VANCOUVER, Canada, February 20. THE 2009 CIS swimming championships got off to a blistering start on Thursday with half the races won in Canadian record time as six national marks were set during the first evening of competition. A quartet of Olympians starred at UBC's Aquatic Centre establishing four individual national marks in the first six races and playing major roles on a pair of record-setting relay teams.
In the women's team standings, the Calgary Dinos, looking for their first-ever CIS title, lead the race with 252 points. The host Thunderbirds, who have won the last 11 banners, a record in any CIS sports, are second with 196 points.
The Thunderbird men, who last year saw their record sequence of 10 straight titles come to an end, lead the competition with 274 points compared to 217 for the reigning national champion Dinos.
The University of Toronto Varity Blues are third in both team races.
Calgary rookie and 2008 Olympian Erica Morningstar started off the meet with a national record in the women's 200-metre freestyle (1:56.11) and was a key member of the Dinos 4 x 100 freestyle relay that set the fifth Canadian mark of the night two hours later with a time of 3:38.74.
The first-year student from Regina led a 1-2-3-4 sweep for the Dinos in the 200 individual freestyle en route to erasing Sophie Simard's national record of 1:56.14 and CIS championship mark of 1:57.10. Breanna Hendriks and Katy Murdoch earned second and third in the 200 and teamed with Morningstar and Seanna Mitchell for gold in the 4 x 100 free.
"I'm dying right now," an exhausted Morningstar said immediately following the race. "I'm really happy with the time. I was actually hoping to go a little faster. But all in all I'm happy I held it together."
UBC's Scott Dickens, a 2004 Olympian, also notched a pair of Canadian records on Thursday. His gold-medal time of 59.34 in the men's 100 breaststroke tied Morgan Knabe's 2002 national mark and bettered his own CIS championship record by more than half a second. Calgary's Mike Brown, who took fourth place in the 200 breast at the Beijing Games, claimed silver in the event.
"I'm pretty happy with the time but my goal was to go 58. I know I have that time in me I just need to work out the kinks in the race," a satisfied Dickens said after his first gold of the night. "Being part of the T-Birds and getting to race at this meet is one of the best things about swimming. It's all about the team and doing the most you can for your school."
The fifth-year star led out the Thunderbirds 4 x 100 freestyle relay with a swift 49.18 setting the stage for UBC's national record of 3:15.42, erasing the old mark of 3:15.61 held by Olympians Mike Mintenko, Brian Johns, Mark Johnston, and Brent Hayden. The time was also more than two seconds ahead of the old CIS championship record of 3:17.53 held by UBC since 2003.
U of T's Colin Russell, a 2008 Olympian and former star at Indiana University, was victorious in the men's 200 freestyle (1:43.31) taking down Rick Say's 2003 Canadian record of 1:43.68 in his first ever CIS race. His time also bested Brian John's old CIS championship standard of 1:44.47.
The record bull run also witnessed a stunning performance by UBC star and 2008 Olympian Annamay Pierse who led a 1-2-3 T-Bird sweep of the women's 100 metre breaststroke. The fifth-year from Edmonton shattered her Canadian and CIS championship records with a world-class time of 1:05.16. It was the third time Pierse has set a Canadian mark in the event since November 2008.
"I have been totally motivated by all the fast swimming going on here tonight," said Pierse after her jaw-dropping swim. "All of the records going down tonight is awesome for the sport and our country. I came to this meet pumped up and ready to go and it was great to swim so fast. I'm getting closer to where I want to be."
Not to be lost in all the fan fare tonight was T-Bird Callum Ng who was the biggest individual winner on the night, taking gold in the 50 backstroke (23.49) and 100 butterfly (52.74) and swimming on UBC's record setting relay. It was Ng's fifth consecutive triumph in the 50 back at the CIS championships and ends his CIS career undefeated in the event.
Calgary's Hanna Kubas bested three-time CIS champion Jennifer Carroll in the women's 50 backstroke with a championships record of 27.48. Kubas won bronze two years ago, silver in 2008, and finally broke through with gold this evening. Carroll finishes her CIS career in the 50 back with three golds, one silver and a bronze to her credit
Also earning individual gold medals Thursday were Laval's Pamela Filiatrault-Veilleux in the women's 100 butterfly (59.83), UBC's Hanna Pierse who defended her 400 individual medley title (4:41.58), and McGill rookie Steven Bielby, who won the men's 400 individual medley (4:11.42).
The three-day CIS meet resumes Friday morning with preliminaries starting at 10 a.m. Pacific Time and finals at 6 p.m. Pacific.
Special thanks to UBC for contributing this report.