By BRAD BUNYAN
GISS SWIM TEAM COACH
The GISS Scorpions Aquatics team wrapped up their season Nov. 16-17, with the provincial championships being held in Nanaimo over those two days. Despite having a relatively young and smaller team, the Gulf Islands were very well represented by these amazing athletes.
The swim season in high school is a short and intense affair; athletes are given roughly seven weeks for training, they have a single qualification race in a regional meet, and top performers in that meet qualify to compete at provincials. It can be extremely hard to compete under that type of pressure, without any second chances or consolation events, and any swimmer finishing inside the top results at the provincial meet can be justifiably proud of not only their physical skills but also their mental fortitude.
As a well-supported team with a very strong community club (all credit to the Stingrays!), GISS historically places well at provincials, and this year was no exception. Of the 19 athletes registered on the team, 11 competed in events at the regional meet in October, and 10 swam at the provincial level. Although this wasn’t an especially strong year in terms of individual results, with three athletes qualifying to swim individually at provincials in a single race each, GISS qualified seven relay teams into provincials, with five of these teams competing on the final day. Top results included an eighth-place finish in the boys 4×100-metre relay, with Matthias Woodley, Will Harder, Jack Jacquest and Keegan Otsubo-Papp turning in excellent times as the youngest aggregate team in the final race, as well as a seventh-place finish in the mixed medley race, with Elyse Walsh, Indigo Marshall, Woodley and Otsubo-Papp moving up a place after Friday’s preliminary races. Other strong finishes came in the girls medley relay (10th), boys medley relay (14th), girls 4×100 relay (10th), and the only individual swimmer competing on Saturday being Woodley with a 12th-place finish in the individual medley. As a team, in the biggest meet of the year with a maximum of 32 competitors even qualifying for the right to swim at provincials, GISS swimmers placed in the top 20 of every event qualified for, above and beyond expectations.
The coaching staff was incredibly proud of the swimmers this season, and a great deal of growth was shown in a number of areas. The meets were both incredibly crowded and difficult to navigate, and a high level of frustration was dealt with, especially for our younger swimmers. Potentially practising both before and after school during the week and maintaining academic success is a very tall order for any athlete, and doing so with multiple sports is extremely challenging. Combined with fatigue, sickness and family commitments, success at this level is worthy of all the praise.
Looking ahead, with a younger team and with several swimmers training and competing for multiple different fall sports for GISS, there was much less specialization in swimmers training for the finals, which indicates that the ceiling of success for our athletes moving forward is considerably higher than even this fantastic level. With no graduating athletes, and as some very capable swimmers move into high school next year, we are looking forward to not only repeating these results but improving and potentially medalling next year, which is a very challenging feat under these high-pressure conditions.
Athletic recognition goes to Woodley, Marshall and Molly Magley, for being among the most consistent and hardest-working at the most practices, testament to their mental fortitude and drive. Credit also to Woodley and Walsh as the two to qualify in the maximum of four events allowed for provincials.
As teacher-sponsor, I would like to personally thank Zach Lundrie, Chelsea Harris and the pool staff for giving our team a home to work from, Zoey Johnson for her unwavering support and contributions and India Hayden for her invaluable contributions at the regional meet. Biggest thanks to Emma Lizotte for dedicating the time and effort to coach and work every day, with every practice, no matter the time.
Thanks to all on the team for all their work, and to our school and community for all their support.