Members of the Bulkley Valley Otters finished off the first part of the swimming season on a high note with a tremendous performance at the Northwest Holiday Invitational swim meet Dec 6-9. Five of the 13 swimmers won medals for outstanding overall finishes as they took 21 individual first places to go with 17 seconds and 14 thirds.
Kanna Kurihara, 12, with seven first place finishes and Kaede Kurihara, 9, with four firsts and three seconds were named top swimmers in their age categories to take the overall gold. Jules Tersago, 12, with four firsts and three seconds, was presented with the silver. Bronze medalists were Milana Anokhina, 9, with a first, four seconds and two thirds and Erica Rooke, 16, with one first, one second and three thirds.
In addition, the girls 10 and under medley relay squad comprising Taya Campbell, Peyton Murdoch, Kaede Kurihara, and Milana Anokhina took top spot. Relays in other age categories garnered three seconds and a pair of third places.
The club record book for 12-year-old girls took another hit as Kanna Kurihara established new marks in the 50 backstroke, 200 freestyle, 200 breaststroke, 200 butterfly, and 400 individual medley.
Coach Tom Best was more than pleased with the results.
“We’ve had a number of challenges this fall especially with the large number of new swimmers in the program,” he said. “Sometimes it seems like a one room schoolhouse with the wide range of ability in the pool at the same time but there is plenty of enthusiasm and the swimming at the meet showed that our emphasis on the technical side of things will pay off.”
For the younger swimmers, he felt it was a very good learning experience.
“Actually performing in a competition is a valuable way for the kids to demonstrate what they have been working on in practice,” he said. “They showed us the little points that we’ve been emphasizing.”
He also had praise for the assistant coaches.
“The assistant coaches have done a great job as well,” he said. “Erica [Rooke] has really worked hard with the little ones just coming into the program and it’s easy to see how much they have improved since September.”
The team was particularly strong in distance swimming. In the boys 11-12 400 and 1500 meter races, Tersago and Zachary Durnin both in the race for the first time, were 1-2 and then repeated the feat in the 400 freestyle in the next session. The team also scored firsts in the 200 butterfly and 400 individual medley races, traditionally considered among the more challenging events.
As the team goes into the Holiday break period, while most will take a break, the more experienced swimmers will have a number of training sessions. At that time, two university swimmers home for the break, Tanner and Bailey Esperson will be training in preparation for their main championship season as well as Olympic Trials.
Tanner is currently with the University of North Dakota, a Division 1 school, on a full scholarship. Last season he was named as the only All-American Academic on his team.
Voted the captain of the University of Victoria swimming squad, Bailey is ranked third in Canada in his breaststroke specialty and has set a number of team records this season.