Those 4 summers as Head Coach went by so fast! It feels like yesterday when I was walking on deck as head coach for my first day. I was so nervous and I just wanted to make the swimming experience for these kids as good as I remembered it growing up. Summer swimming in Lethbridge seemed to have lost relevance. The once Provincial power-house was finishing way off the podium at the provincial stage and the amount of older (15-17) swimmers in the club had plummeted.
My main mission over my last four years was to make swimming a fun place for these kids to come to everyday. I wanted swimming to be something that these kids would go home and talk about every night, and look forward for big events. Along with the help of an amazing coaching staff and supportive board, I am glad to say that we achieved this goal! Over the past 4 years we’ve increased average meet attendance at each meet, we’ve increased our members number from 116 (2015) to 171 (2019), we’ve gone on a region-f winning streak of 39-meets spanning 4 and a half seasons, doubled our ASSA Provincials attendance, improved our Provincial ranking from 7th (2015) to 2nd (2018 and 2019), kept swimmers in the club to an older age pushing us to create a second senior group, and much more. In my first year as Head coach, the oldest swimmer in my senior group was 15 years old. This year, my senior group included 16 swimmers who were aged 15&O. Of those 16 swimmers, 8 of them either graduated high-school or aged-out of ASSA this summer. This senior group retention stat is one of the things that I am proudest of during my time as Head Coach. I want to give a special thanks to each and every member of my Tier I group who kept coming back. I loved coaching you guys so much and I loved seeing you grow and mature. I hope many of you will stick with swimming and continue on to the next level.
My favourite moments have always been watching best time after best time at Regionals and Provincials. In all the meets I have both coached and competed at, the atmosphere at these two meets are almost unbeatable. Year-after-year, Orcas swimmers step up and create some amazing memories at these meets. I don’t know what will ever compare to that split second of coach-to-swimmer eye contact that happens immediately following a race.
(Photo Credit: Shannon Bos)
I cannot thank the board enough for all of their support over the past 4 summers. Carly Ginther puts so much time and effort in behind the scenes and this club would not function as smoothly as it does without her. I have also had to pleasure to work with members such as Kristy Togo, Drew Ginther, Chantelle Smith, Dave Lutterotti, Jason Pilsner, Julie Sisson, Shauna Armstrong, Sue Weighill, Keith Lundquist, Jen Vanden Elzen, Curtis Polec, Alanna Odorski, Kathy Kremenick, Sheldon Tymko, and so many more. For those who haven’t worked on the board, but volunteered at meets, you are also amazing! We need volunteers of all sorts of capacities for meets and seasons to be run successfully. I have seen a steady increase in parent volunteers from our club and hope that continues!
To the coaches I’ve had the honour to work with, thank you so much! I’ve loved every summer working alongside you guys! Coach Keeley and I are the only two that have coached all four years and she’s become invaluable to the club. She’s slowly taken over many administrative roles and have done them far better than I could ever imagine. Combine all the efforts we’ve put in with all the other coaches’ efforts (Josh, Steve, Caileigh, Aaron, Owen, Soleil, Kara, Taylor, Ardelle and Jenn) and we have really created something to be proud of.
Mentorship is something that cannot be overvalued. I would also like to thank Kent Aitchison. For those who don’t know Kent, he was one of my head coaches as I swam through the program. He was my role model and instilled a sense of fun and passion in the sport that would inspire my University and coaching careers in the sport of swimming. When I first started coaching, I would go through my archives to find all of his old emails. He was so organized and a real master of the keyboard. A large part of my success is due to Kent. He has continued to mentor me throughout my 4-years. He regularly stays in contact and also returns to Lethbridge to run Summit Swim Camps and mentor us coaches.
My parents obviously also deserve a huge thank you. They put me in swim lessons and swim club at a very early age as they did not want me to drown at a birthday party. Little did they know I would find one of my life’s greatest passions out of it. Thanks for having my safety at heart, driving me to countless practices and meets, and letting my love for the sport develop naturally.
