TORONTO, Canada, March 7. FOR the seventh straight season, the UBC Thunderbirds are Canada's best in the pool.
Without the services of international standouts Brian Johns (Richmond) and Brent Hayden (Mission), the UBC men relied on depth in winning an unprecedented seventh consecutive CIS championship, while fourth-year captain Kelly Stefanyshyn (Winnipeg) headlined a dominant performance by the T-Bird women as they tied the 1987-93 University of Toronto Varsity Blues for most consecutive national titles won at the 2004 Canadian Intercollegiate Swimming (CIS) Championships hosted by the University of Toronto.
The meet was swum in a 25-metre pool.
Day 3 was highlighted by three CIS record-breaking swims, including the UBC women’s 4×100 medley relay team of Stefanyshyn, Caitlin Meredith (Kamloops), Stephanie Nicholls (Prince Rupert) and Mila Zvijerac (New Westminster), which touched in four minutes 6.47 seconds, smashing both the UBC school mark (4:09.52, 2001) and CIS mark (4:08.66, Calgary, 2003).
Stefanyshyn, who broke a CIS record in the 50-metre butterfly on Day 2 (27.21), added a silver in the 200 backstroke (2:10.70) on Sunday to finish with four individual and three relay medals, more total medals than any other T-Bird, male or female. Meredith also claimed four individual medals in the three-day meet, capped by a bronze in the 200 individual medley (2:17.37), an event won by teammate Michelle Landry (North Vancouver) in a personal-best time of 2:15.51.
The UBC women finished with 679 points, well ahead of closest rival Calgary (576.5), and collected a combined 14 individual medals (4-5-5) and three relay gold medals.
On the men’s side, 6-foot-10 freshman Desmond Strelzow (Toronto) took home rookie of the meet honours after a gold-medal performance in the 200 back on Sunday. The younger brother of UBC captain Jason Strelzow clocked a personal best 1:58.78 in the race and earlier won bronze in the 100 back at his first ever CIS championship.
Second-year T-Bird Matt Huang (Vancouver) completed the breaststroke hat trick with a silver in the 50-metre race (28.47). Huang earlier placed second in both the 100 and 200 breast.
UBC finished comfortably ahead of Calgary (521.5-479) despite being disqualified in the medley relay. The T-Birds collected just eight individual medals (1-3-4) and two relay medals, relying instead on strong finishes from all swimmers to score points. To put it in perspective, with Johns, Hayden and graduated Olympian Mark Johnston in the water last season, the UBC men won 14 individual medals, including nine of the gold variety.
Freestyler Justin Tisdall (Toronto), who won silver in the 100 free
(50.45) on Day 3, is the only graduating UBC swimmer on either team. The T-Birds entered this year's nationals with 12 rookies combined.
Top individual honours at the championships were swept by the University of Calgary. Erin Gammel, who earned her third gold medal on Sunday with a victory in the 200 back, claimed the women's swimmer of the year award. Earlier in the meet, Gammel broke two CIS records, winning gold in the 50 (28.05) and 100 back (59.74).
Gammel’s teammate Chad Murray captured five gold medals to earn the men's top honours. On Sunday, Murray finished first in the 200 IM (1.59.77), and he earlier won gold in the 50 and 200 fly, the 400 IM and swam the anchor leg in the Dinos' first-place finish in the 4×200 free relay.
Other Sunday highlights included Laval’s Sophie Simard, who used her final university swim to win gold in the 100 free (55.63), while McGill's Michelle Laprade raced to a new CIS standard in the 50 breast (32.01). Hometown favourite Jen Porenta finished second behind Simard in the 100 free and was named the women's rookie of the year.
The women's coach of the year award went to Calgary's Mike Blondal with the men's honour going to the Université de Montreal's Marc Déragon.
Also of note, the University of Victoria's Stephanie Dixon was recognized as an honourary All-Canadian after breaking two world records for a swimmer with a disability in her first CIS championship.