Swimmers look to up CIS standing next year

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

It was another successful year in the water for Western’s swim team; both the men and the women placed second in this year’s Ontario University Athletics championships in February. The women also finished in eighth place at the Canadian Interuniversity Sport championships.

“It was our best ever women’s showing at eighth place in CIS, but we planned to do better,” head coach Paul Midgley said. “We hoped to be top five and we fell short of that so that’s something that’s still on the table as a goal for next year.”

At the beginning of the year, if you had asked Midgley to predict how this season would turn out, it would have been a very different story.

While everyone remained confident that a podium finish was attainable, it was the women and not the men who were supposed to come out as the stars.

“On the women’s side, one of our big goals was to win OUAs, but we just came up short of that ... we came in second,” third-year swimmer Lenore Chesworth said. “But both teams came in second and we didn’t think the men’s team was even going to come close to second but they did.”

The Mustangs had a strong start to the season, with both teams winning their first meet against the visiting Laurier Golden Hawks in September. Despite earning six CIS championship qualifications in a meet in November, Western fell short against its archrivals from the University of Toronto.

The team faced many hurdles this year with its new recruits, coaches and training techniques, veteran Ryan Atkison explained.

“We’ve had a lot of restructuring this year. There were new coaching and training philosophies that I think were a little difficult for some people to adapt to,” he said.

“But in the end, I think it really helped us out and people got really motivated and it helped bring us together as a team a bit more.”

Channeling individual energies towards a united team goal plays a big role in a swimmer’s mentality.

“You’re much stronger together if you’re all working towards a common goal as opposed to everyone going off on their own direction,” Midgley said.

“If everybody’s individual goals include them doing something better than they’ve ever done before, then as a team you’re going to do better,” rookie Hayley Nell said.

Atkison agreed that support is important, but in the end it is all about the individual.

“We want to support each other emotionally but when it comes down to performance it’s a very individual sport,” he said.

Once January rolled around the Mustangs were raring to go, winning 14 out of 23 events at a home meet against visiting teams from Waterloo, York and Brock universities.

Kimmi Labbett earned herself a spot in the CIS championship and rookie Michael Storto shocked everyone with a personal best in the men’s 400m freestyle.

One of the biggest highlights of the season included Nell being crowned Swimmer of the Year at this year’s OUA championship, a title that Western has not won for many years.

“It was really exciting for all of us,” Chesworth said.

Storto and Nell are among the fresh recruits giving the team hope for the future.

“We had quite a few of the younger swimmers step up really well and prove they could perform with the rest of the province and the country, right up there with their teammates to show that they belonged,” Atkison said.

Chesworth also earned a spot to compete in the Olympic Trials in April for this summer’s Olympic Games in Beijing.

With a strong season behind them, the swimmers see themselves continuing the climb in the seasons to come.

“Definitely we still want that top five at CIS, it’s still on the table and we want to get our level of CIS national qualifiers for the guys up to par levels with the girls,” Midgley said. “We need the guys to do the same thing at the CIS level as they are able to do at the OUA level.”

“I definitely think we can win OUAs,” Chesworth said. “Between those coming in and keeping the people we have that are really strong we definitely have the potential to win.”

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