By Woodard, Dale on November 25, 2019.
Figuratively speaking, this is an accomplishment the University of Lethbridge Pronghorns swimming team can sink their teeth into.
Capping off Day 2 as hosts of the Canada West Championship Saturday night at the Max Bell Pool, the 4 x 100 free relay team of Tom Utas, Chris Alexander, Raine Arden and Adam Stromberg swam their way to the first relay silver medal in program history.
In third for the majority of the first three legs, Stromberg, a fourth-year anchor, pulled the Pronghorns ahead of the Calgary Dinos early into the final leg and was able to hold off the Canada West power and claim the silver medal with a time of 3:24.14.
“Last year we got bronze, which was a great moment,” said Stromberg. “But getting a silver here, it was like getting a fresh piece a cake coming out of the oven. You can’t get much better. You look over and you see your teammates and you think ‘This is amazing.’ I felt like I did the Pronghorns proud and that’s what I wanted to do.”
It took effort, Stromberg.
“It started off with Tommy coming out strong and Chris doing what he needed to do and then Raine coming in big. I told the boys if we can be close coming into the wall when I come off I will for sure get us a medal. I saw the guys ahead of me and I was like ‘OK, let’s try and fight for it.’ By the last 25 metres I was holding on, it was hard, but it was a great experience.”
They also felt the hometown love.
“It was a great experience,” said Alexander. “There was a lot of energy in that race. We had Tom lead us out then I was second I was able to hold on. Raine was third and he made the race. He went really fast and put Adam in a very good position for the last leg.
“The crowd reaction was insane. It was very loud and I lost my voice because of it. It was a great time. That energy, you don’t feel something like that very often.”
Alexander wasn’t done with podium finishes for the weekend, racing to a bronze medal in the 100m backstroke.
“I was very fired up for it,” he said. “I remember turning at the 50, I turned and looked across the pool and I could see I was right with the lead swimmers. I knew I couldn’t mess it up and it was great to do that in front of all my friends and my family.”
On Saturday, earplugs would have come in handy.
“It was about the loudest it’s ever been in this building in a bit of an historical moment,” said Pronghorns head coach Peter Schori. “Our first ever silver medal in a relay in Canada West and to do it at home was awesome.
“It’s pretty cool, both Raine and Chris are Lethbridge boys who came out of the LASC and stayed home for school. So they did a great job. I think they are ranked third and fourth in the country right now.”
The silver is historic, but the relay team is already pondering what it’ll take to move up another notch.
“In a relay we know what our guys are going to do, but we don’t know what the other guys are going to do,” said Schori. “Our guys, everybody played the role 100 per cent well and it added up to a really great swim. It’s nice to be silver. Now they’re looking in thinking they are only a second and a bit behind UBC and what they have to do to try and win that.”
All the swimmers on the relay team were already qualified for nationals in individual events
“So they’re ready to go for that and we have three months to get prepared and be faster,” said Schori.
The Pronghorns qualified two more swimmer for the USPORTS swimming championship Feb. 20-22 in Victoria with Tricia Fair and Emilia Hesterman earning spots.
Fair took sixth in the women’s 50m butterfly with a time of 28.15 Friday night
“So that’s really great,” said Schori. “And then we had a lot of best times and lifetime bests. As we talked about last week, it really is special to get the race at home.”
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