Swimmers prepare for OUAs

Laurier swimming coach Russ Franklin is about to see just how much his team’s year of hard work has gotten them.

From Feb. 9-11, Franklin and his aquatic squad will head to Laurentian University in Sudbury and face some of Ontario’s toughest competition in the Ontario University Athletics’ (OU) championships.

They got a glimpse of it on Sunday when Laurier hosted their invitational at the Athletic Complex, but Franklin knows it’s but a taste of what’s to come.

“When you go to a meet like this, you don’t know if the other team is tired from training, you don’t know if they have all their guns, but when you go to OUs, that’s it,” said the coach. “You’re there and you’re going to see where you stack up, so I’m going to get a pretty good indication of where the team is after the February meet.”

On Sunday, the swimmers welcomed the University of Guelph, McMaster University and York University to their open invitational and the squad swam away with a good showing, including three gold medal finishes.

Renee Dijk finished in top spot in the Female Open 200 Backstroke Short Course Finals, as well as the 100 Backstroke, and Veronica Davis-Freeman placed first in the Female Open 100 Breaststroke Short Course Finals.

Other top competitors included Kassandra Dizon with two fifth-place finishes, Davis-Freeman had another silver medal and a fourth-place finish. First-year Luke Summerhayes completing two fourth-place finishes and Andrew Warr had a silver and a bronze to cap his impressive rookie season.

Franklin is hoping to vault his top competitors into the national championships with the February meet.

“We have a couple of kids on the cusp of qualifying for nationals, so that’s a priority …. Competing, scoring and seeing where we rank is really important but there are the individual swimmers who have bigger and better things to come so we’re hoping they’ll be successful.”

Those swimmers include Davis-Freeman, Carlos Riobo, and Luke Summerhayes. Dijk has already qualified.

The training period for the athletes is year-round, often with a grueling training schedule.

“Here at Laurier, we have a minimum of five workouts we attend,” said Franklin, who also coaches the Region of Waterloo swim team (ROW). “Some of them are coming seven or eight times, and that includes the dry-land and weight training …. so it’s about 12-15 hours per week.”

“When it comes to OUs, we taper down and reduce the number of practices we have,” said the 35-year coaching veteran.

Being in his first year coaching at the school, and only moving to the Waterloo region after living in Québec with his family, Franklin wanted to start the program off on the right foot under his direction.

“No expectations at the start,” he said when prompted as to what he thought the team would look like in September. “It was more coming in and seeing what the program had and where we were at, and I’m happy with how it’s gone but there will be a few changes next year.”

Among those changes will likely mean athletes may get cut for the first time after keeping the team open this year.

“We have a 34-member team. We elected not to cut anybody this year because we were looking to build that spirit … Next year we may be a little more choosey.”

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