LONDON, Ont. (from Guelph Gryphons) – Transitional years can be difficult for programs that have enjoyed big successes.
A young Guelph Gryphons swim team, led by a first-year coach, proved that a new structure doesn’t have to mean poor results. The Gryphons excelled at the OUA Swimming Championships at Western University this weekend, securing two more medals and two more U SPORTS qualifications on the final day of the event.
Third-year swimmer Samantha Anderson won a bronze medal in the women’s 50m breaststroke with a time of 32.49 seconds and the Gryphon quartet of Daniel Reardon, Philip Vranic, Simon Paisley and Daniel Barros took bronze in the men’s 400m free relay in 3:25.10.
Guelph’s men placed fourth overall in the team competition, matching last year’s result but with a higher point total of 346. And the Gryphon women finished fifth overall, also with 346 points.
Rookie head coach and former Gryphon swimmer Chantique Payne was thrilled with how her athletes performed.
“They were incredible,” Payne said with a smile. “This is a young team but they stepped up. Our goal was for everybody to move up in the standings and they did that. It was fantastic.”
Fifth-year Sociology major native Tara Mallory qualified for the U SPORTS Championships, scheduled for Feb. 22-24 in Toronto, in both the 800m free (8:59.35 for fifth place) and the 200m backstroke (2:18.16, ninth place). Second-year swimmer Samuel Kuntz, from Bracebridge, Ont., also qualified for nationals in the 200m backstroke (2:01.82, fifth place).
That pushes the total number of Guelph athletes bound for nationals to eight as Mallory and Kuntz join Vranic, Anderson, Leili Tilvaldyeva, Maria Far, Shania Van Herk and Sasha Kennedy in Toronto.
Payne said that she was hopeful the Gryphons would rise to the occasion but as a veteran swimmer coach, knew that anything could happen on race day.
“I thought we were in a good place heading into the OUAs,” she said of the team’s physical and mental preparation. “But you never know. They exceeded my expectations, which is saying something.”
Atlantic University Sports award winners:
Swimmer of the Year: Kylie Masse, Toronto
Rookie of the Year: Isabelle Lei, McMaster
Coach of the Year: Byron McDonald, Toronto
Dr. Jeno Tihanyi Award for IM Excellence: Hannah Genich, Toronto
Graduating Athlete Award of Distinction: Olivvya Chow, McMaster
Swimmer of Year: Davide Casarin, Ottawa
Rookie of the Year: Jacob Issac, Toronto
Coach of the Year: Dave Heinbuch, Ottawa
Dr. Jeno Tihanyi Award for IM Excellence: Montana Champagne, Ottawa
Graduating Athlete Award of Distinction: Jonathan Ramkissoon (Waterloo), Gamal Assaad (Western), Alex Paulins (Western) Kyle Haas (Toronto), Dan Kuiack (Toronto), Eli Wall (Toronto), and Hochan Ryu (Toronto).