Following the completion of the 2017 Canada Summer Games, it is finally the end of the Battlefords Kinsmen Orcas swim season.
The club sent three swimmers to the national competition: Brandon Nord and Taylor Parker competed in multiple male categories, and Lindsay Reimer competed in the special olympics female category.
Although none brought home any medals, Orcas coach Ally MacLeod was extremely proud of how all of them did.
"Overall I think they did very well," MacLeod said. "It's the first time those athletes had to swim in a super-high pressure competition where people from all over Canada are racing.
"There were some records broken in the pool almost every session, so it was a pretty fast meet.
Reimer was the closest to reach the podium. She finished fourth in the 50-metre breaststroke with a time of 57.51 seconds, which wasn't actually her personal best. She did clock a personal best in the 100-metre freestyle with a time of 1:33.35, which was good for ninth overall.
She had two other top-10 finishes, one in the 100-metre backstroke and one in the 50-metre freestyle.
"We've been working so hard on her freestyle, so watching her 100-free, watching her make a best time by about a second, was really exciting," MacLeod said, who wasn't able to attend the games in Winnipeg in person but watched online. "I was most impressed with her fourth-place finish. Working with her, I didn't expect her breaststroke to be the strongest one. She's just been swimming so well freestyle in workout that I wasn't expecting that."
Parker had three seventh-place finishes, two of which came as a member of a relay team. He and team Sask. finished seventh in the 4x50-metre relay and the 4x100-metre relay.
The 15-year-old also finished in seventh in the five kilometre open swim, which had to be moved from the river to the indoor pool due to bacteria levels. Parker found out about the change of venue the morning of, but didn't let that affect his performance.
"Seventh place out of all of Canada, that's really good," MacLeod said. "He was swimming straight for about an hour and the coaches were texting me and they said he was holding the same time per 50-metres basically the whole five kilometres, which is really impressive because obviously people normally slow down.
"His open swim and his 400-free were the most impressive, so the more distance swims. He really likes the sprints, but it just shows that he's pretty versatile...[and] there's a lot more strategy to open swims. Getting into a good pack of swimmers, and then drafting off of them, and then choosing your moment to try to pass people."
Overall, Parker had four personal best times, all of them in freestyle races. His 50-metre split as part of the 4x50-metre relay was a new best, as was his times in the 100, 200, and 400-metre freestyle.
Nord had one eighth-place finish as a member of the 4x50-metre medley relay, plus three top-13 finishes, in the 50, 100, and 200-metre butterfly.
"He had a phenomenal 200-metre butterfly, right off the bat," MacLeod said. "It was the first day and he just went and got really gutsy and took off almost six seconds. He made a best time in it three weeks before in provincials, so it was just unbelievable.
"He made three individual second swims, so he made top-16 in three of the events, which is pretty good. It was very stiff competition so he should be very proud of the number of 'B' final swims that he had."
In addition to that 200-metre butterfly race when Nord posted a personal best by 5.8 seconds, he also posted a personal best in the 50-metre butterfly and 50-metre freestyle.
Although the 2016-17 season is now complete, the 2017-18 season is not far off, at all.
The club officially kicks off the season with 'bring your friend to swimming week', which is set for Sept. 5. However, real training doesn't begin until the following week, and the athletes won't really get into the full swing of things until the end of September.
"We like to build up to it, because you can't quite go from doing nothing to all of a sudden swimming like seven practices a week," MacLeod said. "Anyone [new] who is thinking about it, just come to that first week and see what it's like. From my experience and seeing the kids that I work with now, you make lifelong friends and it's a lifelong skill."
Looking back on the year that was, MacLeod was most impressed with the athletes determination.
"By the end of the year, it was like 'these kids have a fire under their butt,' " MacLeod said. "They have real goals now and it's not just having fun. Not just 'I just like going to this meet because it's good.' They're like 'I want to place at this meet. I want to qualify for this meet. I want to win at this meet.' So they're just a lot more competitive, which I love.
"The success is very contagious. They see, 'Oh, Brandon and Taylor and Lindsay went to Canada Games and Slade got medals at NAIG, so it's not impossible. It's not just the teams in Saskatoon and Regina who can really stand out. Us from North Battleford can also step up."
On Twitter: @NathanKanter11
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