It was a successful weekend for UBC’s varsity swimming team as they brought home both the men’s and women’s Canada West championships from Edmonton.
In his first season as head coach, Steve Price was happy he was able to continue the Thunderbirds’ winning tradition.
“The expectation of me coming in here was not only that could I try to bring the program up, but also recapture the dominance that we had in the 90s,” he said.
UBC topped the women’s standings with 949 points to University of Calgary’s 830, while the men’s team had 861 points to the University of Alberta’s 744. Each team has now won two consecutive Canada West championships.
Savannah King was named athlete of the meet after winning three gold medals, one silver and one bronze. Martha McCabe, who is preparing for the Olympics in London this summer, beat her own record in the women’s 200 metre breaststroke. She finished with a time of 2:22.40, which beat the record she set last year of 2:22.57.
“Martha McCabe is by far our number one prospect. It’s great that she’s using the university season as a launching point into her Olympic year,” said Price. He also noted the contributions of the team’s rookies, with first-year Rebecca Terejko winning a silver medal.
At the end of the competition, Price won the women’s coach of the year award. “I really appreciated that. It’s a selection by your peers, so for those guys to recognize the work I’d done with the women’s team was pretty special,” he said.
On the men’s side, Tommy Gossland was the stand-out, winning seven medals, six of them gold. Gossland also set a new Canada West record in the men’s 100 metre freestyle with a time of 49.28, besting Chad Hankewich’s University of Calgary record of 49.46 set in 2007.
“To get on the podium for all seven events is pretty amazing,” said Price.
Gossland joined Kelly Aspinall, Rory Biskupski, Craig Brazier and Duncan Furrer as the men’s Canada West all-stars. Brittney Harley, Savannah King, Heather MacLean, Martha McCabe, Fionnuala Pierse, Grainne Pierse, Rachelle Salli and Tera Van Beilen were named to the women’s all-star team.
The goal for the Thunderbirds now is to win on the national stage at the CIS championships in Montréal, held February 23-25.
UBC last won the women’s national championship in 2009, while the men haven’t won since 2008. Both national titles have since been in the hands of the University of Calgary, and the challenge will now be to reclaim them.
“Calgary’s still a really strong team, and the next step is to take the results from CanWest and try to take the championship,” said Price.
“It’s a different meet. When you have the entire country there, it’s a little harder to get the points and a little harder to get on the podium. So you really have to be on your game, especially on the relays.”
And while Martha McCabe—Canada’s 2011 female swimmer of the year—has all but booked her ticket to London, there are a few other members on UBC’s swim teams that have goals that go beyond the national level.
On the men’s side, Tommy Gossland and Rory Biskupski both hope to represent Canada at the Olympics. As well, the men’s team has pair of imports looking to make a splash at the international stage; Duncan Furrer and Kevin Chu are both vying to represent Switzerland and China, respectively.