HIGH ACHIEVERS: Stay-At-Home Edition
Keeping Local Sport Spirit High During the Pandemic
By Martin Cleary
The University of Ottawa Gee-Gees’ swimming team ended its fall season-with-a-difference on the weekend and there’s more race opportunities coming in this strict COVID-19 time, maybe even championships.
The final two meets of the four-team, three-round, short-course International GG Swimming League were held in the Montpetit Hall pool, concluding a week highlighted by the announcement of the 2019-20 Academic All-Canadians.
The Dave Hein ‘Bucks,’ which was affectionately named after head coach Dave Heinbuch, emerged as the overall champion from the six dual meets with a 3-0 record. Tied for second place at 1-2 were BiG Cat, Team Alpha and Guelph Goliaths.
Heinbuch left coaching the four teams to his assistants and served as meet manager. After surveying the 74 races, including a league-finale 12×50-metre mixed freestyle relay, including coaches, he declared the inaugural league a success.
“Absolutely,” Heinbuch stated. “This was something everyone needed; to get off the blocks and be competitive. It was extremely positive. They really missed the competition side and this gave them the edge to get excited about something.”
“It was amazing for team morale, the glue to keep us together in the fall,” said Heinbuch, adding there has been talk about a virtual USports championship. Teams would swim the scheduled races, possibly shown via live streaming, and submit their times.
There’s also the possibility of staging the RSEQ Quebec university swimming championships, but a final decision will not be made until Jan. 15.
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Heinbuch also said he hopes to “do something similar” after January to allow the Gee-Gees’ swimmers to take their training into another competitive situation.
A three-victory performance by captain Adelle Yamashita-Ball powered the undefeated Hein ‘Bucks’ to a 91-74 point triumph over BiG Cats for their third consecutive win. That allowed them to capture the league’s homemade trophy.
Yamashita-Ball posted the fastest times in the women’s 100-metre backstroke, 1:04.15; 50-metre butterfly, 28.64; and the 400-metre freestyle, 4:23.87. She finished the three-round competition with a league-leading seven victories.
Hein ‘Bucks’ Shaunna Walker-deJong won the women’s 50-metre freestyle in 27.21, while BiG Cats had victories from Samantha Mallon, women’s 200-metre breaststroke, 2:44.95; and Katie Polley, women’s 100-metre individual medley, 1:08.11.
On the men’s side of their intrasquad, dual meet, Gee-Gees’ alumnus Montana Champagne, who is training for the 2021 Olympic trials, gave BiG Cats two wins: 100-metre backstroke, 56.82; and 100-metre individual medley, 55.97.
The other winners were: Jack Haycock, 200-metre breaststroke, 2:23.50; Allen Zheng, 50-metre freestyle, 23.37; BiG Cats; and Alexandre Perreault, 50-metre butterfly, 24.25; Nathan Schiffmann, 400-metre freestyle, 3:56.11, Hein ‘Bucks.’
Schiffmann, Perreault and Champagne finished the league with four victories each, while Zheng and Haycock collected two wins apiece.
A three-win effort by Abby Simms, which gave her five in total, and a pair of victories by international-level swimmer Eli Wall, who was competing in his first league meet, lifted Guelph Goliaths to their first triumph as they defeated Team Alpha 93-72.
Simms was tops in the women’s 50-metre freestyle, 26.73; 50-metre butterfly, 29.34; and 400-metre freestyle, 4:34.65. Katie Callon posted the other Guelph women’s win in the 100-metre backstroke, 1:05.70. Megan Sidor had two second-place results.
Lauren Shearer recorded Team Alpha’s two wins to give her four in the league. She had the fastest women’s time in the 200-metre breaststroke, 2:43.12; and 100-metre individual medley, 1:07.49. Joanne Diemert was a two-time runner-up.
Wall, an alternate for the Toronto team for the recent International Swimming League season inside a Budapest bubble, won the men’s 200-metre breaststroke by more than 10 seconds in 2:10.49, and 400-metre freestyle in 4:01.66.
He also placed second in the men’s 100-metre individual medley to Team Alpha’s Noah Wagner, 57.24 to 56.81. It was Wagner’s fourth league win, after posting three first-place finishes in the previous meet against BiG Cats.
The other three men’s winners were: James Steele, 100-metre backstroke, 58.09; and Jamie Demers, 50-metre butterfly, 26.40; both Guelph. Louis Bertrand of Team Alpha was the winner of the men’s 50-metre freestyle in 24.03.
The International GG Swimming League provided a competitive opportunity for 46 swimmers and 15 of them were named Academic All-Canadians for 2019-20. Here is the list of the 10 men and 10 women on the Gee-Gees’ honour role:
Women: Joanne Diemert, Mackenzie Finkbeiner, Alina Juuti, Malorie Kanaan, Samantha Mallon, Katie Polley, Lauren Shearer, Stephanie Shuai, Abby Simms and Delphine Vandal.
Men: Connor Beals, Louis Bertrand, Davide Casarin, Gordon Forrest, Jacob Isaac, Dawson Conrad, Judson Nickerson, Nathan Schiffmann, Vincenzo Sljuka and Matthieu Vilain.
Martin Cleary has written about amateur sports for over 47 years. A past Canadian sportswriter of the year and Ottawa Sports Awards Lifetime Achievement in Sport Media honouree, Martin retired from full-time work at the Ottawa Citizen in 2012, but continued to write a bi-weekly “High Achievers” column for the Citizen/Sun.
When the pandemic struck, Martin created the “Stay-Safe Edition” to provide some positive news during tough times, via his Twitter account at first and now here at OttawaSportsPages.ca.
Martin can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @martincleary.