June 23rd, 2024

Hess shines at Canada West Championship

By Dale Woodard on November 30, 2021.

Apollo Hess put his head down, and the results took care of themselves.

So did a slew of medals, broken records and Canada West championship accolades.

Joining his University of Lethbridge Pronghorns swimming teammates at his first Canada West Championship last weekend at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Hess proceeded to build on a record-breaking rookie campaign.

His performance in his first conference meet earned Hess both the male Swimmer of the Meet, and the Rookie of the Year awards. The breaststroke specialist earned five total medals, setting new Canada West records in the 50m and 200m breaststroke.

“I’d be lying if I said I didn’t exceed my expectations,” said Hess. “Starting in the 50m (Friday), it was pretty good. There aren’t too many things I think I could have done better. It was definitely a good start to the meet.”

Hess’s fifth medal and second off the day Sunday for the Pronghorns came in the 4 X 100 medley relay. The team of Chris Alexander, Hess, Parker Brown and Raine Arden finished in the bronze medal position with a time of 3:41.41.

On Saturday, Hess teamed up with Brown, Arden and Adam Stromberg to win silver in the 4X100 freestyle relay, just behind the UBC Thunderbirds for top spot.

It added up to a six-medal Canada West Championship for the Pronghorns as Chris Alexander won the silver medal in the .

In the team standings, the Pronghorn men placed fifth with 292.5 points, while the women’s side finished sixth with 196.5 points.

After his silver medal in the 100m breaststroke on Saturday, Hess adopted a new strategy going into Sunday’s 200m breaststroke final

“I made an effort to not look at the guys beside me,” said Hess. “Usually it happens where I look at them and it changes my stroke and I start swimming their race and not mine. On Sunday I made an effort to focus on my race and just keep to myself. I was quite surprised when I touched the wall.

“On the last turn I saw they hadn’t even hit the wall, so I knew I had a pretty big lead. Seeing that, I knew these guys weren’t going to catch me. So I just did my best to get to the wall as fast as I could.”

It was a nice finish to the weekend after Saturday’s silver medal.

“On Saturday I had the 100m breaststroke,” said Hess. “It was pretty good, but I felt like I underperformed and Sunday was kind of my redemption. I definitely surprised myself.”

Both of Hess’ gold medal performances were Canada West records.

His time of 2:08.91 in the 200m breaststroke took a full second off the time established in 2016, while his 50m time of 26.97 broke the previous record by almost a second.

Those performances earned Hess the male Swimmer of the Meet, and the Rookie of the Year awards.

“I had a good feeling I was going to win the Rookie of the Year, especially with my performances in the breaststroke,” he said. “I didn’t quite know what the criteria was for the Swimmer of the Meet. So that was a pretty pleasant surprise.”

It was also a first for a Pronghorn to win both awards, said Horns head coach Peter Schori.

“That’s pretty fantastic for a rookie to win both of them. It happens sometimes, but obviously it doesn’t happen very often and it has certainly never happened for a Pronghorn before. It’s great.

“It was a tremendous Canada West debut for him,” said Schori. “He won two gold medals and a silver medal and then he was a big part of our men’s relays that won a silver medal and bronze medal. His 50m breaststroke and 200m breaststroke were both wins and both Canada West meet records and all of those things combined for him to be both the Rookie of the Meet and the Male Swimmer of the Meet.”

Following a 2019 Canada West bronze medal, Chris Alexander added to his resume with a silver medal in the 50m backstroke on Friday.

“Chris has this incredible bad luck with injuries,” said Schori. “He hurt his back 10 days ago and we said ‘You’re just going to have to focus on getting better.’ It’s tough for athletes when they’re getting ready for a competition, they want to test themselves a little bit and get those confidence-building measures.”

“He had to try and recover and he did really well. He didn’t recover well enough to swim the 200m, but he set a school record in the 50m, where he won a silver medal, and then he swam the best 100m he’s swam since destroyed his foot in a tobogganing accident a couple of years ago and then he was a bit part of our relay swim (Sunday), too. So he was awesome.”

Brown who made the final in the 50m freestyle and the 100m freestyle and Parker swam big spots on both relays, said Schori.

“Adam, made the 50m freestyle final. This is his last Canada West as super fifth year, a sixth-year swimmer, and getting his name on the record board and that silver medal in the 4X100 relay was awesome. Raine was a big part of those relays, too.”

Hess said his relay teammates always give him a second wind, even on busy weekends.

“They always bring good energy and I just love swimming with them and having them as friends and teammates. It’s so nice to have people you can push yourself with day in and day out at practice.”

Some of the Horns women’s team also made A-finals on the weekend.

“Casara Holm made the A finals in the 50m butterfly and the 100m butterfly and that was really big on the women’s side,” said Schori.

“Sophie MacLean made an A final in the 50m freestyle also. All the way across they did a heck of a good job.”

The qualified swimmers will now set their sights on the 2022 U SPORTS Championship, hosted by the Laval Rouge et Or, February 25-27 in Quebec City.

After that is the World Championship Trials in Victoria in April, another event Hess is eyeing up.

“It’s nice having goals, I know what to work for and what to look forward to every day,” he said.

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