Otters wrap up season with big wins in Prince Rupert

The Bulkley Valley Otters swimming club recently wrapped up their season, with a final meet in Prince Rupert, followed by the team’s awards ceremony last Sunday.

The Bulkley Valley Otters swimming club recently wrapped up their season, with a final meet in Prince Rupert, followed by the team’s awards ceremony last Sunday.

In Prince Rupert, the team fared well against their usual northwestern competitors. Acting head coach Ali Howard said the swimmers took full advantage of their final competition.

“They all improved their times by a ton,” she said.

In 10 and Under girls, MacKinley Unruh had a number of strong finishes, including second in the 50m and 200m freestyle, and third in the 100m backstroke and 100m breaststroke races. Monica Stevens finished first in the 50m butterfly, and second in the 50m breast. In 10 and Under boys, River Stokes-de Young had a strong meet, finishing first in the 200m free and 50m back, second in the 50m breast, and third in the 100m free, 100m back and 100m breast.

For the 11-12 girls group, Cassandra Horning-Wandler finished first in the 50m and 200m back, as well as the 50m and 200m fly. She also took second in the 50m, 100m and 200m free. In the 11-12 boys, twins Tanner and Bailey Espersen and Luke Berarducci didn’t leave much hardware for the competition. Tanner won the 50m, 400m and 800m free races, and took second in the 100m back, the 100m breast, the 200m fly and the 100m individual medley. Bailey finished first in the 100m and 200m free, the 100m and 200m back, the 100m breast, the 100m fly, and the 100m and 200m im. Berarducci won the 1500m free, the 200m breast, the 200m fly and the 400m im, as well as finishing second in the 50m, 100m and 400m free, and third in the 100m breast. In 13-14 boys, Adam Hartnett took second place in the 50m fly.

The team of Hartnett, Berarducci and the Espersens competed in the 14 and Under relay races, taking second place in the 200m free and medley races. The Espersens, Berarducci and Stokes-de Young finished in first place in both their 12 and Under relay races.

In 15 and Over girls, Lauren Dohler finished in third in the 100m back and 50m fly. In 15 and Over girls relay, the team of Dohler, as well as Stevens, Unruh and Horning-Wandler, swimming well above their own age groups, took third place in the 200m free and medley relays.

In 15 and Over boys, Brett Zollen finished first in the 50m and 100m free, the 50m and 100m breast, the 50m and 100m fly, and the 100m im, as well as second in the 50m back. Brian Dohler finished in first in the 1500m free, the 100m and 200m back, the 200m fly, and the 200m and 400m im, as well as second in the 100m fly and third in the 50m back. The relay team of Hartnett, Zollen, Dohler and Nathan Hartnett finished second in the 15 and Over 200m free and medley relays.

The Otters also handed out their awards last Sunday. Howard said it’s been a great season, with many personal bests for swimmers over the course of the year.

“That’s what you want to see as a coach,” she said.

The Most Improved award went to Cassandra Horning-Wandler and Monica Stevens. The Most Inspirational award went to MacKinley Unruh and Tanner Espersen. The Sportsmanship award went to Kai McInnes and Adam Hartnett.

The Swimmer of the Year award was shared between Brian Zollen and Brian Dohler.

“I couldn’t pick between them. They pushed each other all season and made each other better, and as a result they both had outstanding seasons,” said Howard. “They’ve managed to rewrite the record board aside from one event.”

The Brody Buchfink Memorial Award was awarded to first year swimmer River Stokes-de Young, who broke his leg last winter, yet still insisted on being on the deck for practice.

“That was pretty amazing, and then he came back from his injury and had some pretty impressive results,” said Howard. “I think it’s the first time it’s ever gone to a first year swimmer, but I think he deserved it.”

Although the season is over for most of the Otters, Horning-Wandler will be swimming in the AA Provincials, and Berarducci and Brian Dohler will both be swimming in the AA long course Provincials.

“I admire them for working hard when they’ve already been working hard since September,” said Howard.

The Otters will also be holding a training camp in August for the first time, looking for new swimmers to join the team. Howard will continue to work with the team, but a new head coach is expected to take over in the fall, ending a few years of coaching instability.