I also want to thank all of the other families in Region F. When you’ve been swimming for a couple years, you start recognizing regular faces on deck. People such as John Dozeman, Morgan Dozeman, Nanette Dupont, Steve Mowers, Keith Hopkins, Lyle Douglas, Lisa Sygutek, JoAnna Sutter, and so many more have been around volunteering and running these meets for years. Without your continued support, we wouldn’t have a place to make such amazing memories.
I’ve loved every minute of coaching this club. Summer Swimming, either swimming or coaching, has been a main focus of mine every summer since I was 6 years old (2002-2019). I will always cherish the opportunity I was given to swim through the program and then have 5 years of coaching the club. Thank you so much for reading. I’m sorry if I missed anyone in these thank you’s. There has honestly been so amazing people who have made this an amazing ride. The Orcas are in great hands and I cannot wait to see what the team can achieve in the coming years.
The Orcas closed out a successful season at the 2019 ASSA Provincial Championships in Edmonton. After a fourth-straight undefeated season in Region F competition (region F winning streak = 39 meets), the Orcas looked to be competitive at Provincials. Last season (2018), the Orcas age-group team broke through in a big way, finishing 2nd at Provincials after a 5-year hiatus from the podium. This season, the Orcas proved that they are here to stay as they defended this position from last season. The masters’ team also did very well as their 2nd place team finish secured the 4th-straight year the masters’ team has been in the top-2.
Only those who ranked in the top-2 of each event from Regionals qualified to swim at Provincials. This makes this meet highly competitive to compete at. In total, a club record 72 Orcas made the trip to Edmonton to compete in 2019. The Orcas have shown great growth over the past years. In 2016, the Orcas had 35 swimmers compete at Provincials to finish in 7th place. Four years later, the Orcas are more than doubling those numbers and are a very competitive team.
Jake Odorski (left) lit up the pool in Edmonton dropping huge best times in all four of his events. Cumulatively Jake dropped over 20 seconds at Provincials, and notably move up from a 5th place ranking to a 3rd place podium finish in two of his events. Jake is only 12, but he has a bright future in the sport. Hannah Lundquist (right) also dropped over 10 seconds in her 400m Free moving her from 13th to 8th, in her 200m Free she also was able to jump from 8th position up to 5th. It is position improvements like these that helped lead the Orcas to a 2nd place podium finish. (Photo credits: Steve Kwan
An absurd number of 71 medals were won by Orcas swimmers at the 2019 Provincials, 34 of which were gold. Below is a list of gold medalists from the Championship meet:
Josh Adams B18&O 100 Fly
Josh Adams B18&O 100 Free
Kira Armstrong G18&O 200 Free
Kira Armstrong G18&O 200 IM
Kira Armstrong G18&O 400 Free
Maddie Bennett G17&U 100 Back
Morgan Bos G17&U 100 Fly
Tyson Chomiak B17&U 50 Back
Tyson Chomiak B17&U 100 Free
Tyson Chomiak B17&U 50 Free
Tyson Chomiak B17&U 200 Free
Aaron Gamble B18&O 800 Free
Aaron Gamble B18&O 1500 Free
Riley Ginther G 8&U 25 Breast
Taylor Ginther G 10&U 50 Back
Taylor Ginther G 10&U 25 Back
Owen Guyn B18&O 100 IM
Owen Guyn B18&O 50 Free
James Kwan B18&O 200 Free
Zada McLean-Borggard G8&U 50 Breast
Bentley Togo B8&U 50 Breast
Bentley Togo B8&U 25 Breast
Bentley Togo B8&U 50 Free
Bentley Togo B8&U 25 Free
Jens Watt B17&U 50 Breast
T. Ginther, D. Letourneau, E. Pilsner-Roberts, S. Clamp G10&U 100 Medley Relay
M. Bennett, O. Bos, M. Bos, C. Vanden Elzen G17&U 200 Medley Relay
N. Suarez, K. Watt, K. Armstrong, S. Letourneau GOpen 200 Medley Relay
