OTTAWA (CIS) – The University of British Columbia women and University of Toronto men hope to defend their team banners later this week when the top varsity swimmers in the country – including numerous Olympians – gather in Victoria for the 2015 Speedo CIS championships.
The three-day national meet, which officially kicks off the CIS winter championship season and is hosted by the University of Victoria for the first time since 2003, runs from Thursday to Saturday at the Saanich Commonwealth Place, with heats starting at 10 a.m. and finals at 6 p.m. Pacific Time daily.
History will be made this week as CIS finals will be contested in a 50-metre pool for the first time, while the morning preliminaries will remain short course races.
All sessions will be webcast live on www.CIS-SIC.tv and live results will be available on the championship website: http://english.cis-sic.ca/championships/swim/index.
In women’s competition, UBC is the three-time defending champion following a dominating performance last year in Toronto, where the Thunderbirds tallied 802.5 points to finish 397.5 points ahead of the Montreal Carabins (405), setting a meet record for the largest margin of victory.
The T-Birds, who hold the all-time mark of 19 CIS team titles since the inaugural women’s national meet in 1971, are heavily favoured to four-peat and add to their trophy collection. The talented and deep UBC roster features the likes of two-time Olympian Savannah King, 2012 Olympic teammate Tera van Beilen, as well as reigning CIS swimmer of the year Erika Seltenreich-Hodgson.
King, a fifth-year senior, will go down as one of the most decorated swimmers in CIS history. The native of Vernon, B.C., was named the female MVP for the fourth consecutive year at the Canada West championships held last November. After being selected CIS rookie of the year in 2010-11, she followed up with CIS-MVP honours each of the next two seasons and holds the CIS championship records in the 400 and 800-metre freestyle.
Van Beilen, a fourth-year breaststroke specialist from Oakville, Ont., is the defending CIS champ in the 50 and 200, the reigning silver medallist on 100, and was also part of the 4×100 medley relay that set a CIS championship record last winter.
Seltenreich-Hodgson, a sophomore from Ottawa, was simply sensational a year ago in her CIS debut, capturing four gold medals and one silver, including a new meet standard in the 400 IM.
The T-Birds also added new talent such as Jacomie Strydom of Edmonton, who swept the individual butterfly events in her Canada West championship debut, including new meet marks on 100 and 200 metres.
The main competition for the UBC women should once again come from the Carabins, who cruised to their third straight team title in the RSEQ two weeks ago. While a 397.5-point deficit might be too much to overcome in one year, Montreal boasts a formidable lineup of its own, including Olympians Katerine Savard and Barbara Jardin, as well as Sandrine Mainville, who competed at the 2013 FINA world championships.
Savard, a freshman from Pont-Rouge, Que., was nothing short of phenomenal two weeks ago in her first RSEQ championships, taking home female MVP honours after she captured five gold medals and one silver in six races, including the best university times in the country this season in the 50, 100 and 200 butterfly events.
Jardin of Montreal and Mainville of Boucherville, Que., are both sophomores. The former is the reigning CIS champ on 200 and 400 free, while the latter set no less than three CIS meet records as a rookie last winter (50 free, 100 free, 50 fly).
Meanwhile at the OUA and AUS championships, Toronto and Dalhousie claimed their second and 14th consecutive women’s team banner, respectively.
Toronto, Calgary and Laval are currently third through fifth in the women’s national rankings.
“This season’s CIS championships prove to be a unique opportunity to showcase racing short course in the heats and long course for the finals,” said UBC head coach Steve Price. “We like our chances racing both courses but in particular long course as our program is set up to maximize performances at the Olympic distance. We managed to be fairly dominant at the Canada West championships in late November and for the most part those performances have held up in university rankings 12 weeks later. We are coming off a great training camp in Hawaii and at home and will be ready to go in Victoria. Both our women’s and men’s teams look good and if they do the job they are capable of we will be in contention to challenge for the team titles on Saturday.”
“We achieved one of our objectives by winning the team titles in the RSEQ. Now, let’s see how we perform at the national championships,” said Montreal head coach Pierre Lamy. “On the women’s side, we want to keep getting closer to UBC. But this week’s meet will be different with the finals held on 50 metres. You need experience to get good performances and the strategies will be different. It’s hard to predict what will happen. We’ll have to be fast right from the get go in the preliminaries.”
