The biggest week of the season is here for a UVic Vikes swim team that has their sights set on putting together a strong showing in Toronto, ON at the U SPORTS National Championships taking place Thursday, Feb. 22- Saturday Feb. 24.
Outstanding performances in meets stretching from Oct. 21 all the way to Feb. 10 have seen 17 Vikes post times that are fast enough to qualify them for nationals, four more than last year.
It will once again be a young Vikes roster that makes the trip to nationals. Jon McKay is the lone fifth-year athlete and the social sciences major brings a wealth of experience into the weekend. McKay captured U SPORTS gold in 2016 in the 1500-metre freestyle.
With most swimming teams competing against a variety of local club and elite level athletes throughout the year, perhaps the best gauge of how the Vikes stack up against university competition came in the Canada West Championships.
In their home pool at the Saanich Commonwealth Plaza, the Vikes excelled at this year’s conference championships, picking up 11 medals.
Eric Hedlin, the reigning UVic Athlete of the Year, and Josh Zakala paced the Vikes men, earning five medals between the two of them. Second-year Danielle Hanus was the standout on the women’s team, finishing the meet with two gold and two silver medals.
About the Event
It is set to be a busy three days for the Vikes in Toronto.
With preliminaries scheduled to start at 1 p.m each day ahead finals beginning at 9 p.m., the pool will be full of action for the swimmers from Victoria, with most Vikes competing in multiple distances throughout the competition.
The Vikes men finished seventh at the U SPORTS National Championships last year, with a young women’s team earning 14th.
Hedlin is the lone returning medallist from last year’s championships, where he claimed gold in both the 400-metre and 1500-metre freestyles. Right behind Hedlin was McKay, who just narrowly missed out on two podium results, finishing fourth in the 400-metre freestyle and fifth in the 1500-metre freestyle.
Vikes in the U SPORTS Top 8
200 Freestyle: Josh Zakala – 8th
400 Freestyle: Eric Hedlin – 2nd; Josh Zakala – 3rd
800 Freestyle: Eric Hedlin – 2nd; Ethan Phillips – 4th; Christopher Deegan – 8th
1500 Freestyle: Eric Hedlin – 1st; Josh Zakala – 3rd
200 Backstroke: Josh Zakala – 5th
200 Breaststroke: Bailey Espersen – 8th
400 IM: Josh Zakala – 2nd
800 Freestyle Relay: Vikes men – 5th
50 Backstroke: Danielle Hanus – 4th
100 Backstroke: Danielle Hanus – 3rd
200 Backstroke: Danielle Hanus – 3rd
100 Butterfly: Danielle Hanus – 3rd
200 Butterfly: Danielle Hanus – 1st
100 IM: Danielle Hanus – 3rd
800 Freestyle Relay: Vikes women – 6th
400 Medley Relay: Vikes women – 8th
Peter Vizsolyi, Vikes head coach
“It’s a little different meet in that there is no International Trials meet in April. The fact that this is more of a standalone meet gives the athletes more of a chance to prepare for it, instead of looking beyond it. That will be exciting for our swimmers and allows them to get to a performance level they haven’t been able to focus on in the past.”
“We’ve had a lot of new kids come in over the last few years which is great for our program. There is a good mix of first and second years, but in swimming a lot of these kids have experience before they ever go to university. They are used to big meets from the time they are quite young so everyone has experience at trying to put their best foot forward in these situations.”
“This is going to be an interesting year, there is an added ‘C’ final, so everyone in the top-24 will score. I don’t think anyone really knows how that is going to impact the standings. Once you get out of the top three teams there is very little to separate the next level of teams.”
On Hanus, Hedlin and Zakala securing high rankings ahead of the meet
“Those are obviously the three that will be scoring a lot of the points. Bailey Espersen has a chance to get in there, he came from a very small town and has improved by 14 seconds, so there are some other kids that have a chance. Hopefully we have a lot of top eight finishes.”
Competing Roster (Events Qualified)
Christopher Deegan: 1500 Freestyle
Zachary Dumas: 400 IM; 100 Breaststroke
Bailey Espersen: 50, 100, 200 Breaststroke
Daniel Greer: 50, 100 Butterfly; 50 Breaststroke
Eric Hedlin: 200, 400, 1500 Freestyle; 400 IM
Ethan Jensen: 50, 100, 200 Butterfly
Buzz Mallender: 100, 200 Backstroke
Jon McKay: 400, 1500 Freestyle
Ethan Phillips: 200 Backstroke; 1500 Freestyle
Justin Schramm: 100, 200 Butterfly; 200, 400 Freestyle
Josh Zakala: 200, 400, 1500 Freestyle; 200, 400 IM; 100, 200 Backstroke; 200 Butterfly
Andrea Farmer: 200 Breatstroke
Kaitlin Gervais: 200, 400, 800 Freestyle
Danielle Hanus: 50, 100, 200 Backstroke; 50, 100, 200 Butterfly; 50, 100, 200 Freestyle; 200 IM
Victoria Mock: 200 Butterfly; 400 IM; 800 Freestyle
Taylor Snowden-Richardson: 800 Freestyle
Kara Wilson; 50 Breaststroke