At a humid pool at the University of Toronto, Kate Lyne slaps her shoulders and shakes her head with steady focus, but staying loose as she prepares for a 50-yard backstroke sprint.
It’s the 2014 Ontario Cup, the last swim meet before the Feb. 7 provincial championships, and Lyne wants to make it count. A first-year member of U of T Blues, she has contributed to a team that has placed first over-all in 11 meets this season.
The women’s team is looking for its first provincial title since 2008. Beginning Feb. 20 in their home pool, the Blues will be in pursuit of their first national title since 1997.
Despite the challenges of adjusting to university academic life and a tiring athletic schedule, the alum of Rosedale Heights School of the Arts is persevering this season, winning her events in freestyle relay. Despite being the newcomer from down the street and finding herself among the best swimmers in the country, her 21 teammates have been more welcoming than intimidating.
“A lot of the times I’ve struggled a little because of adjusting, but after training camp I think we’re going,” Lyne said between events at the Ontario Cup in late January. “As a team, as a whole, we’re very strong into OUAs and CIS.”
A natural sprinter, Lyne began swimming competitively in Grade 9, specializing in short distance freestyle and backstroke events.
She was recruited by U of T coach Byron McDonald, who coached her mother, Mary, from 1982 to 1986.
McDonald says mother and daughter are genetically different swimmers though. Where Kate is a sprinter, Mary excelled in endurance events, helping the team win a national title in 1984.
“She’s what we call a drop-dead sprinter,” McDonald said of Kate. “She’s got a lot of fast-twitch fibre.”
He says he has also found her to be a quick learner and tenacious competitor.
A self-described underdog, Lyne attributes her successes to her mental toughness.
“I feel it’s a really tough thing to be able to control yourself,” she said, referring to taking constructive criticism and constantly working working at technique.
This season she has been remarkable, reaching nine podiums and winning twice: a 200 metre freestyle relay at the 2013 University Challenge Cup in November, and the 50-metre backstroke race in a mini-meet against McMaster.
As a sprinting specialist, Lyne continues to work at keeping a good pace through sprints while retaining the power she’s known for. McDonald now has her swimming at a consistent time in her events, and by championship time hopes she has a “big taper,” opening up her game and shaving seconds off her personal best.
“[In] my 50 freestyle I haven’t gotten my best time, but I’ve been able to maintain a solid time that was close to my personal best, which I find to be an accomplishment, rather than going up and down [in time]” Lyne said.
In the backstroke event at the Ontario Cup, Lyne thrashes through the water, without sacrificing form.
She will finish ninth in her event, but rises from the water with a smile on her face.Out of breath, but smiling.
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