Women earn gold, men silver at OUA finals

Nell earns four golds, Female Swimmer of the Meet award

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Swimming the front crawl

Jonas Hrebeniuk

CRAWLING TO VICTORY. The Mustangs swim teams represented themselves well at both the Ontario University Athletics and Canadian Interuniversity Sport championships last month.

After a two decade dry spell, the Western women’s swim team made a big splash at the 2009 Ontario University Athletics swimming championships and captured gold for the first time since 1986.

The three day event held Feb. 6 to 8 at the University of Ottawa’s Monpetit Hall marked the end of the University of Toronto Varsity Blues’ eight year dominance at the championships and re-established Western as a major contestant in the sport.

Hayley Nell was honoured with Female Swimmer of the Meet and led the women’s team with four individual gold medals, including a new OUA record at 55.36 seconds in the 100m freestyle.

Brittany Cooper racked up three individual gold medals of her own. The pair, along with Lenore Chesworth and Alyssa Molenaar, took home first place finishes and new OUA records in the 4x100 and 4x200 freestyle relays.

Chesworth attributed the majority of this year’s success to the team as a whole, including those who did not finish on the podium.

“A lot of people won medals, but it was that every single person stepped up and did what they needed to do,” she said. “Sure we won medals in a lot of events but it wasn’t just the people winning the medals, it was every single person. Every girl on the team got points for the team and that’s pretty impressive.”

She also admitted that winning this meet was on the agenda since the beginning of this season.

“At the beginning of the year, the girls set out goals ... and the first goal [was] to win OUAs; so we’ve known the whole year we were going to do it.”

The women’s victory, in addition to head coach Paul Midgley being selected as OUA women’s Coach of the Year, will no doubt attract quality recruits in the coming season.

The men’s team also pulled through, elevating to a silver medal finish after being seeded seventh going into the championships.

Bryn Jones took home three medals, two golds and one silver, while Chris Bento won a pair of silvers in the men’s freestyle.

Matt Bento, the men’s team captain and Chris’ older brother, noticed a huge improvement in the team’s work ethic this year.

“We went from a team of superstars that were supposed to do really well but the team cohesiveness wasn’t really there,” he said. “This year I noticed a lot more hard work and we got somewhere we weren’t necessarily supposed to end up.”

When it comes to team dynamics, the swimmers said swimming is as much an individual sport as it is a team sport. Between the meets, training camps and seeing each other at 5 a.m. every day, the Western swimmers have developed a real sense of family.

“It’s hard to wake up at five every morning if you’re doing it by yourself ... you know all of them don’t want to wake up and train, but you do it as a team so you can train to compete at a high level,” Bento said.

Following the OUA championships, many swimmers advanced to the Canadian Interuniversity Sport championships held at the University of British Columbia. At the meet that has been deemed the “fastest CIS championship ever,” the women raced to a fifth place finish and the men fell to 12th.

Nicholas Topolie said only one male swimmer had been there before and for the rest it was like watching a show.

“That’s our passion and these guys are performing at a level that I have never even dreamed of, let alone seen live. It was important for us as a team to have that experience and I hope next year, if we get there, it won’t be as awe-striking,” he said.

“Our guys were pretty overwhelmed by it, you could tell. There was some good swimming but we will do better. It was a young team so it was good to shake the cobwebs out.”

The challenge for this team will be to continue performing at the high level they showcased at this year’s OUA championships. The relative inexperience of the men’s team will hopefully improve in the coming years and reflect in their results, while the women’s side will see the loss of eight swimmers following next season.

FINAL CIS TEAM STANDINGS

Women
1. Calgary, 791 points
2. UBC, 566.5
3. Toronto, 369
4. Laval, 295
5. Western, 255
6. Alberta, 206
7. Dalhousie, 178.5
8. Victoria, 168
9. Guelph, 142
10. Manitoba, 86

Men
1. UBC, 689 points
2. Calgary, 661
3. Toronto, 404
4. Laval, 371.5
5. Montreal, 199
6. Dalhousie, 171
7. Alberta, 155
8. Victoria, 153
9. Guelph, 127
10. Waterloo, 113
12. Western, 69

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