Hope RiverMonsters’ first meet a real hit

The event welcomed hundreds of people.

They came. They got wet. They towelled off.

In the meantime, over 200 young swimmers and their families had a great time in Hope, taking part in the town’s first swim meet in 12 years.

The fledgling RiverMonsters club hosted six other Fraser Valley clubs at the Dan Sharrers Aquatic Centre over the weekend starting June 9 — and the town kicked in with other activities to support the event.

“The whole weekend went amazingly well,” said club vice-president Catherine Freimark, last Monday.

“The camping was fantastic, with 22 tents, trailers and RVs in the area by the bike park. Lots of people stayed in motels, as well — but after seeing the camping, they said they’ll be camping next year.”

The weather was favourable for that Saturday’s community event at the main ball diamond, put on by Project Hope, though it wasn’t without a hitch.

“The dunk tank and the children’s sumo wrestling costumes were a real hit,” said Freimark. “It was too windy for the hot air balloon, though. They tried to set up for over an hour but it wasn’t safe enough. They didn’t even get the balloon out of the trailer.”

Mayor Wilfried Vicktor and Chilliwack-Hope MP Mark Strahl were on hand, that Saturday morning, for the official opening of the meet.

“People said, ‘Is that your MP? MPs never come to our swim meets,’ ” said Freimark, laughing.

“We heard that Barb Sharrers wanted to attend — the pool is named after her husband, after all — so we had her come with Keren Hasell and we had two chairs for them to sit on, in the crowd.

“Everybody came over to meet Mrs. Sharrers; former Otters and others who swam against Dan Sharrers’ Hope Otters teams,

“She teared up… and I teared up.”

“I was just thrilled to be there,” said Barb, “It took me back many years… brought back so many memories. You know, I used to type up the program for the meets on a typewriter and we ran them off on a Gestetner! Things have improved so much.”

The link back to the Otters club was deepened, when four swimmers from the North Delta Sunfish entered as independents. One of them was Taylor Saito, daughter of Hope Secondary grads Aaron and Kristina Saito (née Hayes.) Aaron swam for the Otters from 1979 to 1985, along with his sister Tammy and the Sharrers’ sons, Jay and Matt.

Taylor set three personal bests on the weekend and placed second in the 100-metre backstroke, at 1:25.42.

Olympic bronze medallist, Brent Hayden and his wife Nadina arrived on Sunday morning, intending to make a showing at the Lions’ pancake breakfast, “But he got swarmed in the parking lot,” said Freimark.

“At one point, we took a break in the meet, specifically for a whole group photo, outside,” she said. “We had close to 300 people, including all the officials, with Brent and Nadina in the middle.

“Brent presented his old Hope Otters trophy, (that he won when he swam in a meet at the old Centennial Pool) on loan for us to use in the trophy case. He said it was one of his favourite trophies.”

Notable RiverMonsters results from the weekend were:

• Danika Hope’s third-place finish in the 50-metre butterfly, at 51.41 seconds. This was the RiverMonsters’ first-ever podium finish.

• Violette Freimark’s six top-eight finishes.

• Payton Coburn, shaving 34 seconds off her personal best (PB) in the 50-Free.

• Second place in the Div 2 Girls 200-Free relay, at 3:46.20. Team members: Avery Loring, Sonia Au-Yeung, Violette Freimark, and Danika Hope.

RiverMonsters’ coach, Mike Freimark said, “It was a fantastic meet for our group, which included the North Delta Sunfish. There were a lot of personal best times.

“This was Nate Gould and Destiny Duvall’s first-ever swim meet and they both did exceptionally well. Violette was steadfast in her times and events and her attention to detail made her the most consistent top-eight finisher.

“Danika is proving to be a real power in the pool for the club. Avery set three PB times and is always improving herself. I was so impressed with her open turns, that I asked her to demo it in practice.

“Sonia, our youngest swimmer, is steadily improving and is a lot of fun to have around. Everyone loves the ‘Bug.’ Payton Coburn, Christopher Broswick, Brody Coburn, and Raya Ellen — the newest swimmers — continue to make strides in their swim techniques, improving meet to meet.

“It was Raya’s birthday on Sunday and not many kids get to say they had 210 swimmers and Brent Hayden at their birthday!” said coach Mike.