Okotoks swimmers come of age at nationals

Swimming: Foothills club brings home first national medals in the pool

By: Remy Greer

  |  Posted: Wednesday, Aug 06, 2014 01:23 pm

Foothills Stingray Layne Guidinger climbs to the podium after winning the gold medal in the 50m backstroke at the Age Group Canadian Championships in Winnipeg.
Foothills Stingray Layne Guidinger climbs to the podium after winning the gold medal in the 50m backstroke at the Age Group Canadian Championships in Winnipeg.
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The Town of Okotoks is now firmly on the national swimming map.

Layne Guidinger’s national gold medal performance in the 50m backstroke kickstarted a historic week of results at the Age Group Canadian Championships in Winnipeg as the Foothills Stingrays produced their first five podium finishes in the pool in club history.

“It gives me confidence for next nationals so that I can get more gold hopefully,” said Guidinger, a St. John Paul II Collegiate student. “It’s a good start because that was our first gold medal for our club at nationals. That’s pretty awesome, I was pretty excited and hoping I could do that.”

Ranked first in the 50m swim heading into nationals and in the poll position after the preliminary race in the morning, the 14-year-old heeded the advice of head coach Todd Melton to remain underwater off the start to gain the early advantage in the sprint to the other end of the pool.

“Todd told me to have a good start and keep my underwaters strong and just sprint for it,” said Guidinger. “I definitely got ahead in my underwater because that’s my strong point and other people don’t usually have that.”

Few racers share the Okotokian’s competitive drive either, especially in crunch time.

“Layne, what she does best is she races well,” Melton said. “You put her in a medal position and I don’t really have to worry about anything. I know she’s going to perform to her best.

“It’s a 50, you don’t have much to think about. If you screw up then unfortunately the race is over, but if do all the little things right then you’ll have a great race – that’s what she did.”

The first of several great races from the Foothills contingent.

Thirteen-year-old Justin Lisoway shook off an inauspicious start to his week in Winnipeg with a breakthrough bronze medal in the gruelling 400m IM just edging out teammate Finlay Knox to get on the podium.

“That’s probably the first of many national medals for me in the future. It was just a milestone,” Lisoway said. “After the race I was able to look back on all my training and just know it was worth it.

“That really takes the pressure off … The first couple days I really felt intimidated by the rest of the competition and after that first medal, that first reassurance that I’ve done the work it gave me confidence to do well in the rest of the meet.”

He would add silver in the 200m IM, an exhausting race ending in a photo finish with little separating first from last, and produced another bronze by shocking himself in the 50m butterfly – an event he wasn’t expected to even final in.

“He just did everything I said for the race perfectly,” Melton said. “How Justin gets there is he works his butt off in practice. It’s all hard work and listening to the right things.

“He’s a very driven boy.”

The Edison School student watched some good old-fashioned tape of Olympic open water competition to prepare for what would be his final medal-winning race in the Keystone Province. Using a drafting technique, Lisoway patiently waited for a last-second dash to grab the silver.

“To think you’re the first of a couple kids to come out of Okotoks that have ever won a medal at nationals in the pool, it’s special and something to remember,” he said. “In the future we will get faster and be able to rake in more podium finishes.”

Elsewhere at nationals, Jotham D’Ailly established two new club records, Megan Deering was 10th in the 200m breaststroke in her first nationals, Carly Ede was 16th in the 50m backstroke, Knox contributed three top-six finishes, debutante Kennedy Loewen set an overall club record and Michael McMahon added two top-20 results. The Stingrays’ groundbreaking week in Winnipeg came about organically as a result of a newly implemented training regimen and a culture of winning that’s beginning to blossom out of their home base at the Riley Minue Pool.

Foothills’ best prior results were a pair of bronze medals in the 2.5km open water swim, most recently by Keely Greenfield in 2010.

“They’re starting to get the confidence by seeing races that are done at provincials and now that we’ve got medals at the national level the ball is just going to keep rolling,” Melton said. “These kids are super close as a group and I think that’s one of, if not, the biggest reason we’re doing so well.

“In Vernon we had quite a few Olympians come out of that small pool and every day you would see those banners of kids who made it the Olympics. That breeds confidence,” the coach added. “Now these younger kids are coming up and seeing Justin and Layne and these other kids do so well at that level and then they think they can do it.

“We’ve finally created the culture I’ve been going for for six years.”

Bronzed in Winnipeg

Fourteen-year-old Okotokian Tanner Potaka surprised even himself when he landed on the podium at the Age Group Canadian Championships.

Potaka took home the bronze in the 200m breaststroke, posting a five-second improvement on his preliminary morning swim, in Winnipeg.

The longtime Okotoks Stingray made the jump to winter swimming with the Calgary-based Killarney Swim Club two years ago to test out his ample potential in the pool.

Wise choice.

“I wasn’t expecting to medal in that, (200m breaststroke) wasn’t really my best even going in. I was looking to medal in 50 back which I didn’t even end up getting into finals,” said Potaka. “I remember swimming it and going all out, as hard as I can because I knew how much I wanted to get that medal.

“It feels pretty cool just to know that you’re one of the first people to do it here in Okotoks.”


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