Laurier’s national swimmers

Christopher Courtis and Kaitlin Vanderbeek qualified early for the CIS national championships. (Photo by Heather Davidson)
Christopher Courtis and Kaitlin Vanderbeek qualified early for the CIS national championships. (Photo by Heather Davidson)

Two Golden Hawks certainly made a splash in the pool at the Tihanyi Divisionals last weekend in Hamilton, Ont.

The purple and gold swimming team swam their way to a fourth-place finish in both men’s and women’s at the meet, where they held their own against the likes of the powerhouse swim clubs McMaster and Toronto.

Although the Wilfrid Laurier swim club showcased an admirable performance in the pool, the story of the meet was provided by the tandem of Chris Courtis and Kaitlin Vanderbeek, who both punched their ticket to the Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) championships with outstanding performances.

Second-year Cayman Islands native Courtis, put on an impressive display at the podium as he not only took home a silver medal in the 50-metre backstroke, but also a bronze medal in the 100-metre backstroke.

“It feels great to have already qualified early and seeing the hard work pay off,” commented Courtis on his big weekend.

“It’s a great achievement, but it’s on to bigger and better things and setting new goals.”

Likewise, Vanderbeek, the rookie out of Hamilton, Ont. added to her trophy case with a silver medal in the 50-metre backstroke, as well as posting top eight finishes in a variety of other events at the meet.

“I haven’t missed a practice this year, and both Chris and I have had 100 per cent attendance, so seeing that pay off feels great,” said Vanderbeek on her impressive finishes.

“I’m excited to have qualified already early on, it is a great feeling to have and I am excited for the rest of the season.”

However, the success for the pair of swimmers hasn’t come easy. Hard work and dedication have been pivotal in the success of both Courtis and Vanderbeek.

“We put in 15-20 hours a week all for one 30-second race,” said Vanderbeek.

“You have to be mentally and physically ready by going to all the practices and going your hardest,” stated Vanderbeek.

“Once you’re behind the blocks about to swim, there is nothing but your practice that can help you improve.”

Not only are practices a key part of the success of the Hawks, but also team bonding and community.

“We just did our ‘secret psych’ event at the meet where we give each other a gift of encouragement like a Gatorade or a motivational quote,” added Courtis.

“We have a lot of team hangouts at our apartment, which is all swimmers, so we stay connected and tight that way.”

If qualifying for the CIS championships wasn’t enough for the two Golden Hawks, they both share the same goal of one day competing in the Olympics.

“I would love to finish top eight at the [2016] Olympic trials, it would be a big accomplishment,” said Vanderbeek on her future goals.

Similarly, Courtis would like to fulfill his Olympic dreams, but with his home country of Barbados.

“Since I was a little boy I always wanted to be in the Olympics, and representing Barbados would be a dream come true,” added Courtis.

“You never know what can happen, so you just have to keep focusing on yourself and getting better.”

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