Skip to content

Cochrane Piranhas swimmers make waves on provincial stage

The swim club came home from the Alberta Summer Swimming Association provincial competition in Edmonton Aug. 12 to 14 decorated with 27 medals, two new provincial records, countless club records and personal bests, plus a team banner to boot.

The Cochrane Piranhas showed up to provincials with an appetite.

The local swim club came home from the Alberta Summer Swimming Association provincial competition in Edmonton Aug. 12 to 14 decorated with 27 medals, two new provincial records, countless club records and personal bests, and a team banner to boot.

“It was outstanding – we got points from every age group,” said head coach Amy Swedlo. “To win the team banner, we needed everyone to pitch in and they did.”

Swim Alberta awards banners to the top small, medium, and large clubs based on points earned during the competition, and team sizes are based on each clubs’ percentage of provincial competitive registrations. Out of the 53 clubs competing from across Alberta, the Piranhas won the medium team banner.

“We wouldn’t have won that banner without enough points, so if we had just gotten points from our athletes that medalled, it wouldn’t have been enough,” said Swedlo. “It really was a club-wide effort.”

One of the most exciting moments of the competition, she added, came when the U8 girls relay team including Virginia Smith, Ana Broz, Lennon Arsenault and Reagan Holly struck gold and silver medals.

Two of the athletes that were swimming for the Piranhas, Virginia and Reagan, are just six years old.

“At that age, many of the swimmers take off too early, do the wrong stroke or forget some of the really challenging technical parts because it’s challenging to get it all right,” said the coach. “Our team finished third in the medley relay, but the first two teams were disqualified, so our team won gold [in the 4x25-metre medley] because they did everything right.”

In the 4x25-metre freestyle relay, the team took silver due to another set of disqualifications on other teams.

“It’s really common for at least one relay team to be disqualified,” Swedlo said. “There are so many moving parts, but not one of our relays was disqualified. That was really, really impressive to me.”

The boys 14 and under relay team comprised of Eli Fitzsimmons, Isaac Thibodeau, Caebri Smith and Ollie Johnson avoided any mistakes and swam hard to win gold in the 4x50-metre freestyle race and silver in the 4x50-metre medley.

Also winning medals in relay events were the club’s mixed 10 and under team, with gold in the 4x25-metre medley and 4x25-metre freestyle, as well as the boys 12 and under team, with gold in the 4x50-metre medley and bronze in the 4x50-metre freestyle.

Fitzsimmons said he feels the club’s relay teams were at the top of their game this season.

“All of my teammates, they’re really good competitors when we’re racing individually and they make amazing teammates for relay,” he said. “Our club was so strong this year and I think we had some really optimal relay teams.”

The young swimmer can also hold his own in the pool. He won gold in the 50-metre freestyle, silver in the 100-metre freestyle and 100-metre butterfly, and bronze in the 200-metre individual medley.

His relay teammate, Thibodeau had a busy weekend as well, competing in the maximum number of events in the 13 to 14 age group with silver finishes in the 100-metre backstroke and 100-metre breastroke. He also competed in the 50-metre short backstroke and 800-metre freestyle, in addition to the two relay races.

Thibodeau said he seen a gradual improvement in his swimming over the last eight years with the Piranhas, but believes he’s made great strides this season. He credits much of his success to the coaching staff and encouragement from his teammates.

“Every time I would finish a race, anyone I saw on the team would congratulate me,” he said. “Everyone has just been so happy to be part of the club competing together.”

Smith, his relay teammate, agreed the overall camaraderie of the club has made it an especially fun atmosphere to learn and compete.

“It’s a sport that everyone who does it really enjoys,” he said. “We’re always there for one another and cheer each other on. You meet lots of fun and nice people in this sport and you’re always excited to go to practice and see what you get to do that day.”

Apart from the relay races with his teammates, Smith also swam in some of the long-distance events at provincials. He won silver medals in the 1,500-metre and 400-metre freestyle, and a bronze in the 800-metre freestyle. He also set new club records for the 400- and 800-metre events.

“I’m really happy with myself and with the club. I made all my personal bests and I feel like everyone else in the club did really well and swam hard,” he said.

In both events, he wasn’t expecting to set a record. According to Smith, he even fell behind in the races.

“I noticed at one point that some of the other swimmers were slowing down so I just went as fast as I could to catch up to them, and then I realized at the end of both races that I had achieved a club record, just because I did that,” he said.

Aaron Xiao, formerly of the Calgary Swordfish swim club, set two new provincial records in the 50-metre butterfly and 100-meter individual medley, in addition to another gold medal win in the 50-metre backstroke.

Xiao set a total of five new provincial records throughout the summer swim season with the Piranhas.

Competing in the 400-metre freestyle 100-metre freestyle, 200-metre freestyle and 50-metre freestyle was Danica Fisher, who has been swimming with the Piranhas for two years and competitively for five. She finished second in the 100-metre showcase and third in the 400-metre.

While the medals are worth celebrating, Fisher said the highlight of this year has been competing alongside the club and learning from the coaches.

“We’re all pretty good friends, so that really helps our dynamic,” she said. “It’s just easier when you are close with the people on your team.

“The club did amazing this year. Whether it was provincials or a smaller meet, we could always hear all our teammates cheering us from the pool as we swam.”

Other medal winners from provincials include Ollie Johnson and Rylee Bashow with bronze medals in the boys and girls aged 13 to 14 100-metre butterfly, and Aaron Swedlo with a third-place finish in the boys 15 to 17 100-metre breaststroke.