The Penticton Pikes swim club has seen its share of difficulties and hardships. A few years ago, the club was on the brink of ceasing to exist, with only a handful of members and their pool shut down. Now, the Pikes are back with a full club and, if this past weekend’s swim meet is any indication, something to prove.
Of the 22 swimmers representing the Pikes at the regional meet, 12 earned spots at the provincial meet in Nanaimo from Aug. 17 to 19, either as main competitors or alternates. In the process, the club managed to rack up a large number of medals. Along with a number of relay medals, the team received 10 individual medals overall. As well, most of the swimmers recorded best times in their events, as well as placing fourth overall in points per swimmer.
Three of the ten individual medals were earned by Ashley McMillan, who received a bronze in the 50m free and 50m butterfly as well as a silver in the 100m IM.
TJ Paisley received a silver for the 100m breaststroke and a bronze in the 200m IM.
As well, 13-year-old Jaren LeFranc won a gold medal in the boys division 4 50m breaststroke in one of the tightest races of the weekend.
“The swimmer who was in first had been winning that race all year at every meet,” said Elliot Clarke, the Pikes’s head coach . “Jaren just went out, and on the last length beat him and won the race.”
In the end, LeFranc, who is in his rookie year of competition, had only clinched first place by 0.2 seconds.
“I was third going in, but I wasn’t that nervous,” said LeFranc. “I kind of surprised myself too, in a way.”
Other individual winners were Simon Paisley, who earned silver in the 100m backstroke, Mason Heintz, who won gold in the 100m freestyle and silver in the 50m freestyle. In the 100m freestyle event, Heintz passed four other swimmers with lower seed times, and shaved seven seconds off his own.
Elliot had nothing but praise for his swimmers.
“The swimmers really made me proud this past weekend. Pretty much all of them exceeded expectations.” he said. “Made me proud to be the coach of the club.”
For Katy Clarke, the Pikes’s president, the weekend’s success reflects a renewal of the Pikes club, which now has 75 members, and is the fourth largest in the Okanagan. She attributed the success to the club’s supporters.
“We have a huge group of parents who are willing to step up and help out,” she said. “There’s a ton of people going around doing a ton of jobs to keep it going and help with fundraising and find money to keep it going.”
As well, for Katy, the success will only help establish the club’s name in other meets.
“It’s great for the club. It’s just going to breed more kids wanting to try swim meets. When you have success it’s not quite as scary, and people want to be part of the team,” said Katy. “I think it’s going to help the young base of swimmers who are so new to competitions to try it out.”
For young swimmers now itching to compete, they will have an opportunity next August.
“We’ve been given the provincial qualifying meet, so it’ll be held in Penticton next year on the same weekend,” said Katy. “That’s huge. It’ll bring about 300 families into Penticton.”