Women's team succeeds at annual meet

Nell leads the way with dominating 400m, 100m times

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Wester women's swimming

Jonas Hrebeniuk

The Mustangs may be known for their speed on land, but Western’s swim team also shows prowess in the water.

The team is off to a strong start this season, having won its first meet against Wilfred Laurier University, and performing steadily this past weekend against several Ontario universities.

Their challengers included the Guelph Gryphons, McMaster Marauders and the Brock Badgers. Various regional aquatic clubs also participated in the meet.

McMaster head coach Andrew Cole was impressed, but not surprised, by Western’s performance this weekend.

“Western’s always a great time, always up for the race. They’ve had a tradition of excellence in their program for many, many years,” he said. “Their coach, Paul Midgely, has built a terrific program; there’s a concept of high performance and working towards Olympic-level athletes. Whenever we can go head-to-head with Western, it’s a great thing.”

First-year swimmer Hayley Nell showed despite being a rookie on the team, she’s no amateur to the sport. Nell came in first in the women’s 400m long course freestyle, beating her opposition by 3.01 seconds.

She also placed first in the women’s 100m long course freestyle, with a time of 59.21, leaving a 4.40 second margin between herself and second place.

“Swimming is a very individual sport,” Nell said. “When it comes down to it, it’s you who has to push yourself in workout and in the races in order to do well.

“Seeing as we have so many workouts, especially the early morning ones, it always helps to have other people there in the pool at 5:30 in the morning to swim with you.”

While they may lack sleep, these athletes don’t lack the ability to work as a team, dominating both the men’s and the women’s relay races this past weekend. The squads placed first in four out of five relay races.

Ryan Atkison and Nadia Kumentas also performed well and showed great potential for the rest of the season.

Western may have taken the lead in this weekend’s races but its biggest challenge is embodied in its perennial rival and last year’s Ontario University Athletics champions, the University of Toronto.

Toronto may have schooled them on Oct. 27, but if things go as Midgely hopes, the Varsity Blues may be the ones singing the blues this year.

“We want to win the women’s OUA [title],” Midgely said. “I definitely think we have the team and if we continue to train at the level we’re training and preparing at and continue to bring the team together, we’ll be very competitive at OUAs.”

While Midgely is not as confident in the men’s ability to capture first place, he feels a podium finish is attainable.

“We knew [going into] this year it wasn’t going to be our year on men’s [side], but the team is coming together and getting better and they’ll definitely be better in February. I think realistically U of T is too strong on the men’s team for us to take [them] out this year.”

Midgely has high hopes for the future of the men’s team though.

“We’ve got some good men,” he said. “They just need a bit more seasoning.

“They’re a season or two away from being able to step up at the OUAs.”

In addition to the threat facing the Mustangs from Toronto, Midgely acknowledges other potential roadblocks on the path to an OUA championship.

“I think as in every year with any sport that goes over the exam period, the difficulty is that you do well preparing them until the November-December period, and then two things happen: they have exams where they have to back off the training, and then they go home for the Christmas break,” he said.

“If we can maintain our training focus through that period, we’ll be very good come February.

“There’s not enough time when they come back in January to be ready for a February championship meet if they don’t hold their training through that period.”

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