The Kootenay Swim Club is wrapping up their most successful season yet, but coach Chris Wright believes this is just the beginning.
He currently coaches two 13-year old girls, Kelsey Adrusak and Gabrielle Hanvold, who have qualified for AAA championships in July. A third, Ella Korth, has qualified for the AA championships in June, and could still qualify to join her teammates at the next level.
“Kelsey is our freestyler, breastroker,” he said. “Gabby is our flyer. Ella’s mostly a breaststroker, but she also has a killer freestyle.”
He said the trio have qualified in “a boatload of events” and have a good chance to perform well at their next meet in Wenatchee, Washington.
“It’s a long course meet, and it’s going to be huge. We’re sending one boy and three girls, and there will be between 800 and 1,000 swimmers there,” Wright says.
“Stevie” Stevenson McCulloch, 10, said he’s looking forward to the Washington meet because it will be the first time he competes in the 400 Freestyle. Wright has high hopes that McCulloch could qualify for AA or even AAAs at the event.
“Stevie’s coming out of everywhere. He surprises me at every meet. That’s not how he swims at practice. It’s a different side I never see until competition,” he said.
McCulloch said he plans to go out at a moderate pace to save his energy for the final stretch of the race.
“I’m going to take it easy until people start to pass me, then I’ll go harder,” he said.
Sydney Wetter, 13, also has high hopes for the Wenatchee competition. This year she’s been training six days a week, and she hopes that if she qualifies her parents will take her to the championships in Victoria, BC.
Her favourite race is the 100 backstroke. She’s hoping to best her current time of 1:22 and aims to finish at 1:16.
Wright said he’s excited by the prospects for his swimmers, and optimistic about the growth of the club.
“I feel like I’m making up for lost time,” said Wright, who founded the club five years ago but had to hand over leadership for a few years to seek work elsewhere. But for the last year he’s been back in Nelson, and he’s seen the club swell to record levels.
When he applied to Swim BC to start the team, he was surprised that they put him in charge of such a large region.
“They pretty much gave me the whole Central Kootenay region, from Creston to Grand Forks,” he said.
Wright ultimately aims to have “a squad in each town with a coach who lives in that town.”
Next year, he plans to start a squad in Castlegar and he wants to investigate starting a Master’s team for adults.
“There’s nothing really organized in this whole region,” he said. “And it’s not a question of demand. Parents, kids, everyone wants to be swimming and they want coaches. But right now there’s a bit of a lack of coaches in the area.”
The club currently has between 8 to 10 swimmers from Nelson, 15 from Castlegar and a number who have dropped in randomly over the course of the year. In May they had 30 total.
Wright said he’s focusing his membership drive on younger kids, to get them hooked young. He said his goal is to have swimmers in the water from “cradle to grave.”