June 23rd, 2024

Horns relay teams looking for fast times at Canada West championship

By Dale Woodard on November 26, 2021.

The University of Lethbridge Pronghorns swimmers are looking for a team effort at the Canada West Championship.

The laps begin today as the Horns take the pool at the University of Alberta in Edmonton with an eye on some strong relay times.

Coming off an historic silver medal in 2019 in the 4 X100 freestyle relay, the men’s relay teams will be a threat throughout the meet and have already set two new school records this season.

“With our reduction in team size the placing dynamic changes a little bit,” said Pronghorns head coach Peter Schori. “When you can have up to 18 men and 18 women, and we’re going to field a team of about 11 guys and nine women, it definitely has an impact on the overall team scoring.”

Twenty Pronghorns have qualified for the conference meet and will be highlighted by the men’s side who is ranked eighth on the Swim Canada’s university ranking, based on earlier season results thus far. The men’s team is ranked third among the Canada West schools.

The women sit 15th in the Swim Canada rankings and seventh within the conference schools.

On the men’s side, expect to see some strong times in the relay events.

“The medley relay has three out of the four swimmers from the LASC and long time Lethbridge swimmers with Raine Arden Chris Alexander and Apollo (Hess),” said Schori. “We have a couple of guys on the free relay that might also crossover.”

Alexander, a returning Canada West medalist, will look to build on a bronze medal in 2019 in the 100m backstroke.

Hess has had a memorable rookie year in the Canada West.

After spending his first official year with the program only training last year, he rewrote the Pronghorn record book this fall and will be a multiple-medal threat at the conference championships.

In three official meets, Hess holds all three breaststroke school records and enters this weekend ranked in the top-three in the country in three events.

He is currently tied for first in the 100m individual medley and second in both the 50m and 100m breaststroke.

Hess currently sits ranked third in the 200m breaststroke.

“We were obviously thrilled when Apollo chose to stay home after swimming club with the LASC,” said Schori. “He has just stepped right into U SPORTS swimming without missing a beat. Ironically, the top U SPORTS breaststroke swimmers right now are both first years in the Canada West. So it’s himself and a UBC swimmer who are the top-two guys in the country. I think he is going to have a great first Canada West meet and hopefully challenge for the Rookie of the Meet for the Canada West and keep taking steps forward. That is what Apollo has done a superb job of. With every step he has taken he has prepared himself to look at the next step and I think he is going to keep doing that.”

Another standout first-year for the Pronghorns has been Calgary native Parker Brown.

“He’s in the exact same situation as Apollo,” said Schori. “He’s a 19-year-old first-year swimmer and he’s off to a fantastic start this year as well. I think he might challenge for a couple of school records this weekend.”

On the women’s side, all members of the Pronghorns swam season best times in Vancouver two weeks ago and were highlighted by new program all-time top ten times from Sophie MacLean, Hunter Stewardson and Casara Holm.

“I don’t think we’re going to move into the top-four or anything like that, but the women will focus on which schools they want to try to beat in those relay events and they’ve done a good job of that,” said Schori.

After losing the 2020 season to the COVID 19 pandemic, the Pronghorns focused more on competitions than training this season, said Schori.

“We had a really good stretch where we competed three weekends in a row. We’ve had a little bit more of our preparation through competition and trying to get rid of the rust than we have in some previous seasons where we were a little bit more focussed on the training and competed a little bit less. As a result, of all that there have been some really great results, particularly from the men at this point.”

Still, the Pronghorns coach pointed out winning at the Canada West is hard in the individual category.

“The last guy we had win was Joel Robinson in the 50m breaststroke and Apollo has already broken Joel’s school record by half a second, and he might not win it,” said Schori, adding those big time placements help down the road. “It’s going to help us with our recruiting when we have some of those performances.”

Heading into the Canada West meet, the Pronghorns have already qualified eight athletes for the U SPORTS Championships. Hess (breaststroke, butterfly, IM), Alexander (backstroke), Adam Stromberg (freestyle), Arden (freestyle), Brown (freestyle), Emilia Hesterman (breaststroke), Libby Fox (butterfly) and Stewardson (breaststroke) have already made U SPORTS standards.

The U SPORTS Championships will be hosted by UniversitŽ Laval in Quebec City, Feb. 25-27.

The heats start today at 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. with the finals going 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

On Saturday, the heats run from 10 a.m. to noon with the finals following from 5 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

The heats run from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. Sunday. The finals are slated for 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.

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