Surrey Clubs Swam For Gold At 2017 Long Course AA Championships
This weekend down at the family-friendly Watermania on the southeastern-most edge of Richmond, British Columbia, the Pacific Sea Wolve’s and Surrey Knight’s AA-qualified swimmers took to the pool with the hopes of beating out 37 other B.C. swim clubs to the top of the podium by the end of the three-day 2017 B.C. Long Course AA Championships.
All weekend long in the muggy, packed aquatic center, hundreds of swimmers, family, friends, and locals filled the bleachers with many others bringing their own seats to fill whatever space was remaining around the 50 meter-long pool without falling into the water. The field consisted of swimmers 9-15 years old spread over three age groups (11&Under, 12&13, and 14&over) with the two youngest competitors from the Surrey clubs (Kelly Qi, 9, PSW and Natalie Wongsoputro, 9, SKSC). The Sea Wolves would send 26 swimmers to the water while the Knights sent a “small but strong contingency” (14 swimmers) according to their Coach and Director of Swimming, Reg Shaw. These races are a growing experience for the mid-ranged fish as well as an opportunity to clock in AAA-qualifying times which would make them eligible for the BC AAA Long Course Provincial Championships in Kamloops B.C. on July 6th-9th.
Each of the three days, from the early morning prelims to the evening finals, the energy was palpable. The coaches were howling, whistling, clapping, doing anything they could do communicate urgency to their kids while the swimmers who weren’t participating in a race were chanting and cheering from the sideline. Over the course of the dozens of heats, there was some fantastic swimming on display from all of the clubs, but the Knights and the Sea Wolves were part of some of the more exciting and impressive moments of the weekend.
It didn’t take long for the Sea Wolves to make their mark on the tournament. In the 5th event–the 100M Butterfly–the Sea Wolves flooded the top of the board. Sabrina Blaskovich, Delphine Wang, and Cindy Shu placed 3rd in age groups 11&Under, 12&13, and 14&Over respectably with Amaris Gutierrez Sandoval (15) taking gold in the 14&Over heats. Sandoval is used to dominating the fly; four months earlier she posted an AAA-qualifying time for the event at the 2017 Swim B.C. Short Course AA Championships, snagging gold there as well. The Sea Wolves also managed 4th and 8th places finishes over the heats for the 100M Fly. When all the 100M Fly heats were complete, the Sea Wolves finished with the most podium finishes in the event with four; no other team had more than one.
A few events later, the Surrey Knights would seize their first medal in the 200M IM. 12-year-old Ryan De Ocampo placed 3rd despite adding a second to his time from the prelims. He used his strong 35.49-second freestyle swim in the final 50M to secure a spot in the top-three.
As the first night was winding down, it was time for the relays. The Sea Wolves A-team took 2nd in the 200M 12&Under Free Relay. Anna Kulina (12) started the team off with an incredible 30.05 second 50M putting the team in a strong position to take that 2nd place spot. Her 50M swim in this event was the fastest by any of the swimmers over the two heats. The Sea Wolves also took home a bronze medal in the Boys 14&Under 200M Free Relay. In the final event of the first day, the Surrey Knights A-team would end with a great team effort. They would place 3rd in the Boys 200M Free Relay only .04 seconds behind 2nd place finishers Hyack Swim Club. The meet was off to a furious pace, and things were just beginning to heat up for the Knights and Sea Wolves.
To start Saturday, a few swimmers needed to take part in a couple of swim-offs, swimming’s equivalent to a wild west duel. 15-year-old Sea Wolves member Kevin Liu needed to break his entry-time tie with West Vancouver Otter Swim Club’s Victor Liu–the two came into these championships with a 27.33 time for the Boys 50M Freestyle. Whoever would win in a race of just these two swimmers in the massive pool would be part of the final heat later that day. It was a very tight race in the short swim, but Kevin would edge out his opponent by a hands length. PSW kept up the immaculate swimming with a gold finish from Ynah Marcellino in the 12-13 Girls 200M Fly and a silver finish in the 14&Over heat of the same event. Then, in the Girls 11&Under 100M Backstroke, Jorja Olver and Blaskovich (both 11) finished 3rd and 2nd respectively.
As the day went on, the Sea Wolves and Knights younger swimmers would steal the show. 11-year-old Sea Wolf Charles Zheng won gold in the Boys 50M Freestyle, then, in the Girls 11&Under 100M Backstroke, Jorja Olver and Blaskovich (both 11) finished 3rd and 2nd respectively, and the Knight’s De Ocampo would take one more bronze, this time in the Boys 50M Freestyle in the 12-13 division. The swim that would overshadow all others that night came off the fins of the newly-turned nine-year-old Qi. Back in February at the AA Short Course Champions in Chilliwack, B.C., Qi would earn Outstanding Swim of the Session honors from her coaches in the 400M IM with a 6:26.89 swim, good enough for 5th when she was still eight years old. At this meet, she set her prelim time far back of that at 6:51.79. However, she would blow that out of the water, nearly beating her time from four months earlier, snagging a 3rd place finish with a time of 6:29.80 for 3rd place cutting her preliminary time by 21.99 seconds.
Once again finishing off the night were the relays, and the Surrey Knights did not dissapoint. In the Boys 14&Under 200M Medley Relay, the Knight’s A-team finished in 3rd with a time of 2:07.54. In Saturday’s final event, the A-team would win another bronze, this time finishing 3rd in the Boys 200M Medley Relay.
On the final day of competition, Both teams would see capable finishes from their kids. Nine-year-old Surrey Knight Natalie Wongsoputro would place 5th Girls 400M Freestyle–the Sea Wolves’ Olver would place 3rd–in what was her only finals appearance of the meet, the Sea Wolves’ Shu and Kulina would both win silver in their respective age groups in the Girls 100M Freestyle, and Olver and Isabel Howie of the Sea Wolves would both medal in their respective heats in the Girls 200M Backstroke.
When it was all said and done, the Pacific Sea Wolves would finishes 3rd as a team and the Surrey Knights in 20th. The Sea Wolves would record 114 personal-best times over the weekend with Kulina, Qi, and Zheng all posting AAA-qualifying times. Hitting those marks a few weeks before the huge (if you’ve already forgotten) BC AAA Long Course Provincial Championships in Kamloops B.C. on July 6th-9th, will only strengthen the Sea Wolves squad up north. The Surrey Knights will be proud to display two of their best swimmers up in Kamloops, Scott Pfeifer and Ruishen Yu. Yu currently holds three team breaststroke records in the 15&Over division with Pfeifer holding a couple of team records in the freestyle for the same age group.
If you can make the approximately three and a half hour drive up from Vancouver to Kamloops on the 6th-9th, be sure to catch both the Surrey Knights Swim Club and Pacific Swim Club’s full AAA contigents as they continue to attempt to make Surrey the perenial youth swimming powerhouse in Metro Vancouver.