Riverdale Collegiate Institute’s swim team overcame adversity and netted themselves five medals at this year’s OFSAA swim meet in Windsor.
From Feb. 27 to 28, 27 students from the Jones Avenue and Gerrard Street East school competed and finished seventh overall in the combined total.
Standing out among the team were Leah Russell of Grade 11 and William Valcic of Grade 10.
The aforementioned adversity was overcoming past disqualifications at the Regional and City championships earlier in February.
Coach Suzie Molnar lauded her charges for their willingness to learn and improve themselves over the course of the season.
“I never talk about medals,” she said, in an early March phone interview. “I’m very specific with technique and the details of the each of the events and the changeovers on relays and the most important thing, the breathing.”
Every team member came into practice at 6:50 am, three times a week for three and a half months.
“While all the other kids at the school were sleeping in these kids were coming in earlier,” Molnar added. “Their dedication and hard work has paid off tremendously.”
One of those team members was Russell, who learned to overcome her own anxiety leading up to OFSAA.
The 16-year-old had been disqualified in 2017 for a false start, but with two years’ experience, she’s learned to relax. It worked, as she earned two individual golds – one in the 50m Butterfly and another in the 100m Individual Medley.
“I got a got a gold last year in the relay, but these are my first two individuals. It was amazing,” she admitted, adding her sister, Emily, was her inspiration for this year. “I’ve always looked up to my sister, who also won at OFSAA. Last year, after (the false start), I was determined to win.”
For 2019, Russell is aiming to break the OFSAA records in both of her races. Her 2018 finish in the 100m Individual Medley (1:11.53) is only two seconds and change off the 1:09.27 result set in 1996 by Taryn Stratton of Aldershot. In the 50m Butterfly, she’s less than a second off the record of 29.47 with the 30.32 finish.
Molnar said that will take a lot of strength training.
“Now what we need to work on is the same number of strokes, but they have to be more powerful to reduce the time,” she said. “What it translates to, for example for the 50 Fly, if she had nine strokes on the first length, she’ll need the same number of strokes but increase the power and velocity.”
Russell is game.
“I’m definitely putting in a lot of work putting on muscle,” she said. “I’m going to the gym, focusing on my kick, and just working really hard for next year.”
Her third gold came from the 200m Medley Relay with teammates Megan Chan, Julie MacDonald, Kate Marr and Ottley Whitby.
Valcic earned two silvers, one in the 50m Butterfly as well for boys 14 and under. The other came in the under-14 200 Meter Freestyle Relay. He earned the latter with the help of teammates Samuel Cho, Kieran McSweeney and Phillip Truong.
As a final note, the senior high school girls team scores had an all Toronto podium, with Havergal College finishing first, Riverdale second and York Mills CI in third.
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