RiverMonsters make a big first impression

The Dan Sharrers Aquatic Centre was alive with 25 kids participating in an introductory swim and registration session

About 25 kids aged five to 17

Sunday, they made their first splash. Monday, they met to lay the groundwork for what could be a very wet summer.

The fledgling RiverMonsters swim club had an introductory swim and registration on Valentine’s Day at the Dan Sharrers Aquatic Centre, attracting 25 kids aged 5 to 17, from as far as Sunshine Valley and Boston Bar. Regional swim coach of the BC Summer Swimming Association, Travis Neill, was on deck to run kids through their paces. Helping out were Spartan swimmers Colten Petersen and Calvin Dumont-Belanger. Peterson is now swimming for SFU and will be attending the Olympic trials for Team Canada.

Hope has been without a competitive swimming program for a number of years and this caught the attention of Chilliwack resident Stu Leslie, who was vice president of the Chilliwack-based Spartans last year. His daughter Jean has been a competitive swimmer and is now helping the Spartans as a volunteer coach.

“I said there should be a club in Hope, so I got in touch with Milly Marshall (recreation director) and she helped incredibly,” said Leslie, Monday.

“The club’s name came from the back of my head,” he added, grinning. Intentionally, the word “Hope” is not used in the club name, as the goal is to serve the entire area from Boston Bar, Laidlaw and Sunshine Valley as well as Hope.

A meeting was then called in early January, with the hope of forming a locally-based executive.

Nineteen-year-old Isaiah Robinson jumped at the opportunity.

“I heard that Stu was trying to start up a swim club in town,” said Robinson, Monday. “Me being me, wanting to help our town and being passionate about helping others, I thought it would be nice to attend the first meeting to see if they needed anything. I was voted in as president that very night.”

Robinson gravitates to leadership roles. He is a graduate of the local army cadet program, finishing his four and half years with the title of rank of master warrant officer and company sergeant major of 1789 The Royal Westminster Regiment.

He’s on the leadership team of the Hope McDonald’s restaurant and he serves as a director for the Hope Chamber of Commerce in his spare time.

Robinson last swam for the Hope Otters in 2010 and he completed the junior lifeguard program.

“I want to build and help lead a great swim club — and also rekindle something I truly enjoyed when I was younger, said Robinson. “I wish for the future RiverMonsters to enjoy what I got to from swimming at summer meets. These are all great memories and experiences I wish for them to have, too”

At their executive meeting on Monday, the group discussed questions to put in an online survey that will soon be posted for parents whose children attended the Sunday swim session. They’ll use the feedback for planning of future events and for the coming swim seasons.

“Our target starting date is the beginning of March,” said Leslie. Before that, the club has to get its swimmers signed up and secure some coaches.

The club is looking at joining the competitive summer swim circuit, which allows off-season maintenance training sessions of one hour, twice a week, from September through April. Leslie said locally-hired coaches would be ideal for those months, due to their proximity to the pool.

“Right now, we’re looking at Tuesdays and Thursdays, 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.,” said Leslie.

Once the intensity ramps up to as many as five days a week, with up to 1.5 hours of daily training from May to July, coaches with a  higher-level of certification would be hired.

“We’re looking at registration costs of $350 to $400 for the entire summer season,” Leslie estimated. Local assistance and summer employment grants could help keep the costs down.

To contact the club, find the RiverMonsters Swim Club on Facebook, or e-mail the president at presidentrmsc@gmail.com or Catherine Freimark at freimark@telus.com.