RiverMonsters vie for provincial standards this weekend

While her swimmers compete at the Fraser Valley regional championships swim meet in Langley this weekend, RiverMonsters’ assistant coach, Anna-Lise Cooke will be jetting to Budapest, Hungary, to compete in the FINA World Masters Championships. (Barry Stewart photo)

Capping off their first season of competitive swimming, seven members of the RiverMonsters swim club headed to Langley this weekend for the Fraser Valley Regionals. This is the championship for summer swimming clubs in the valley and top finishes result in qualification for the provincial meet in Kamloops, Aug. 18-20.

“The goal is to get a podium finish, or meet the provincial standards — which are pretty fast,” said head coach Mike Freimark, last Monday. Even a fourth-place finish could still get a swimmer a ticket to the provincials, if it was fast enough.

“We’ve got one Div. 1 girl who swims up a division, to make the Div. 2 relay team work,” said Freimark. “They’ll have to compete against a larger range of girls this weekend but they’ve had two seconds and a third this year.”

He added, “We’ve really kind of shot off this year, with a core of three strong swimmers (Avery Loring, Violette Freimark and Danika Hope).”

Freimark said they will start their Winterfit sessions near the end of September. Competitive summer swimming rules only allow two hours of instruction per week, “Some kids like it more, because they get to focus more on their technique,” said Freimark. “We’re hoping others will want to join the winter sessions, even if they don’t want to compete in the summer.”

He’s also hoping that no one stays away because of a fear of competing.

“When you swim, you can’t see the other swimmers. You’re focused on the black line on the bottom of the pool — and the finish line. You finish the race and you look back at the clock and see if you improved your time. That’s the competitive aspect we encourage.”

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While the RiverMonsters head to Langley, their assistant coach, Anna-Lise Cooke, will be heading to Budapest, Hungary, to compete at her own swim meet. Cooke started swimming in Hope at age five, then swam as a Hope Otter, coached by the late Dan Sharrers till she was 15.

After a long hiatus, Cooke got back into the pool about three years ago and is training regularly near her home in Surrey. Last year, she took part in the Americas Games in Vancouver, where she won a bronze and three gold medals in the age 45-49 class.

“The 17th FINA World Masters Championships are taking place August 7-20,“ said Cooke. “It’s for water polo, synchro, diving, open water and swimming — and a total of 194 athletes from Canada will attend. I leave on the fifth, returning on the 21st, with five days of competition between the 14th and 20th.

“I’ve qualified for multiple events but have chosen to swim the 800 freestyle, 200 freestyle, 200 breaststroke, 100 breaststroke and 50 breaststroke.

“I’m pretty close to my Otters days’ times in the 50 freestyle and 50 breaststroke,” she figured. “I didn’t swim anything more than 100 metre events when I was younger but I’ve found that my endurance for the distance races is pretty good now.

“I was hoping to swim the 400 freestyle as well but because of scheduling conflicts, chose the 50 breaststroke instead. Competition in Europe is tough and there’s expected to be a very large USA contingent. The 800 freestyle will likely be my best event.”

“I was quite inspired by one of the RiverMonsters swimmers who recently swam a 200 IM (individual medley/ 50 butterfly, 50 backstroke, 50 breaststroke and 50 freestyle) in competition. I can quite easily swim the 100 IM but have been daunted by the thought of swimming the 50-metre butterfly. This year I’ve set the 200 IM as one of my competition goals, so once team training starts back up in September I will focus on that.

“I’m looking forward to the competition in Budapest, and am grateful for all of the positive encouragement I have received. It’s what has kept me on-track in training, during those days when I feel like I just don’t want to go to the pool and would rather sit at home on the couch and watch TV.”