Two Fernie swimmers qualified for Nationals for the first time in club history. Submitted

Elk Valley swimmers dive into history books

In a historic tournament far away from home, two Fernie swimmers qualified for Nationals for the first time in club history.

Ten swimmers represented the Fernie Dolphins Swim club in the Manitoba/Saskatchewan provincial tournament held in Winnipeg, last weekend. In addition to the two historic qualifiers, the swimmers returned home with over 40 personal best times, as well as10 medals; six silver and four bronze.

Over 320 people competed in the tournament, also known as the 2019 MANSASK Long Course Championship.

This is a massive improvement from last year’s seven athletes that competed from the club, returning with two medals.

This year, Mac Dressler, Brock Tomlinson, Justice Sword, Leah Soetaert, Holly Soetaert, Olivia Howse, Clodagh Dressler, Avery Sikkes and Annika Fait represented the club.

“It’s the most we’ve ever had – 10 qualified to go,” said head coach Aidan Chudleigh.

Seven of the 10 made finals, representing B.C. at the tournament.

“Heats are in the morning then finals are at night. So say 100 people compete, only eight would make the final,” explained the coach.

“To win a medal you have to win in the finals.”

Howse and Leah Soetaert were victorious in the finals. Howse returned with three silver, one bronze. Leah returned with three silver and three bronze.

Both of these athletes qualified for nationals – the first swimmers from the Elk Valley to ever qualify for nationals.

“It’s really pleasing to see, just after their development over the last four years, (celebrating) the milestones, and this is a big one,” said Chudleigh.

“Being able to achieve a national standard means they’re at the highest level (in) the country. There will only be about 30 swimmers their age that achieve that time standard,” he said.

The two athletes set six national times, meaning they will compete at the national level in three events each.

This year, nationals are being held from July 24 to 26 in Calgary.

Chudleigh was ‘court-side’ as the girls competed in Winnipeg and said they were over the moon to find out they had qualified.

“They were over the moon – absolutely over the moon. They all took off massive amounts of time and did big personal bests to achieve the standards so they’re extremely happy.”

Stay tuned for coverage of nationals coming at the end of July.

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