Scorpions team makes big splash at provincials

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Gulf Islands Secondary School’s Scorpions swim team emerged with some excellent results from high school provincial championships in Richmond on the Nov. 16-17 weekend.

“On the first day of swimming, we found out that we had one of the smaller teams — 13 athletes entered, in 15 out of 46 events — and had some very stiff competition from several of the central B.C. and Lower Mainland schools,” said coach Brad Bunyan. “However, after one day of competition, we demonstrated strong team depth with qualifications to swim on ‘finals day’ in nine of our events, including four chances to swim for medals.”

Bunyan said the first medal hopeful came from provincial first-timer Lily Armstrong, who swam a fierce breast stroke sprint, and shaved 0.4 seconds off her previous time.

“A challenger from the outer lane came out of nowhere, however, and out-touched Lily to set our Scorpion into fifth place.”

Five events later, long-time swimming powerhouse Zoey Johnson set off in one of the marquee events, the 100-metre freestyle.

“Coming into the race, Zoey was seeded first overall, and the target on her back was obvious,” said Bunyan.

A difference of two-tenths of a second resulted in Johnson finishing in third place, although she finished the race strongly, closing from fifth to third and out-touching her nearest competitor to secure a medal for GISS.

The final chance for a medal came with one of the school’s strongest relay teams ever entered, with Johnson and Armstrong being joined by Rylan Burnett and Joseph Schulze in another marquee event, the mixed 100-m relay race.

“This team won the qualifying heats on Vancouver Island by almost 15 seconds (an eternity in swimming), and was seeded second in the province. Qualifying day found us still in second place, but the lead team was ahead of us by almost three seconds.  Undaunted, the racers put together an amazingly fast relay final, and closed the gap to 0.8 seconds, securing the school’s first relay medal in several years with a definitive silver.”

At the end of the day, GISS ended up with nine events earning team points on finals day. Singles points were earned for the boys component by Schulze, 11th in 50-m freestyle; Burnett, 12th in 100-m freestyle; and Aramis St. Gelais, ninth in 50-m butterfly for the boys.

The girls singles points were earned by Armstrong and Johnson. Relay points were earned on both ends of the spectrum by the team above, as well as in other races by Zadian St. Gelais, Aiden Otsubo-Papp and Santiago Robles (11th – freestyle), Austin Bisnar along with Aramis, Schulze and Burnett, (ninth – medley), and Gabriella Oloriz, Emma Phillips and Charley Bennett-Peters joining Johnson for 11th (freestyle). Isobel Gutierrez and Amrei (Amy) Maier rounded out the contingent of athletes, and both showed strong in their first school provincials.

This gave the team a ranked total of 131 points (a new school high), placing them near the top 20 (girls 24th of 76 teams, boys 21st of 62).

“With most of the team eligible to return next year, we have some promising momentum to crack the top 20, and can reasonably aim to finish near the top 10 in the province,” said Bunyan.

Coach Bunyan expressed special appreciation to “student coach extraordinaire” Austin Bisnar.

“With his trademark silent voice, white headband and ever-present spiral bound notebook, his leadership and the respect he commanded were on display for everyone in the province to see. Without his efforts and incredible level of selfless commitment, not only would our team have struggled to compete at this level of provincials, our team would have struggled to exist.”

The Scorpions also thanked associate coaches Jill Schulze, Marcia Jansen and David Marshall, as well as “super-morning-person” Valeskca San Martin, for all the support and encouragement they had this year in offering such valuable help, guidance and time.  “Zach Lundrie and the staff at the Rainbow Road Pool were wonderful to work with, and we’re proud to have the supportive facility and staff that we do, and have had for many years now.”

And Clara Diaz del Val, who retired from the water and became our chief historian and documentarian, did a wonderful job of ensuring our event and team were well covered for posterity.

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