Montréal welcomes swimmers

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Year one of the Franklin regime can be safely deemed a success.

Wilfrid Laurier University swimming head coach Russ Franklin who took his position, along with the Region of Waterloo (ROW) head coaching job this year after moving from Québec, accompanied three of his finest water sprites to the Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) national championships in late February, and they showed well.

Third-year, Stratford native Renee Dijk placed the highest, finishing 18th in the 100m backstroke, just two places shy of missing the finals, but knows it’s valuable experience for Franklin’s and her own future tenure at the school.

“It’s been amazing,” said Dijk of Franklin’s reign as the aquatic coach. “It’s such a different atmosphere on the team [compared to last year], especially between the coach and each individual swimmer.”

The Montréal meet was Dijk’s third during her time at Laurier, the kinesiology major had been to Toronto and Calgary in her previous years.

This time though, she had to guide two newcomers to the CIS scene; Veronica Davis-Freeman and Luke Summerhayes, two more of Laurier’s top competitors who made it to the show.

“I didn’t have to say much,” explained Dijk. “They’ve experienced big meets before on their home clubs and things like that, so I was just really happy that I had teammates along with me.”

Davis-Freeman, the second-year Oakville native placed in top 30 in both the 200m Breaststroke and the 400m Individual Medley.

“It was great,” said Davis-Freeman of Montréal’s meet. “I swam faster than I have in a long time, since Grade 11.”

And Davis-Freeman was aptly prepared, thanks to her squad.

“I heard a lot of stories from the girls who went last year,” said Davis-Freeman.

Along with sampling the shopping and eating districts during their extended stay, the pool was unlike anything Davis-Freeman had swum in before.

“It was really different; you had to go up 75 stairs to get to the pool,” she explained. “Most pools are either on the ground level or downstairs so it was cool. The building was built into the mountain in Montréal.”

And along with her teammate Dijk, Davis-Freeman has noticed a change in culture around the pool this year as well.

“There’s a huge difference in the team’s attitude this year,” she said. “With Russ coming in, compared to last year, everyone took it more seriously, everyone enjoyed it a lot more and it paid off in our swimming. Everyone swam amazingly at the end of the year.”

Summerhayes had two top-25 finishes.

Franklin is expected to introduce cuts next year as he used this year as a stepping stone to formulate a competitive team under his watch.

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