Spartans to Swim in First Ever CIS Championships

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LANGLEY, British Columbia (ISN) 
– The Trinity Western swimming program will compete in its first ever CIS Championship this weekend as both Christian Desjarlais and Patrick Loftus will compete for the Spartans from Thursday to Saturday, Feb. 23-25, at the University of Montreal’s CEPSUM Pool.

The three-day national meet, which kicks off the CIS winter championship season, will have preliminaries starting at 10 a.m. and finals at 6 p.m. daily.

SSN Canada will have live webcast of sessions: http://www.ssncanada.ca/media/index.html

Championship website (live webcast & results): http://english.cis-sic.ca/championships/swim/index

Follow all of the Spartans action in the pool at www.gospartans.ca and on Twitter @TWUSpartans

For the Spartans, Desjarlais will be competing in the 100m freestyle, 200m free, 400m free and 1500m free while Loftus will be swimming in the 50m backstroke, 100m back, 200m back and 50m free. Trinity Western’s Lindsey Romkes, the Spartans lone female swimmer to qualify for nationals, had to pull out of the event due to medical reasons.

Desjarlais enters this weekend with his best chances to earn points being in the 400m free – in which he has a season’s best time of 3:55.52 and most recently finished fourth at the Canada West championships – and 200m free, in which he has a season’s best time of 1:51.99. Desjarlais’s season’s best in the 100m free is 52.94 and in the 1500m free is 16:41.32.

Loftus comes into this weekend with his highest profile event being the 50m back, in which he has a season’s best time of 26.62. His season’s best in the 100m back is 57.68 while he has an SB time of 2:04.91 in the 200m back and an SB time of 24.79 in the 50m free.

The University of Calgary Dinos will be looking to sweep the team banners for the third consecutive year later this week when the top varsity swimmers in the country battle for CIS supremacy in Montreal.

Calgary has dominated CIS swimming of late, claiming the last three women’s team titles and back-to-back banners in men’s competition. However, the Dinos are in tough this week as the 2012 championships are shaping up to be the most hotly contested in recent seasons.

The Calgary women head into the CIS meet ranked second behind archrivals, the UBC Thunderbirds, while the Dino men are ranked third behind the No. 1 Toronto Varsity Blues and No. 2 UBC.

At the Canada West conference championships held in late January in Edmonton, UBC won both team banners, while Calgary finished second on the women’s side and settled for third place in the men’s standings, behind the T-Birds and Alberta.

UBC vies to return to the top of CIS swimming. The T-Bird women claimed a record 11 consecutive CIS titles from 1998 to 2008, while their male teammates won 10 national banners in a row – also an all-time mark – from 1998 to 2007, and also triumphed in 2009.

Meanwhile in Ontario, the Toronto men captured their ninth straight OUA crown earlier this month in Sudbury and hope to finish atop the CIS standings for the first time since 1994.

Adding to the Dinos’ challenge in Montreal will be the absence of standout Erica Morningstar, the 2011 CIS swimmer of the year and 2008 Olympian, who racked up 20 gold medals and one silver in three career appearances at the CIS meet. The Regina native is one of a number of national team athletes who are taking a year off from university swimming to focus on their Olympic training.

David Dimitrov, who won six CIS medals a year ago, and Bogdan Knezevic, the 2010 CIS rookie of the year, are missing from Calgary’s men’s roster. They are vying to compete at the London Olympics for Bulgaria and Serbia, respectively.

“The Olympic trials are coming up in four weeks, so we have to balance that priority with the CIS meet,” says U of C head coach Mike Blondal.

The Canadian Olympic trials are set for March 27 to April 1st at the 1976 Olympic Pool in Montreal.

“I think we have two strong teams going in,” continues Blondal. “We’re a bit weaker in depth because it’s an Olympic year, but we’re a bit stronger in some areas. I think we’ll be in the top two in both men and women. We’ll have to see how the numbers play out. It’ll come down to whether we have enough at the top end of the field.”

