TORONTO-The 40-member Commonwealth Team selection added to the importance of these 1998 Summer Nationals. Although six swimmers were pre-selected based on their performance at the World Championships from last January, the competition for the 34 available spots was close. Highlights were the two Canadian backstroke records by Kelly Stefanyshyn, 16, Canadian Kodiak SC, the dominance by Pacific Dolphins, winning the overall team title as well as the men's and women's team titles, and 13-year-old Courtney Chuy's win in the women's 200 breaststroke.
Because the meet ended Saturday, CBC could broadcast the competition the next day across the country, giving the sport valuable exposure.
In women's 200 freestyle, Jessica Deglau, 18, PDSA, took the lead in the final 50 metres and clocked a personal best 2:01.32. Laura Nicholls, 19, ROW, was second in 2:02.41 and Joanne Malar, 22, HWAC, third in 2:02.57.
"It's a race that I look forward to," said Deglau, better known as the Canadian record holder in the 200 butterfly. "It's an event that I hope that maybe I can bring to the same level as my butterfly. It's been developing really well over the last two years."
Nicholls took the lead for the first three lengths, with Malar moving in the lead after the 150, but Deglau finished strongest.
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The top three were pre-selected and Andrea Schwartz got her first toehold on a team spot.
In the men's 200 freestyle, Mark Johnston, 18, PDSA, won the Canadian title for a third straight time since last year's Summer Nationals. The race was against the clock as Johnson had a body-length lead at the 100, and moved away from the rest of the field. His winning time of 1:50.54 was an almost two-second improvement over his previous best.
In the women's 100 backstroke, Kelly Stefanyshyn, 16, CKSC, with a winning time of 1:02.57, bettered the previous record of 1:02.75 set by Julie Howard of BRANT, in August 1995. She also improved on her personal best time by over a second. Erin Gammel, Kamloops Classic, was second in 1:03.84 and Nikki Dryden, PDSA, was third in 1:03.87. Stefanyshyn was second at the 50 with 30.85. Gammel had a slight advantage, turning first with 30.79.
"I never expected to swim that fast," said Stefanyshyn, who's looking to do the same in the 200 backstroke, which is her best event. "I just wanted to not take it out too fast and save enough energy for a strong finish. That's what I'd been doing in training and the times coming into this meet were very good." She was inspired to swim watching Mark Tewksbury win the 1992 Olympics. And in 1995, at age 13, she wiped off the blocks for Julie Howard when she set the previous Canadian record in the event.
In the men's backstroke, Chris Renaud gave signs of a return to form with a fast winning time of 55.48, a personal best. At the midpoint he was third with 27.33, with Chris Sawbridge, 18, NRST, in the lead with 27.25. Sawbridge finished second with 56.20. World Championships silver medallist Mark Versfeld, 22, PDSA, was pre-selected and finished fourth.
Joanne Malar, in her second final of the evening, came back to win the 400 individual medley in 4:46.06, her 19th career national crown. Liz Warden, 20, COBRA, took the silver in an impressive 4:48.18 and Kristy Cameron, 16, GMAC, third in 4:50.97. For Warden, it was a big improvement over her previous best from 1995 of 4:53.75. It earned her a spot on her first major games team.
Cameron has been improving with every swim. First under five minutes only last May, she did not even swim in this event a year ago. In the men's 400 individual medley, Curtis Myden, 24, UCSC, fell just short of his national mark of 4:16.28, clocking 4:16.82. With Myden giving up on the Commonwealth Games, the race for team spots was between Owen von Richter, 23, ESWIM, and Philip Weiss, 18, IS.
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After missing the Olympic team, von Richter, plagued with respiratory problems throughout his career, earned a spot to Kuala Lumpur, with Weiss also joining the team.
Canadian Kodiak SC (Kelly Stefanyshyn, Riley Mants, Amy Simpson, and Marylyn Chiang) won the women's relay in 1:56.54 over Calgary's UCSC, 1:56.59, which included Olympic champion Penny Heyns swimming the breaststroke leg. In third was Manta Swim Club with 1:56.82.
Calgary won the men's relay in Canadian record time of 1:41.03. The team was composed of Chris Renaud, Russell Patrick, Curtis Myden, and Etienne Caron.
Joanne Malar won the women's 400 freestyle in 4:14.28. Jessica Deglau of Vancouver made a late charge in the final length but settled for second in 4:15.80 and Andrea Schwartz of Regina was third in 4:17.56.
"I always considered myself an IM swimmer," Malar said. "I started to do the freestyles recently to help with the IMs. In tonight's race I felt really in control. It went exactly the way I wanted it to." Malar moved to Calgary's National Sport Centre last spring and has been training with Jan Bidrman. She will be competing in her third Commonwealth Games.
