some huge gains.”

“Our club records keep falling, and that’s my best indication that we’re getting better,” Campbell said proudly, pointing out there were a number of new club records set at the Cracker, none bigger than in the 10&U 200 Fly in which Sophie Lorette “absolutely shattered,” Linsey Epp’s 11-year-old record of 3:16 when she went 2:58.

“They had a blast. This meet is a real favourite with the kids,” Campbell said, explaining there are no medals up for grabs, instead, swimmers vie for prizes. Finish top three and they get their names entered in a draw for iPods, iPod speakers, digital underwater cameras, ear buds, “all sorts of great stuff. The kids love it.”

“Oh yeah, you bet,” Campbell chuckled when asked if the Breakers might have had some extra pop off the blocks, spurred on by longtime Breaker and UBC standout Kelly Aspinall, 22, who just over three weeks ago powered his way to five gold medals at the Canada Cup in Toronto, set two new UBC records, and took a big step, make that big stroke, towards that spot on the national team and the right to represent his country at the Olympics.

“That’s basically our role as an age group club,” said Campbell, “is to put these kids in a position where they continue swimming successfully once they become a senior swimmer.”

IN OTHER NEWS, on that same weekend, the Breakers’ Maran Kokoszka, 15, was selected to compete for Team B.C. at the big annual Paul Bergen International Swim Meet in Portland, Oregon, which also featured teams from Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario, Quebec, France and Germany.

Kokoszka made B Finals in her 100 and 200 Back “and they were very, very strong mid-season times.”

Also making the trip and competing as a Breaker was Laura Romkes, 17, who won the B Final in the 200 Fly.

LOOKING AHEAD, the Breakers are in the process of preparing for their bi-annual road trip — this is the fifth year — down south to Palm Desert (near Palm Springs) “for 10 days of intense outdoor long course training.”

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