B.C. Covid restrictions let up just in time to allow the Elk Valley Dolphins to have a small outdoor gathering to celebrate the end of their season. President Wendy Howse drew on her inner camp counsellor to lead the swimmers (ages 7 through 18) in a series of balloon and water games at Rotary Park. After over a year of face masks and distancing and sanitizer and nonstop nagging, the swimmers all wore giant smiles at this reprieve of relaxed recreation in the fresh outdoors.
During the Dolphins’ two-month spring session, every Monday the swimmers received a new “word of the week” and the practices centred on the lessons of that word. For the younger swimmers, Coach Ashley Aplin focused the year-end awards on these words of the week.
For the word “intensity,” Aplin especially acknowledged the efforts of Adam Hayden, Brody Dubè, and Josie Howse, who worked hard every single practice. Eight-year-old Layla Rella won the award for “resilience,” since she continued to practice through an injury, restricted to kicking-only for weeks, and then healed well to put in a good performance at the final in-house meet. The “teamwork” award went to Atley Nelson for her excellent, consistent support of her teammates. Under the category of “commitment,” Aplin celebrated the achievements of Luther Sawatsky, Penny Lewis, and Cadence Prefontaine. Maddie Engfield won the award for “confidence,” and Mayah Baddeley was awarded a certificate in appreciation of her “excitement” for swimming.
In the senior category, seven swimmers won awards. The four graduating swimmers – Brock Tomlinson, Holly Soetaert, Tatum Kipnik, and Luka Cigler – were celebrated for the tremendous accomplishment of swimming straight through grade twelve, while maintaining jobs and good grades. The club thanked them for being outstanding role models to the younger Dolphins, both in and out of the pool.
Fifteen-year-old, Leah Soetaert won the Top Performer Award. The 2020-21 season challenged this meet-loving swimmer who thrives in the big competition environment. Despite that adversity, Soetaert consistently led the Dolphins in rankings and achievement – winning a medal at the virtual Winter Divisional Championships, qualifying for provincials, winning a medal at the Wavemaker Virtual Meet, consistently leading the team in the Swim BC challenges, and qualifying for nine events at the virtual Summer Divisional Championships.
The True Grit award, which acknowledges outstanding work ethic, went to sixteen-year-old Kiera Hansen, who never missed a practiced, pushed herself in every set, undertook extra dryland training, and strove to continually improve and perfect her technique. Hansen’s efforts were rewarded with best times at every one of the team’s in-house time trials.
There was stiff competition for the Most Improved Swimmer award, but the clear winner was Abbi Wannamaker. The strides Wannamaker made in the pool this year are truly remarkable, and the Dolphins coaching staff is keen to see what this young swimmer can do next year.
The Dolphins are offering a summer swim camp – with Olympian participation – during the last week of July, and then the club will break for the Fernie Aquatic Centre’s annual maintenance shutdown in August. Coaches cannot wait to see swimmers of all levels and ages back in the pool – and at meets! – in September.