“Man oh man … what a meet,” he marvelled, and you could tell straightaway he was some impressed.
RAC Breakers’ longtime head coach John Campbell and his swimmers are back home from the 2012 VIR Short Course Championships and basking in the glow of some spectacular swims.
“Spectacular,” Campbell confirmed.
Played out at Nanaimo Aquatic Centre Jan. 12-22 the big annual showcase for the top swimmers on the rock is also a springboard to bigger meets.
There were nine Island teams in the mix. One of the teams, Island Swimming, is an association comprised of Victoria’s three large teams — the Tyees, the Coho, and VASC (Victoria Amateur Swim Club) — and was 91 swimmers strong.
The other Victoria team, PCS (Pacific Coast Swimming), fielded 44 swimmers.
“We had 20, and we were the highest scoring team outside of Victoria,” said Campbell.
“Just a fantastic meet. Remember we only have 40 kids now, so for us to score above other bigger teams, I mean we were two places ahead of Nanaimo; they have over 250 kids registered on their team and they ended up fourth.”
That the little club that can from Qualicum Beach did it again is great, but the most important thing he said, “is that we continue to move kids on to the next level, and I think one of the best examples is Maran Kokoszka.”
Maran, who just turned 15, qualified for Olympic Trials (which doubles as the Senior Nationals), in the 200 Backstroke with a new club record of 2:14.81.
“She finished first easily, by like 20 meters ahead of the rest of the pack,” her coach chuckled, then explained how at the Age Group nationals back in July, Maran just missed the qualifying standard when she won a silver medal in that event.
“It was great, and especially since the short course standard is so tough compared to the long course standard,” he said, explaining Maran had to lop a full eight seconds off her summer time to make the short course standard, “which is quite a bit in a 200 meter race.”
In this, one of the interesting subplots to the sport, Campbell explained the Standard Times are set by Swim Canada.
The long course standard time for the 200 Fly for example is 2:22, and the short course standard four-seconds faster at 2:18. The LC standard time for the 200 Back on the other hand is 2:22, and the SC standard time for the 200 Back is 2:15, “which is quite a spread. I thought at first it was a mistake so I called Swim Canada and they said they based it on their short course results from last year so …”
At the end of the day, Maran got it done.
“And I think it’s a great example of where you set a mark, and the kids will rise to the occasion.”
“We were screaming and yelling, and the funny thing was that winning it was secondary, that was not the issue, we were all jumping up and down because we knew she’d made it but she hadn’t seen the time yet … she was thrilled.”
This is Maran’s sixth season with the club and it was her first senior national time. The record she broke was her own, previously held by Breaker standout Jessica Aspinall, a graduate of Western Kentucky University.
Maran broke Aspinall’s longtime record at the Christmas Cracker swim meet back in December at Commonwealth Place.
Maran joins fellow Breaker standout Laura Romkes who qualified for the Olympic Trials at Age Group Championships in Montreal last July with a silver medal swim in the 200 Fly.
The Olympic Trials will be held in the 1976 Montreal Summer Olympics pool April 1-5.
Nikki Biro was on full boil in Nanaimo as she parlayed three personal best times into three gold medals and three qualifying times for the Western Canadians.
Campbell said Nikki went into the meet dialled in on qualifying for the Western Canadians in the 100 Free event, the last scheduled event at the VIRs.
Biro opened day one winning gold and qualifying for the Westerns in the 50 Free with a personal best time of 28.05. The next day, Saturday, in the 100 Fly “in another event not even on her radar,” she wins and qualifies for the Westerns with a PBT of 1:07.86. In the final event of the third and final day she finished first in the 100 Free and qualified for the Westerns with a PBT of 1:00.5.
“Again we were thrilled, but I always knew she could do it,” said her coach.
While it’s not the first time one of his swimmers has touched the wall for three gold medals at the VIRs, he said it’s rare for a swimmer to meet three new time standards.
“It’s very rare … it’s outstanding is what it is. She has come so far in such a short period of time.”
Not lost in the shuffle by any stretch was the stellar showing of little spark-plug Sophie Lorette, nine, from Nanoose Bay, who turned in her very first AAA time with a swim of 6:09.37 in the 400 Free to earn her club’s traditional white cap.
“Those are the top three performers in terms of breaking new ground, but honestly, (assistant coach Gary Chueng) and I did a breakdown for points per swimmer based on the numbers of each club, and we had the most, which is an indication of the high standards of our program.”
“Very proud … I think one of the benefits of having a team is that as a coach you’re able to not let things slide,” said Campbell, adding, “a lot of the larger teams, the coaches never really get a chance to know their kids … there are so many kids in the water at on time, too many things get missed.”
The Breakers’ will be sending four girls — Nikki, Maran, Laura and Richelle Bruyckere, 14, — to the 2012 Speedo Western Canadian Short Course Championships in Winnipeg Feb. 15-19. After that, the first week of March, the Breakers will be sending around 14 swimmers to the Provincial Short Course championships in Surrey. The Olympic Trials go the first week of April.