The golden age of Dinos swimming continues

By Rhiannon Kirkland

Going into any meet, the pressure of being defending champion is high, but the Dinos swim teams more than lived up to expectations last weekend. They defended both of their national championship titles to give the Dinos their first two CIS banners of the year.

The Dinos women pulled away early taking a dominant lead on Thursday night and carried their momentum through to the last race on Saturday, where they won the team event with 778.5 points. The University of British Columbia took second with 648.5 points and the University of Toronto finished third with 341. This is the third straight national championship for the Dinos women.

“It was pretty dominant,” said Dinos swimming head coach Mike Blondal. “UBC had beaten us at the conference meet. I knew we had the swims in our team, I just wasn’t very sure what UBC had. It was fast on the first day. It was pretty clear that our team was firing pretty well so I felt pretty confident about our girls throughout the whole meet.”

The men’s race was much closer coming down to the wire. The Dinos led UBC by 3.5 points at the end of competition on Thursday, but UBC bounced back to take a 9.5 point lead over the Dinos at the end of Friday. The Dinos pulled away on Saturday to finish with 543.5 points to UBC’s 493. Laval finished third with 397 points.

“We counted numbers an awful lot throughout the meet,” said Blondal. “We figured that by Friday night if we were within 35 points of them we could beat them. We ended up being within nine points on the second night so felt that if we had a good morning on the Saturday that we could do it. We knew that our best day was our last day so we had some strength on our last day, that we just had to execute better. You have to make every swim count.”

Dino Erica Morningstar was named female CIS swimmer of the year. Morningstar won four individual medals at this year’s event and has won 20 of 21 individual and relay events she competed in at the last three CIS championships.

“She’s a real racer and a real competitor and she’s a very valuable team person,” said Blondal.

University of Victoria Vike Ryan Cochrane — who won a bronze medal at the Beijing Olympics — was named the male swimmer of the year and male rookie of the year.

Dino Jason Block swept the three breaststroke races for the second year in a row. He set a new CIS record in the 50-metre backstroke with a time of 27.36.

“He got better as the meet went along, he got a bit faster,” said Blondal. “On the last day I knew in the morning that he was going to be pretty fast because his warm was real fast and I hadn’t seen that from him.”

David Dmititrov placed second in the men’s 1500-metre free (15:30.33), men’s 400-metre free (3:51.12), men’s 200-metre fly (1:59.69) and men’s 400-metre individual medley (4:17.33).

Seanna Mitchell won gold in women’s 100-metre free (54.72) and women’s 100-metre fly (1:00.98) and Allison Long took first in women’s 50-metre breast stroke (30.91).

The women’s team, composed of Erica Morningstar, Bethany Flemington, Fiona Doyle and Seanna Mitchell, won the 4×100-metre free relay on Thursday with a time of 3:41.03 with the University of Laval Rouge et Or (3:46.04) coming in second and UBC (3:46.04) third.

The Dinos men’s team (3:17.93) didn’t have the same luck as the women and narrowly finished second in the 4×100 metre free relay behind rival UBC (3:17.83) with Laval (3:19.14) coming in third.

“They’re huge points and they’re huge emotional turning points at the swim meet,” said Blondal. “Losing that relay on the first night was, you know, the [men’s] team could’ve gone either way right. It was emotional. They knew that wasn’t our strength, our strength was in the next two relays, the more distance and IM-based races and so they just kind of brushed it off and off they went.”

The Dinos women (8:05.63) won the 4×200-metre relay on the second day with a decisive six second lead over UBC (8:11.44) with Victoria (8:16.49) finishing third. The Dinos men (7:17.97) beat Laval (7:19.62) in a close 4×200-metre free relay with Toronto (7:21.30) coming in third.

The Dinos again proved dominant in the relays on Saturday, winning both the men’s and women’s 4×100-metre medley relays.

Dinos swimming head coach Mike Blondal was named CIS coach of the year in both the men’s and women’s categories.