In the men's 400 freestyle, Mark Johnston, 18, PDSA, won his second Canadian title in two days with a personal best of 3:54.89. Mike McWha, 21, OSC, was second in 3:57.93 and Brent Sallee, 21, PDSA, was third in 3:58.89.
"It took a lot of mental focus, and to win both events at Nationals, it was a big goal of mine." Johnston said. "I wasn't feeling all that great tonight."
The selection time was 3:54.14.
It was an easy win for World bronze medallist Lauren van Oosten, 19, UCSC, leading the race from the gun (32.93 split) with a time of 1:09.92. Impressive in second was 13-year-old Courtney Chuy, HYACK, with 1:10.31, and veteran Lisa Blackburn, 26, NKB, was third with 1:11.06, a personal best.
Curtis Myden stole the men's breaststroke as the front-runners faded at the finish. Myden's winning time was 1:03.31. Andrew Chan, 19, ESWIM, who was in the lead with 15 metres left, faded to second in 1:03.89 and Jason Flint, 21, UNATT, was third with 1:03.91. Morgan Knabe, 17, EKSC, was actually third with 1:03.52, but was disqualified for a dolphin kick off the turn.
Jessica Deglau made it look easy. Only sixth at the 50 (29.47) she won with 1:01.66. Sarah Evanetz, 23, PDSA, the early leader (28.54) was second with 1:02.20. The next six finalists were under 1:03 in a very close finish.
Garret Pulle, 20, PDSA, smashed his personal best time by nearly a second with a winning time of 53.69 (25.32 split). Stephen Clarke of Brampton, 25, COBRA, the early leader (24.94 split), was second in 53.88 and Shamek Pietucha, 21, PDSA, was third in 54.12.
"I went for it," said an emotional Pulle, 20. "I felt I was really prepared both mentally and physically and I stayed relaxed. Making the Commonwealth team was a big dream of mine. Two years ago I was pretty much out of swimming but I never gave up."
A Canadian record was set for the women as PDSA won with 3:49.21 (Marianne Limpert, Kate Brambley, Sarah Evanetz, Jessica Deglau). COBRA (Thomas Zochowski, Robbie Taylor, Alex Shleifman, Stephen Clarke) won the men's free relay with 3:25.78.
It was no fluke in March when Kristy Cameron, 17, GMAC, won the 200 IM. In what was a surprise, she came from behind, as veterans Marianne Limpert, 25, PDSA, who went out hard and faltered at the finish to finish third, and Joanne Malar, 22, HWAC, couldn't hold off Cameron, finishing second.
"I thought a lot about winning this race, although I'm still surprised," said Cameron. "I didn't sleep that much last night. It's intimidating to swim against Joanne and Marianne and I'd never been that nervous for a race. But I approached it as basically four separate sprints and went all out on every stroke."
In the men's I.M. Curtis Myden had no challengers. It was a routine win in 2:01.61, with Owen von Richter, 23, ESWIM, second in 2:03.68, and Phillip Weiss, 18, IS, third in 2:04.82, battling for team spots.
Laura Nicholls, 19, ROW, tied the Canadian record, clocking 25.90 her fastest time since a 25.92 qualified her for the 1996 Olympics. Shannon Shakespeare, 21, MM, who holds the existing record, was second in 26.03 in her first race since March, and Nicole Davey, 19, COBRA, was third in 26.28.
"It's been a bit frustrating to wait that long to get back to that kind of time," said Nicholls. "It's important to anticipate the start which I didn't do very well in the heats."
Stephen Clarke, 25, COBRA, won his 15th career national title but his first in the men's 50 freestyle prevailing in a three-way race in 23.24. Ryan Laurin, 23, WVOSC, was second in 23.32 and Yannick Lupien, 18, GO, was third in 23.38.
Kelly Stefanyshyn, 16, CKSC, withstood a strong challenge from Vancouver's Nikki Dryden, 23, PDSA, 2:14.17 to 2:14.86, to erase the existing Canadian record. The old mark of 2:14.23, set by Cheryl Gibson of Edmonton, had lasted since August 1978. Dryden clocked a personal best time for the first time in six years for the silver and Andrea Schwartz, 21, UCSC, was third in 2:18.30.
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"It's just a great record. I don't think my parents were even married back in 1978," said Stefanyshyn, who bettered the 100 backstroke Canadian record earlier in the meet. "I'd been thinking about it since May when I came close at the Canada Cup meet. I'm hopeful that I can break the record again at the Commonwealth Games and also bring home a medal."
