June 24th, 2024

Pronghorn Classic serving as a primer for Nationals

By Dale Woodard on February 8, 2022.

Chris Alexander didn’t have to look too far for a little inspiration at the Pronghorn Classic last weekend.

In fact, the third-year swimmer with the University of Lethbridge Pronghorns only needed to glance over at the wall at the Max Bell Pool where his times in the 50m, 100m and 200m backstroke from 2019 are prominently displayed.

With the U SPORTS championship a little over six weeks away and with Alexander continuing to come back from a foot injury, the goal is to get his times back into that range once again in time for the event in Laval, Que March 24-26.

“I have some times on that board I haven’t touched in a very long time and I would like to refresh those,” said Alexander.

Those times in question from 2019 is 25.50 in the 50m backstroke, 54.46 in the 100m backstroke and 2:00.76 in the 200m backstroke.

So last weekend’s Pronghorn Classic, the first competitive swimming event of 2022, served as a nice warmup for U SPORTS, Alexander’s first since 2019 after a foot injury and then the COVID-19 took away the last two.

“It’s a great opportunity to see where we’re at,” said the Lethbridge product.

“We haven’t had a lot of racing opportunities with the pandemic. Our most recent one was the Canada West at the end of November. A lot happens. We got a break over Christmas and we’re in a new training cycle right now. So it’s good to see how the training cycle has been going and see where we’re at.”

For LA Swim Club member Calyn Lothian, the Pronghorn Classic was also a primer for bigger things ahead as she gets ready for the Championship in Edmonton next month, an event that’s a notch above provincials.

“This is going to be my first time,” said Lothien. “I’m nervous, but I hope to compete really well due to the fact there are going to be people there who are going to be really fast, like the top in Canada.”

Last weekend’s meet was Lothien’s third since the pandemic shut things down last year.

“It’s definitely a challenge to get back in the pool (after) COVID,” said Lothian. “Getting back into racing has been hard, but it’s been pretty good. Usually, it’s just muscle memory, but now you have to keep practising just to get that feeling back just being in the pool.”

Lothian had a full slate of events at the Pronghorn Classic with the 100m freestyle, 200m backstroke, 100m backstroke, 100m IM, 200m freestyle and relay events.

“I took some time off, which is always good,” said Lothian, whose older sister, Finley, got her started in swimming. “There’s still stuff I need to improve in, which is really good to know.”

Meanwhile, Alexander continues to work back into game shape following a foot injury.

“I wasn’t able to train properly until November, when I was able to get back into things,” he said. “Since then, lots of work has been put in. I had to rebuild my leg. I’m allowing myself to have pretty high expectations for Nationals. Things have been going very well. I’ve been healthy.”

When he returns to Laval in six weeks, Alexander will finally be able to build off that U SPORTS championship from three years ago.

“Incredibly fun, a phenomenal opportunity,” he said. “There was lots going on, everybody swimming very fast. There’s tons of energy and I’m excited to get back into that.”

The rest of Alexander’s Pronghorns teammates also used the weekend to build toward nationals.

“We got some great feedback on our training and are on track for U SPORTS at the end of March,” said Pronghorns head coach Peter Schori in a release. “First years’ Hunter Stewardson and Colton Mersereau had their best meets to date as Pronghorns.

“Colson took a big step, winning three events and posting best times in each and Hunter won all the breaststroke events moving into the Horns top five all time.”

Stewardson set the Horns all-time fourth fastest time in the 100 metre breaststroke and fifth fastest time in the 50 metre breaststroke

“Apollo Hess and Chris were also very good for us, leading the relays to great swims and overall a really good racing for our team,” said Schori.

Hess, who won five Canada West medals earlier this year, has been rewriting the Pronghorn record book in his first year of competition and broke the school record in the 100 metre butterfly.

He also broke two Canada West records and set new school records in all three breaststroke events earlier this season.

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