In men’s action, the same four schools repeated as conference champions this season, UBC and Montreal both winning their second straight title, while Toronto and Dalhousie were crowned for the 12th and 17th consecutive campaign, respectively.
The Varsity Blues enter the CIS meet as reigning two-time champions after putting an end to 18 years of UBC-Calgary domination two years ago and repeating last winter. However, after finishing second to the Blues by 15 points in 2013 and 80.5 points in 2014, the Thunderbirds seem more ready than ever to climb back to the top of the standings, having just become the first men’s team to tally over 1,000 points at the Canada West meet (1,007).
Hochan Ryu, a sophomore from Richmond Hill, Ont., led the charge for Toronto at the OUA meet two weeks ago with individual wins in the 200 IM, 400 IM and 200 fly, all with times that rank in the top three nationally. The Blues did lose some star power from their 2014 roster however, with multiple CIS champion Zack Chetrat representing the biggest loss.
Meanwhile, the UBC men are once again led by Coleman Allen, who was named Canada West swimmer of the year for the third straight season. The fourth-year senior from Spokane, Wash., is the reigning CIS male MVP thanks to a tally of five gold medals and one silver a year ago, including championship records in the 100 fly and the 4×200 free relay.
Supporting the UBC team captain in Victoria will be a number of veterans as well as prized recruit Yuri Kisil, a freshman from Calgary who set a new Canada West championship standard in the 100 free last November and was part of the record-setting 4×100 free relay.
A trio of Canada West teams, Alberta, Victoria and Calgary, round out the top five in the current men’s national rankings.
“The goal for the U of T program is always the podium,” said long-time Toronto coach Byron MacDonald, whose men’s program holds the all-time record of 18 national banners. “We think we are in a good position to achieve that goal for both our men’s and women’s teams. While it would be nice to win our third consecutive men’s national title, this time around I think we are underdogs.”
“I’m excited to see our women swim at the CIS championships as they have been so consistent this season with Phoebe (Lenderyou) and Rachel (Shin) leading the way,” said Dalhousie coach Lance Cansdale. “I know with a little rest and the great facility in Victoria, we should expect a lot of lifetime bests.
“The men’s team was in the starting phases of adaptation during the AUS Champs. That can be painful, especially at the end of the races. With a week and a half of rest, I expect our guys will be flying and surprising some of the more traditionally established programs,” added Cansdale, who saw both his squads finish 10th at last year’s nationals.
CURRENT NATIONAL RANKINGS (team & individual): Click HERE
HISTORICAL INFO CIS SWIMMING CHAMPIONSHIPS:
All-time team champions, standings and results, individual award winners & records: Click HERE
2015 SPEEDO CIS CHAMPIONSHIPS SCHEDULE (Heats 10 a.m. / Finals 6 p.m. PST)
Thursday, Feb. 19 (order of finals)
#1 Women’s 200 Free
#2 Men’s 200 Free
#3 W 50 Back
#4 M 50 Back
#5 W 100 Breast
#6 M 100 Breast
#7 W 100 Fly
#8 M 100 Fly
#9 W 400 IM
#10 M 400 IM
#11 W 4×100 Free Relay
#12 M 4×100 Free Relay
Friday, Feb. 20 (order of finals)
#13 W 100 Back
#14 M 100 Back
#15 W 50 Fly
#16 M 50 Fly
#17 W 400 Free
#18 M 400 Free
#19 W 200 Breast
#20 M 200 Breast
#21 W 50 Free
#22 M 50 Free
#23 W 200 Fly
#24 M 200 Fly
#25 W 4×200 Free Relay
#26 M 4×200 Free Relay
Saturday, Feb. 21 (order of finals)
#27 W 800 Free
#28 M 50 Breast
#29 W 50 Breast
#30 M 200 Back
#31 W 200 Back
#32 M 100 Free
#33 W 100 Free
#34 M 200 IM
#35 W 200 IM
#36 M 1500 Free
#37 W 4×100 Medley Relay
#38 M 4×100 Medley Relay