Laura Kissack became the latest Duncan Stingray to qualify for top national-level competition when she earned a qualifying time for the Western Canadian Championships in the 200m butterfly at the Richmond FastSwim last month.
Westerns – which occur at the same time as a similar meet in Eastern Canada – are the second highest level of swimming in the country, just below Senior Nationals. It’s the goal of nearly ever competitive swimmer to hit that mark.
"I’ve wanted to get a Westerns time for a few years now," said the 16-year-old Kissack.
While she had previously attended Age Group Nationals, that level has swimmers in age brackets. Westerns is open to swimmers ages 16 and up. Kissack admits she’s "a little bit" intimidated but "mostly excited" by the prospect of competing against Canada’s best senior swimmers, "At this point I’m just thinking about my own times because [the other swimmers] are so fast," she said. "I’m looking up to them still."
Among the swimmers Kissack is most excited to race against is Natalia Garriock, her Stingrays teammate who competed last year. Garriock has missed much of this season with an injury, but her times from last year carry over to this year’s Westerns.
In addition to qualifying in the 200m fly, Kissack very nearly made the cut in both the 400m individual medley and 800m freestyle. Not bad for a swimmer who started competing at the age of 10 – a little older than most of her teammates.
"I’m happy with how far I’ve been able to go, seeing as how I didn’t start when I was three years old," she said.
Next up for Kissack, she hopes, are a senior national time and a scholarship to an American university, both of which will require a lot of work.
"It’s a lot of training," she acknowledged. "But I pretty much live in the pool."
Kissack finished the Richmond FastSwim with personal bests in all of her events, and placed in the top eight in all six of her races.
Of the remaining 11 Stingrays who made the trip, two others – Desirae Ridenour and Robyn Zinkan – also recorded 100 per cent personal bests. The rest of the group included Haakon Koyote (87.5 per cent), Jeremy Kissack (83 per cent), Megan Lewis (80 per cent), Savanah Van Nieuwkerk (67 per cent), Olin Dahlstrom (60 per cent), Jasmin Marston (60 per cent), Gavin Morrison (50 per cent), Cailine Keirstead (33 per cent), and Cecilia Johnson (20 per cent).
Dahlstrom finished fourth in the 50m fly to match Laura Kissack’s result in the 800m free for the Stingrays’ best placing. Van Nieuwkerk managed two top-eight results, and also recorded a provincial AAA championships qualifying time in the 100m breaststroke. Ridenour also had a provincial AAA qualifier in the 100m breaststroke.
"It was very exciting to see our swimmers race amongst the best in the province with our eldest swimmers stepping up their game and the younger swimmers following suit," head coach Leanne Sirup said. "Another positive aspect was the camaraderie that was evident between the oldest to the youngest of our group. This was especially beneficial for both Olin and Cailine, who were first timers to this level of competition."