Swim team shines in home pool

Whether it’s home-field, home-ice or home-court, in almost any sport being the home team is an advantage. But could the same thing possibly ring true in swimming? Does home-pool advantage really exist?

“It definitely makes difference,” answered Brittany Shaw, a fourth-year on Laurier’s swim team.

“At home, just like any other sport you have the home crowd. It makes a big difference having that kind of support. It also the pool that you know, every pool is the same length and same lanes, you just always feel more comfortable in your home pool.”

The proof seemed to be in the WLU Athletic Complex pool on Saturday afternoon as the Golden Hawks hosted the swim teams of McMaster and York at the annual Laurier meet. Numerous Hawks took advantage of their comfort level in their home pool and put up strong performances with Shaw and fifth-year, perennial All-Canadian Whitney Rich leading the way with two gold medals and one silver medal apiece.

On the men’s side, fifth-year veterans Matt Pedersen and Tom Rose had the best Laurier performances finishing second and third respectively in the 200-metre butterfly.

“I think the kids stood up and they raced really hard,” said Hawks’ head coach Nandi Kormendi. “The level of competition at the meet was really high with Mac and York being there, but [the Hawks] certainly swam with some pride and determination.”

In addition to the high-placing Golden Hawks, Kormendi was also impressed by a number of his swimmers who competed in events that aren’t their specialty.

“Some of our best performances were some of our first, second and third year swimmers who tried some new events,” he said. “It was little things like that when you have swimmers swimming off events and racing just as hard, or harder than the would in any other swim, it’s really encouraging.”

The Laurier meet also gave the school its second chance to show off its recently renovated pool. After the facility was nearly closed two years ago due to a lack of funding for crucial renovations, Laurier received the necessary financial backing from numerous donors and in October of last year the new $2.2 million pool was unveiled.

According to Shaw, those repairs were desperately needed as for the Golden Hawks, swimming in their home pool used to be more of a hindrance than an advantage.

“Before last year we would have to leave halfway through practice and stand in the hallway just to breathe because the air quality was so bad,” she said. “So the ventilation is definitely much appreciated. And then just the atmosphere as a whole is just so much better, everything is brighter and you really just want to be there a lot more.”

Next up for the Hawks will be the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) finals, taking place in Guelph Feb. 10-12. This will be the last chance for the Hawks who haven’t yet qualified for nationals to get their times above the cut-off.

“We’re really looking forward to some best times from a few people,” said Rich. “A lot of people on the team are already putting up their best times this season so it’s always good knowing that they can put it together even when they’re not rested…. We have a few girls that are really close to making the [Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS)] cut and hopefully at [the OUA finals] they’ll be able to shave a bit of their time and make the cut.”