By BRAD BUNYAN
GISS SWIM TEAM COACH
Gulf Islands Secondary School (GISS) swimmers spent two weekends last month in heavy competition, first against the other schools from Vancouver Island in mid-October, and last weekend testing our mettle against all the best representatives from every high school in British Columbia.
After coming together to form our team in the first weeks of school, our high school team worked through the typical high intensity level of the season — with some swimmers training six times a week from early September to mid-November, starting before the sunrise twice a week, and always finishing after sunset. Although this workout regimen can prove difficult to follow with the demands of homework, after-school jobs and other sports, we had a full pool at almost every swim, and rapid growth in strength and ability was noted.
On Oct. 22, all the schools from Vancouver Island gathered in Nanaimo at the Aquatic Centre to qualify the best swimmers in the region for the provincial championships. GISS typically sends one of the bigger and stronger swim teams to this meet, and this year was no exception. With 17 competing swimmers working in up to four events each, every single swimmer placed high enough in at least one race to qualify for provincials — with several swimmers doing well in multiple disciplines.
Of note, a few swimmers qualified in all four events they swam, which can be a very rare occurrence. Elyse Walsh, Zoe Sanchez-Wickland and Druehn Pinney all qualified for that maximum level of competition, and overall GISS finished with the second highest number of provincial competitors, only trailing Nanaimo District Secondary as the strongest island representative.
Weeks later, the provincialists from all over B.C. met for the championship meet in Richmond on Nov. 18 and 19. GISS had our 17 swimmers competing in 18 races (eight relay teams and 10 individual events), making us one of the more visible teams in the meet. Competing at provincials among several hundred swimmers tends to lead to a very chaotic atmosphere and a very busy stressful location, and having so many swimmers in an enclosed space makes for a challenging pool to swim in, due to the extra heat and humidity. Despite these challenges, our swimmers persevered and swam well, with three qualifying to swim in medal competition on Saturday, and five others swimming for top 16 provincial placement.
After all the damp dust had settled, GISS ended up with four top-10 finishes. In the girls medley relay, Nina De Roo, Mia Kerrigan, Elyse Walsh and Zoe Sanchez-Wickland finished 10th overall, and the same team placed fifth in the girls 100-m freestyle relay. Our mixed-medley relay, consisting of De Roo and Kerrigan joining forces with Pinney and Matthias Woodley, placed eighth after a long delay got in the way of race preparation.
Our highest achievement came with Pinney missing the podium by 0.11 seconds, finishing fourth in boys 50-m backstroke. When all the other finishes were tabulated and points were totalled, the GISS boys ranked 13th among all AA schools in the province, the GISS girls ranked seventh of all AA schools, and overall we finished 31st against the biggest and most powerful swimming academies in B.C.
Enormous thanks go to coaches India Hayden and Aiden Otsubo-Papp, who dedicated huge amounts of time and energy to give back to the program and move themselves from swimmers to coaches in a most selfless way. As the teacher-sponsor for the swim team, I am so constantly proud of the effort and humility shown by the swim team, and consider them the most deserving athletes of praise, in the least visible sport offered.
We are provincially recognized as excellent swimmers and representatives of our community, and this happens due to the efforts and overall niceness of the swim team year in and year out.
Congratulations to Kerrigan, Nina De Roo, Kiran Pillay and Emma Lizotte as graduating swimmers who did us proud in effort and leadership, and here’s looking forward to next year!