Aidan Chudleigh has high hopes for his swim team this year, and for good reason.
The Fernie team has been moving up in the ranks over the past two years, and with high scores in last year’s provincial championships, the coach says there’s no reason why they shouldn’t make it to the national level.
“We’ve already had four girls qualify for provincials,” said Chudleigh. Last year, his team beat 39 of their own club records and this year are on track to beat even more. From last season, three of the swimmers ranked in the top 50 in Canada.
“The amount of success we’re having is amazing,” said the coach, who has been teaching competitive swimming for eight years in Australia. “We’re generally a small club.”
The competitive team ranges in age from six-years-old, to 16. Swimmers train in the mornings and evenings at the Aquatic Centre, before and after school.
“We definitely have some really competitive children,” said Emma Dressler, president of the swim club.
She says some of the girls, like Holly Soetaert and Olivia Howse are progressing well on their way to provincial championships this year, coming off of successful seasons last year.
“Things are happening at the club that we’ve never had happen before,” said Dressler, explaining that they recently received an invitation to a regional training camp for elite swimmers.
Over the past few years, the competitive swim team has grown in numbers, and so has the interest in general swimming lessons at the Aquatic Centre.
“For a town of 5,000—having 90 people, that’s massive,” said Chudleigh. He and three other coaches, Tara Beck, Junior Coach Mac Dressler and Jera Kipnik work with the teams which have been steadily growing in numbers over the past three years.
The club also encompasses the entire Elk Valley, with 12 swimmers training with Kipnik in Elkford on a regular basis.
While they are making strides in provincial standings; the club also has a very large group of non-competitive swimmers, who come to the Aquatic Centre for a whole host of reasons, from fitness, to learning how to swim and even improving confidence and self esteem.
“We just want everyone to know that they can come out and join too,” said Chudleigh. “We want to make swimming viable for everyone in the region.”
The club offers classes for adults wanting to improve their fitness, recover from an injury, and even to learn the basics of swimming.
As for the team, they are continuing to train hard in the winter before Provincials in March, which take place in Kamloops.
After that, they hope to make high enough standings to qualify for the National competition.
“It’s kind of surreal having this goal,” said Chudleigh. “People around the province are really recognizing us right now. They know our name.”