Competing against big city teams throughout interior and northern British Columbia, fifteen-year-old Leah Soetaert impressively nabbed a bronze medal in the 50 backstroke. “I was happy with the race,” says Soetaert. Though she quickly adds that the virtual event is not at all the same as a real meet. She’s a born racer and not being able to see the competition takes some of the fun and spark out of the swim meet experience.
Her teammates agree. Seven Dolphins qualified for the Divisional Championships and five of them earned spots in the final top eight, and while all were pleased with their performances, they do miss real competitions. Eighteen-year -old Brock Thomlinson, the only senior boy competing on the team, explains how hard it is to get psyched up for a race when he has nobody to race against, nobody to push him.
“You think that’s hard,” retorts his teammate, thirt een-year-old girl Carly Beck. “I had to race against him!” Beck also explains that with the Covid-19 rules, the swimmers weren’t allowed on deck between races. They had to sit in the warm pool, socially distanced. By the time their turn to compete came, they were hot and tired, not in top racing form.
“It’s the atmosphere, I miss,” laments Tatum Kipnik. “It’s not the same, just being at our home pool with no other teams.”
“It feels like a regular practice,” agrees Holly Soetaert, “not a real race.” She misses all the social aspects that came with travel to meets, the team bonding.
“I’m really proud of our swimmers,” says Coach Tara Beck. “The big success here is that they had these achievements – the best times, the top-eight finishes – despite all the accommodations we’ve made in training and competing.”
The club is proud of the stack of finalists. Leah Soetaert placed 3rd in 50 back, 5th in 200 IM, 6th in 100 fly, 7th in 100 breast, and 7th in 50 fly. Holly Soetaert placed 7th in 50 back and 8th in 100 free. Tatum Kipnik placed 5th in the 100 back. Brock Tomlinson placed 4th in the 50 fly, 4th in the 50 free, 6th in the 100 free, and 8th in the 200 free. Carly Beck placed 4th in the 50 free. Kiera Hansen and Jarren Beck did best times in their qualifying swims, the 50 fly and 50 back respectively.
Swim BC recently announced that there might be small outdoor meets allowed by the summer, and the Elk Valley Dolphins could not be more excited.