“Without Erica, there’s 100 points gone (in the women’s standings). But we have some great additions with Amanda Reason and Lindsay Delmar, and we’ll know after the first day whether we have a shot or not. The women’s team is 15 girls, so we’re three short of a full slate. Seanna Mitchell, Reason, Delmar, and Fiona Doyle are going to be strong swimmers for us, along with Breanna Hendriks in the middle distances as well. We’re probably still seen as the team to be knocked off, and people will be gunning for us without a doubt. UBC’s wanting to get back to winning, and so do we.”

“On the men’s side, we only have 11 guys, so well short of the full slate. Jason Block and Gleb Suvorov will swim well for us, David Woodman is back from a shoulder injury, Colin Miazga won the 200 free last year, and we have a whole bunch of rookies coming in. I think Jason could be a candidate for swimmer of the year. I don’t see us as the team to beat with 11 men. We’ll be in a hard battle to be second – Dalhousie, Alberta, and Toronto all have very good teams. I think we can battle for second, but getting to first will be a challenge. There are three or four teams that could finish second, but I think UBC’s the team to beat on the men’s side.”

Block, who was named Canada West swimmer of the year this season, swept the three breaststroke events at the last two CIS championships.

For his part, UBC head coach Steve Price is cautiously optimistic going into the CIS championships, despite the T-Birds’ success at the Canada West meet. A year ago, UBC also swept the conference titles but had to settle for second place behind Calgary in both the women’s and men’s standings at Nationals.

“It doesn’t really mean a lot in terms of this upcoming meet,” says Price. “All it means is that we’ve positioned ourselves for a chance to perhaps go after the titles. That’s the best it does for us and it just gives us the confidence that we’re one of the top teams going in.”

However, the Thunderbirds’ line-up isn’t as depleted as Calgary’s in this Olympic year.

“We chose to use the university season as preparation for the Olympic trials and for the Olympics games itself,” explains Price. “We feel that the competition is deep enough. It’s good enough racing and we think it’s part of the experience for those athletes, especially someone like Martha McCabe, who’s a bronze medalist at the worlds. She wants to finish her five-year CIS career in style and is using this as an opportunity to vault herself to the Olympics.”

McCabe, who was the CIS female swimmer of the year in 2010, is once again among the favourites to earn the honour this season. The Toronto native, who now calls Vancouver home, reached the podium in the 200-metre breaststroke at the 2011 FINA world championships in Shanghai. She has amassed 14 medals (2-6-6) in four previous trips to the CIS meet.

Long-time Toronto coach Byron MacDonald hopes his swimmers will be inspired by the success their predecessors enjoyed the last time the CIS championships were held at the University of Montreal, in 1992.

“It’s great to come back to University of Montreal as the last time it was held here we won both the men’s and women’s national titles,” says MacDonald.

“The OUA conference championship was a thrilling meet for our men and our hope is that we have even more in the tank for the CIS meet so we can give the defending champions a run for the top spot. As well, our women are excited about aiming for a top three team finish.”

The Varsity Blues women took second place behind Western at the OUA championships.

In Atlantic Canada, Dalhousie resumed its domination this season. The Tigers claimed their 14th consecutive AUS men’s title and their 11th in a row on the women’s side.

In Quebec, the Laval Rouge et Or won the RSEQ men’s banner for the fifth straight year, while the McGill Martlets were surprise champions in women’s competition as they topped the standings for the first time since 2004.

University of Montreal coach Régis Fortino, whose women and men’s teams both placed third at the RSEQ championships, hopes home-field advantage will prove beneficial for his swimmers.

“To compete in a meet of this magnitude in front of family and friends makes it that much easier to use your emotions to your advantage. I think it can improve our performances,” says Fortino. “The CEPSUM Pool is our home, that’s where we train all year. We know this pool like the back of our hand.”

“Our team spirit has been great this season. We’ve had some very good individual performances. Now, our swimmers need to take advantage of the fact we’re hosting the championships, they need to have fun. Then the results will come.”