Despite racing each other up and down the pool for many years, twin brothers Tanner and Bailey Esperson don’t often get the chance to push each other to the limit anymore.
After graduating from Smithers Secondary, they went to different schools for the next step in their education and only get to race each other occasionally when they might both be home at the same time.
A year into their university swimming careers, both are more than pleased with the results they posted in two widely-separated programs. Bailey, swimming in the prestigious University of Victoria program, was a finalist in his best event, the 200 breaststroke, at the Canadian University Nationals while Tanner was busy setting team records and leading his team, King University in Tennessee, in their conference championships.
What happens may prove interesting, especially for Tanner.
While Bailey will be going back to Victoria as expected, Tanner will be moving it up a notch. His academic program was dropped by King and he had the option to move to another school to keep his scholarship funding. University of South Dakota picked him up and he will transfer there in the fall.
“I’m pretty excited about it. It’s a Division 1 school and King was in Division 2,” he said. “I’ll miss all the new friends I made in Tennessee but I’m looking forward to the program in South Dakota.”
U.S. schools are divided into three levels at the university stage with Division 1 at the top.
“I know it will be tough but I’m looking forward to the challenge,” he said.
Bailey, on the other hand, knows what to expect from the coaches and swimmers in one of the top university programs in the country.
“ In my first practice I looked over and there was somebody in the next lane who had been in finals at the Olympics,” he said.
U Vic, as it is commonly called, has a tradition of top level swimming in the country with swimmers and coaches representing Canada at international competitions.
In his first season, Bailey quickly established himself as one of the top freshmen in the country in what is a very specialized event, the 200 breaststroke.
“I was able to qualify for the university nationals early in the season, so then I could concentrate on trying to do well at the meet,” he said.
Perhaps an understatement. Bailey was the second fastest freshman in the country in his event, out-touched only by a national team swimmer.
“My goal for this year will be to finish higher and to make it to some of the international qualifying meets,” he said.
Both swimmers said the training they had while at Smithers Secondary prepared them well for their next step at the university level. But one thing is for certain, one thing is missing.
“I just miss … racing my brother,” Tanner said.