University of Toronto secures top swimmers

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TORONTO – The Canadian Interuniversity Sport men’s swimming champions University of Toronto Blues have already secured three top young Canadian swimmers for next season.

Mitchel Ferraro of Uxbridge, Ont., the No. 1 Grade 12 100-metre freestyler in the country, signed on earlier this week to join U of T in the fall of 2014.

“Mitchel will cement our sprint corps as the top in the country,” said head coach Byron MacDonald.

“He has a large upside as he only trains 10 hours a week. His coach, U of T alumnus Dr. Terry Bryon, has done a great job with Mitchel.”

Ferraro won four medals at the recent Canada Games and will be off to Australia in January to represent Canada on the Australian junior Tour.

Meanwhile Kyle Haas of Georgetown, Ont., the top-ranked Grade 12 50-m and 100-m backstroker in the short course pool, and freestyle specialist Oliver Straszynski of Toronto have already committed to swim with the Blues. Straszynski, who is also going to Australia in January, is ranked first for his age group in the 800-m freestyle short course.

‘’The U of T has had a lot of success putting swimmers on the Olympic team,’’ said Straszynski, who plans to study engineering in university. ‘’I know a lot of the team members because I train at the Toronto Swim Club. It’s a great facility and a great school.’’

MacDonald, in his 36th season as head coach of the Blues, says Canadian universities need to put a little more pressure on the athletes to sign early so they can keep them home.

‘’There is a competitive atmosphere in recruiting both within Canada and our neighbour to the south,’’ MacDonald said. ‘’The U.S. has been more aggressive over the last decade and we’re trying to sign our guys a little earlier and build some momentum.’’

MacDonald says there have already been double the enquiries from Canadian swimmers about the U of T program, which has produced Olympians for the past 30 years. Working closely with the National Swim Centre – Ontario, led by former GB Olympic coach Ben Titley, has also boosted the attraction of the program. Titley was a key member of Canada’s coaching staff at the 2013 FINA World Championships in Barcelona.

‘’It shows that Canadian swimmers and their parents are realizing that they need to start this process (choosing a university) earlier,’’ he said. ‘’The awareness is there about the advantages of staying in Canada both at the economical and performance levels.’’  

On Canada’s 2012 Olympic team none of the swimmers were based at NCAA schools while 10 swam at the previous CIS championships.

“I think we are seeing a realization of the great opportunities that we can offer to these top young swimmers right here in Canada,” MacDonald said.

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