Nearly 300 youths and their families showed up in Hope this past weekend for the third annual River Monsters swim meet. Chris Duchaine/Black Press

River Monsters attract nearly 300 swimmers to their two-day meet

This was the third year for the now-annual event

You know you’re doing something right, when your numbers are growing exponentially.

The Hope River Monsters swim club held their third annual swim meet last weekend, drawing 297 competitors from as far away as Kelowna. Last year, it was 255, and the first year was 200.

If you weren’t there, you can probably imagine the noise levels in the indoor Dan Sharrers Aquatic Centre, with supporters and coaches cheering on their swimmers from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday and Sunday.

Club president, Catherine Freimark said, “Barb Sharrers wasn’t able to attend, but I called her from inside, during the meet and she said, ‘I can’t hear you!’ Then I stepped outside and said, ‘That was what I wanted you to hear.’”

Sharrers’ friend and former Hope Otters swim club executive member, Keren Hasell, was able to attend the event, which featured a new piece of equipment that will enhance local meets for years to come.

“Fraser Health and the Sharrers family funded an aquatic scoreboard, which worked perfectly and was a huge improvement to the borrowed clock, hung from the rafters in the previous years,” Freimark said.

In the 1970s and 80s, the Otters Club put Hope on the map for summer swim meets, with families camping in the field behind the old Centennial Pool. The River Monsters are working to bring back that vibe and have been offering camping at their meets, along with food services.

“We had about 20 camping groups this year,” said Freimark, who had an RV near the pool all weekend with her family. “People love camping on that site. Others stayed at the Coquihalla Campsite, for the wi-fi.

“Saturday, the Lions Club did a pancake breakfast and hot dogs and hamburgers, then on Sunday, Rick MacClements ran the barbecue as a fundraiser for the club,” Freimark continued. “We even had (swim club dad) Stephen Au-Yeung of Hope’s McDonald’s flipping burgers on the barbecue.”

Freimark said the volunteer timers and other race officials had few breaks during their two days, so it was important to keep them supplied with refreshments. Stephanie MacClements led the refreshments crew, which got rave reviews, said Freimark.

Club parents are obliged to help at home and away swim meets — but Freimark said she was pleasantly surprised by the other help that arrived.

“We had the Hope Secondary band come by to help out,” she said. “They said they didn’t realize it was such a big event and they said they’ll be back next year. We also had other local people drop by and offer to help.”

While the meet was another success for the club, Freimark said there were mixed results for local swimmers.

“We had quite a few disqualifications,” she said. “I think the kids were excited about being at their home meet and they were making silly little mistakes. It was a good learning opportunity for them.”

Now that the club has 30 swimmers, added Freimark, “We can actually run some relay teams. Kids love the relays.

“Younger kids can swim up in higher age groups, so we have Violette (her daughter) in Div. 3, and Avery Loring and Danika Hope in Div. 4 swimming with Verena Brysch, who’s in Div. 6. They all have to swim in Div. 6 — and they came in second in the 200-metre medley, which was their best showing.

“And Eli Reist is sweeping the meets, with first place finishes in all events, in both Mission and Hope,” enthused Freimark.

Eli’s dad, Ben, is serving as assistant coach, working with head coach Mike Freimark, Catherine’s husband. Now joining the coaching team is Emma Link, who graduated from Hope Secondary last year and has been adventuring in New Zealand.

“She arrived back home on Saturday and was ready to go as an assistant coach on Sunday morning,” said Catherine.

The club’s next meet is in Langley on June 22 and 23, followed by Chilliwack on July 6 and 7. There’s also a possibility of attending the Merritt meet on the Canada Day weekend if enough parents are interested, added Freimark.


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