Swimming can be a challenging sport, as swimmers hit the pool at 6 a.m. many mornings and are back in the pool after school. It’s physically demanding and often repetitive, but all of that is worth it when a swimmer gets their ‘Aha!’ moment.
That moment came to Zac Dolan a few years ago at an AA swim meet.
“I think I was last in my heat but I just saw everyone in front of me so I thought I would go a little faster. Then I hit the wall and got that (final qualifying) time and I was probably happiest in the pool even though I came dead last. I got the time anyway,” Dolan said.
The final qualifying time elevated him to AAA-level swimming, which is the level he’s at now, although he’s close to moving on to Westerns.
“Just stick it out until you get that feeling and it feels amazing,” said the 15-year-old Charles Hays Secondary School (CHSS) student.
Dolan is excited about the possibility of advancing to the Westerns level, which he can achieve with a final qualifying time at a swim meet at the end of April. That would accomplish one of his swimming goals.
“I want to qualify for juniors and westerns, maybe go higher than that and qualify for trials,” he said.
The Grade 10 student has already found some good competitive success. In early March, he attended the Swim BC Short Course AAA Championships in Victoria and set a handful of records while winning two medals. His silver-winning time of 24.23 in the 50 freestyle ranked him seventh in Canada for 15 and under boys, which is impressive enough.
Dolan also set a Prince Rupert record in the 100-metre backstroke, when he swam a time of 100.50, which is a team record and the fastest 100 backstroke time for any Prince Rupert swimmer, of any age, at any point in Prince Rupert Amateur Swim Club (PRASC) history. All of the history-making made for an incredible experience for him.
“It was amazing. I wasn’t expecting it at all. I’ve been there before, but this was the best I’ve ever done,” Dolan said.
That ‘Aha!’ moment the swimmer experienced, and his success in Victoria this month, further proved to him the lesson that swimming has consistently taught him time and time again.
“You just have to keep working for stuff if you want to succeed,” Dolan said.
He does work hard for everything he achieves. Most weeks, Dolan finds himself at the Earl Mah Acquatic Centre eight times a week. He swims once every day and on Wednesdays and Fridays, he swims at 6 a.m. and then again after school. He won’t lie — getting up long before the sun is challenging, but he does it in part so he won’t let down his coach, Chris Street.
“I feel terrible if I miss it because I know Chris wakes up early, even earlier than us. If I’m not here, then I’m letting him down,” Dolan said.
It’s pretty much always been just swimming for him. He did play a bit of basketball, soccer and floor hockey as a kid but only swimming and skiing stuck. He started swimming when he was in Grade 1 and stuck with it.
“It’s a good stress reliever. If I’m stressed about school or anything, I can come here and once I’m in the water, everything just goes away,” he said.
Something alluring about the pool sport for Dolan is that it’s not a team sport. It’s not that he can’t work with others, but he prefers the solo aspect of swimming.
“I can work as a team but not as well as individually. I like being alone and working by myself rather than as a team,” he said, adding he also loves the environment of the swim club and the friends he makes.
Dolan plans to keep swimming through high school for sure, and hopefully into university, should he go that route. He might even qualify for Canada Swimming Trials one day. If the Short Course AAA Championships in Victoria were any indication, he’s on the right track — or in the right lane — to achieve that and whatever he sets his sights on.