Jean Luc Belanger surges to a win in the 100 meter breaststroke. (Tom Best photo)

Olympians help Otters success in Smithers meet

Three Otters head to Winnipeg next for the prestigious Prairie Invitational.

It was two years since the last time that the Bulkley Valley Otters Swim Club hosted a competition, but they picked up where they left off by taking on all comers.

Four Otters were named top swimmers in their division and 19 individuals notched up at least one first place in a race. Nine relays finished in top spot.

For many on the team it was their first meet.

“I’m really proud of these kids,” said head coach Tom Best. “We have a very young crew and going into your first meet can be very challenging. They stepped up to the plate and kept swinging home runs. “

Two squads from out of town were also at the meet and the perpetually strong teams from Kitimat and Prince Rupert provided plenty of competition.

The Otters coaching staff were helped by two former Olympians. Jonathan Dieleman is a paralympian who continues to train in the pool where he got his start. He was joined by Dustin Hersee, a backstroke swimmer who participated in the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney.

“It was really great to have people of that background available to help us out,”said Best. “It’s always good to have someone who has been through the whole experience help with the program.”

Of the 30 Otters in the pool on the weekend, over half were participating in their first competition.

“This is a very young group. You can tell they’ve been well coached by the way they approached their races and the exceptional technique you could see,” said Best.

He credited that to their daily coach Cassie Horning-Wandler, who swam with the Otters for many years before becoming a coach.

“She does an outstanding job working with those youngsters,” he said.

Hugo Petorius, 8, Kanna Kurihara, 10, Zachary Dumas, 10, and Jean-Luc Belanger, 15, were all named top swimmer in their age category.

Five swimmers scored silver medals in their age group and nine received bronze for their endeavours.

“It was nice to see those kids get a little reward for their hard work. Some of them have just decided that they want to be a swimmer and have been putting in some extra hard work,” he said.

While the team has held in-house competitions over the last two years, due to changes in meet regulations, hosting inter-club meets became much more difficult while officials gained needed experience.

Next weekend, a trio of Otters head to the Prairie Invitational in Winnipeg. Kanna Kurihara, River Stokes DeYoung, and Fergus Hobson have all qualified for the prestigious competition and will travel to the meet as part of the regional Points North team.

– Submitted by Bulkley Valley Otters.

Smithers Interior News

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