Chris Renaud, 21, UCSC, added the 200 backstroke gold with 2:00.69 over Greg Hamm, 22, PDSA, second in 2:00.89 and Dustin Hersee, 22, PDSA, third in 2:01.64. Pre-selected to the Commonwealth Team, Mark Versfeld, the current record holder and World Championships bronze medallist, swimming through the meet, was fourth in 2:02.32.
Pacific Dolphins set a new club record in winning the women's free relay with a time of 8:17.92,(the old record was 8:20.27). The team was composed of Kate Brambley, Jessica Deglau, Tamee Ebert, and Marianne Limpert.
A visiting team from France won the men's relay in 7:31.53, with Calgary Swimming second in 7:33.83 and Pacific Dolphins third in 7:36.63.
Joanne Malar, 22, HWAC, took the lead from the start and was never challanged. In the early part of the race, Lindsay Beavers, 17, STARS, was in second but she eventually was passed first by Tamee Evert, 15, PDSA, who finished second with 8:46.70 and Andrea Schwartz, 21, UCSC, third with 8:50.13. Beavers was fourth with 8:52.64. Malar's gold was her third of the four-day championships and gave her the top female performer award.
The women's 100 was an easy win for Laura Nicholls, 19, ROW, taking the lead at the start, turning first at the 50 (26.78) and coming home with 56.30, a personal best. Shakespeare, 21, MM, was second with 56.45 and Nicole Davey, 19, COBRA third 56.79, her first sub-57-second 100 free.
In the men's 100 freestyle, Stephen Clarke, 25, COBRA, fell short in his bid to become the first Canadian to go under 50 seconds. He still won the race in 50.27 for a 16th career Canadian title. Clarke made another stab for the record in a swim-off against England's Sion Brinn, but fell short again with a 50.24.
"I'm a little disappointed tonight," said Clarke. "I was out a lot slower than normal. I just made a tactical error. I'd been swimming good all week and I really focused on this event. At the Commonwealth Games I'll be forced to go under 50 if I want to challenge for a medal."
Craig Hutchison, 23, PCSC, was second in a lifetime best of 50.83. Robbie Taylor, 17, COBRA, who reached the finals after having to swim-off Garrett Pulle, 20, PDSA, finished third with 51.42, earning a spot on the Commonwealth Team. He was the only 17-year-old among the top 16 finishers.
In the women's 200 breaststroke, Courtney Chuy, 13, HYACK, stunned experienced veterans Christin Petelski, 21, IS, an Olympic finallist, and Lauren van Oosten, 19, UCSC, a bronze medallist from last January's World Championships in the 100 breast, with her 2:29.18. It was six-second drop from her previous best.
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"My times had been coming down in training but I'm really surprised," said Chuy, whose previous best was 2:35.08. "My strategy is usually to stay within a certain distance at the start of the race so I don't have to catch up too much."
Curtis Myden of Calgary won his fourth gold medal of the meet taking the men's 200 breaststroke in 2:17.50 and was named the top male swimmer of the meet. Andrew Chan, 19, ESWIM, was in the lead for most of the race, but was caught by the experienced Myden with 15 metres left in the race. Chan finished second with 2:17.95. Michel Boulianne, 20, CSQ, touched third with 2:18.16, just ahead of Jason Flint, 2:18.20. Morgan Knabe, 17, EKSC, with the fastest in-season time of 2:16.93 when he won Winter Nationals, was fifth with 2:18.44, and missed selection to the Commonwealth Team.
Jessica Deglau of Vancouver earned a third gold medal taking the 200 butterfly in 2:12.20. The 18-year-old now has 11 Canadian championships.
Shamek Pietucha, 21, PDSA, won the men's 200 butterfly in 2:00.81 leading the race from start. Philip Weiss, 18, IS was second with 2:01.33 amd Doug Wake, 21, ROD, was third with 2:02.47. All three earned a team spot.
Four swimmers battled for the lead for the first 600 metres. Brent Sallee, 21, PDSA, gradually moved into the lead, with training-mate Tim Peterson, 19, PDSA, close behind. Sallee won with 15:36.86 to Peterson's 15:40.24 and Michael McWha, 21, OSC, was third in 15:42.24. Mark Johnston, winner of the 200 and 400 freestyles, missed out on a medal.
Peterson improved almost 20 seconds from a year ago. Sallee and Peterson have been training together daily for the past eight years.
The fifth Canadian relay record of the meet was set by the Canadian Kodiak SC of Winnipeg in the women's 4X100 medley relay as Kelly Stefanyshyn, Riley Mants, Amy Simpson, and Marylyn Chiang clocked 4:12.93. The previous standard of 4:13.40 was established by Etobicoke Swimming in 1988.
Calgary Swimming won the men's relay with 3:45.86, beating out the A and the B team from Pacific Dolphins.