The University of Toronto Varsity Blues will look to repeat as women’s and men’s team champions as the top varsity swimmers in the country travel to Sherbrooke, Que., for the 2017 U SPORTS Swimming Championships.
It will mark the first staging of the national meet by the Vert et Or since 1998, When the UBC Thunderbirds won the first of 10 consecutive national men’s titles and 11 women’s banners. The Varsity Blues women entered the Sherbrooke finals that spurred this streak as defending champions, and will attempt to defend their title in this year’s tournament as well.
The three-day competition runs from the 24th to 26th, with preliminaries starting at 10 a.
m. ET and finals at 6 p.m. ET daily. Live results from all sessions will be available on the championship website and all evening finals will be webcast live on SportsCanada.TV
In women’s competition, the Varsity Blues have won 15 U SPORTS banners over the years. The feat is second only to the 20 banners claimed by UBC. Toronto snapped UBC’s four-year title streak in Quebec City last year, topping the podium with 800 points over UBC’s 749.5. The Calgary Dinos would round out the podium (422).
Toronto and UBC repeated as conference champions this season, but it is the Thunderbirds who hold the top of the Swimming Canada women’s rankings (575), looking to reclaim their dominance over U SPORTS swimming. They are followed by RSEQ champions Montréal Carabins (493), with the top five rounded up by Toronto (469), Alberta (185), and Calgary (160).
The AUS Champion Dalhousie Tigers were held outside of the top 10 rankings, sitting in 11th (77) going into the national championships. Despite the lack of a national ranking, the women’s team boasts strong showings from the likes of Phoebe Lenderyou – named AUS athlete of the week for her performance – and their dominant relay teams, which claiming the program’s16th consecutive AUS swimming title.
“We are excited to race against some of the best swimmers our nation has to offer,” said Dalhousie head coach Lance Cansdale. “It has been a bit of a challenging season, but our student-athletes are looking to measure themselves against the best.”
After a dominating performance in the Canada West finals, UBC will enter the national championships with high expectations. They claimed the banner with 1047 points, over second-place Calgary’s 628. This included a complete sweep of the relays, while setting new Canada West records. Rookie Quincy Brozo broke the record for women’s 50-metre freestyle, raising hopes and expectations for the young swimmer in the upcoming Championships. All eyes will be on fellow rookie Ingrid Wilm, who broke three Canada West records for three golds as well as being part of a record-breaking 400-metre medley relay. UBC will look to this young talent to bolster their chances at returning to the top of U SPORTS swimming.
Sitting second in the national rankings, ahead of defending champions Toronto, the Montréal Carabins enter the 2017 U SPORTS Swimming Championships having dominated the competition in the RSEQ finals. Olympic bronze medalist and former U SPORTS rookie of the year Katerine Savard played a key role in capturing the conference title, topping the podium in four finals. Fellow Olympic bronze medalist and 2015 Sprinter’s Cup holder Sandrine Mainville topping three individual and three relay podiums, en route to being named RSEQ’s top women’s swimmer for the season. The Olympic duo, who were absent in last year’s Championships, will be key to Montréal’s chances at claiming their first title in women’s swimming.
Much of the hopes of Toronto defending their title rests on the shoulders of Kylie Masse. The reigning BLG Award winner as U SPORTS Female Athlete of the Year was thrust into the national spotlight with her bronze medal at the Rio Olympics, and was an integral part of Toronto’s title win last year. Having been named the U SPORTS women’s swimmer of the year in 2016 and OUA women’s swimmer of the year in 2017 for the third consecutive time, Masse enters the Championships as the undisputed star of the Varsity Blues. Setting four new OUA records and claiming the Dr. Jeno Tihanyi Award for IM Excellence, expectations are high for Masse and her team of defending champions. Having dominated their conference championships with 1067 points over Western’s 519.5, don’t count out Toronto despite sitting third in rankings.
The men’s competition sees a similar struggle for redemption, with the Toronto men reclaiming the title over UBC last year, their third title in four years. The Varsity Blues reclaimed their hold on U SPORTS swimming with 859 points over UBC’s 766. Both teams claimed their respective conference titles this year.
At the OUA Championship two weeks ago, Toronto claimed their 16th men’s banner with a dominating performance of 1101 points over second-place Western’s 802. Key figures in their success are OUA swimmer of the year Hochan Ryu, OUA rookie of the year Ian MacKinnon, and former U SPORTS swimmer of the year Eli Wall.
Although the Varsity Blues would like to return to their title-repeating ways this season, heading into the weekend, UBC leads the national rankings (637) over Toronto (453). Rounding out the top five is Calgary (270), Alberta (249), and Western (139).
RSEQ and AUS champs Montreal (186) and Dalhousie (48) both sit outside of the top five rankings at sixth and 14th, respectively.
UBC have their sights set on a 15th U SPORTS Men’s Swimming Championship after a dominant performance to take the Canada West title. Scoring 921 points over second-place Calgary’s 654.5, UBC boasts many accolades from the event. Among them, Keegan Zanatta winning swimmer of the meet and Steve Price being named coach of the year. These bode well for UBC’s chances going into the Championships, as Zanatta – last year’s swimmer of the year – is exhibiting extreme drive for the title.
“With our rosters renewed again after the return of our redshirt men, all of whom focused on the Olympics last season, and the inclusion of nine rookie women, we find ourselves in the position where we can take a run at this year’s U SPORTS championship titles,” said UBC head coach Steve Price. “Even though both teams have been ranked No. 1 most of the season, it means nothing during the championships. There are a lot of great teams and swimmers in our league, so with that it’s going to be a real challenge to win an individual event, relays, as well as the team titles. We’ve put ourselves in a great position but now we have to get the job done. We look forward to a hard-fought battle.”
For Toronto, maintaining their Championship title is the top priority.
“The Varsity Blues will look to be on the team podium once again,” said Byron MacDonald, now in his 38th season as U of T head coach. “We had a great conference win last weekend and are looking forward to more top swims in Sherbrooke.”
The Montréal Carabins will look to take the strong performance of their men’s team that won the RSEQ title to the national stage. The conference record-breaking performance of Antoine Bernard-Lalonde coupled with the home province setting equals a promising campaign for Université de Montréal.
“The U SPORTS Swimming Championships will be a great opportunity for the Carabins to finish the year on a positive note,” says Pierre Lamy, RSEQ coach of the year recipient. “A competition of this magnitude in Quebec, not far from home, represents a unique opportunity to surpass ourselves in front of our families and friends…The competition will be hard, and we will give all we have to achieve our goals.”
Despite claiming their 19th consecutive AUS swimming conference title, Dalhousie sits outside of the top 10 rankings in 14th. However, with dominance over their own division, the Tigers are looking forward to the challenge to compete on a national stage.
2017 U SPORTS SWIMMING CHAMPIONSHIPS SCHEDULE (Heats 10 a.m. ET / Finals 6 p.m. ET)
Friday, Feb. 24 (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
Saturday, Feb. 25 (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
Sunday, Feb. 26 (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