K. Armstrong, N. Suarez, S. Letourneau, K. Watt GOpen 200 Free Relay
D. Sheppard, J. Watt, D. Kindley, T. Chomiak B17&U 200 Medley Relay
J. Adams, J. Odorski, O. Guyn, J. Kwan BOpen 200 Medley Relay
J. Kwan, J. Adams, A. Gamble, O. Guyn BOpen 200 Free Relay
K. Weighill, R. Ginther, C. Pilsner-Roberts, B. Togo X8&U 100 Medley Relay
T. Chomiak, J. Watt, M. Bos, C. Vanden Elzen X17&U 200 Free Relay
Our male masters relay teams (left) accumulated some major points in the master’s division. In the Medley and Free Relays. The Orcas relays finished first and third in both relays contributing to the 2nd place overall master title. Walter Figueroa (right) made a last-minute decision to make the trek up to Edmonton, he made a huge jump in his 100m Free dropping 3 seconds and moving from 13th position to an 8th place scoring position. (Photo credits: Shannon Bos)
In addition to the 71 medals, Orcas swimmers were also able to attain 4 Provincial Records of the course of Regionals and Provincials. Provincial records that were taken down by Orcas swimmers over the championship season were:
M. Bennett, O. Bos, M. Bos, C. Vanden Elzen – Girls’ 17&U 200 Medley Relay – 2:06.40
D. Sheppard, J. Watt, D. Kindley, T. Chomiak – Boys’ 17&U 200 Medley Relay – 1:53.78
Owen Guyn – Boys’ Open 50 Free – 22.78
Owen Guyn – Boys’ Open 50 Fly – 25.30
Josh Adams – Boys’ Open 100 Free – 52.14
Very notably, an Orcas swimmer also won the ASSA Award of Excellence. This award is presented annually to the 15-17 male who accumulates the most points in his individual events at the ASSA Provincial Championship Meet. Tyson Chomiak earned this Award of Excellence as he won gold in all 4 of his individual races. He was also a member of 2 relay gold medals, one of which broke a provincial record. Tyson’s highlights came in the 50 and 100 freestyle events. He is now ranked 2nd All-Time in both events, with respectable times of 24.17 and 53.44 in those events. Tyson was the first ever male Orcas swimmer to ever win this award at Provincials.
Tyson Chomiak (left) was the recipient of the ASSA Award of Excellence. Tyson is the fifth Orca to win this prestigious award and the first male Orca to ever do so. The Orcas Boys 17&U medley relay team (right) consisting of Devlan Sheppard, Jens Watt, David Kindley, and Tyson Chomiak brought home the gold for the Orcas and set an ASSA Provincial record, one of the five Provincial records set by the Orcas in Edmonton this season. (Photo credits: Derek Chomiak)
Others considerably deserving of recognition include Orcas who won the Lethbridge Orcas Top Performance Awards. These awards are given annually to the top female and male Orca in each age group. The individual in each of these categories who earned the greatest amount of points in their individual events at Provincials receive this award. In the case an age group that did not have a swimmer score at Provincials, this award is given to the top scorer from Region F Regionals. This season, the top performers for the Lethbridge Orcas were:
G6&U: Kylie Kozub
G7-8: Zada McLean-Borggard
G9-10: Taylor Ginther
G11-12: Hannah Lundquist and Lily Petry
G13-14: Ava Caputo
G15-17: Olivia Bos
G18&O: Kira Armstrong
B6&U: Reid Pinder
B7-8: Bentley Togo
B9-10: Wesley Cummins
B11-12: Jake Odorski
B13-14: Ben Adserballe
B15-17: Tyson Chomiak
B18&O: Owen Guyn
The Lethbridge Orcas have become one of the strongest summer swim clubs in Alberta. At the 2019 ASSA Provincial Championships, both the age-group and masters’ teams finished 2nd for the second year in a row. (Photo Credit: Derek Chomiak)
The 2020 Orcas season will start on May 1st. Registration will be announced later this year and will take place in early April. You don’t want to miss out on what seems to be a tsunami of momentum!