Feature by Jeff Commings
VANCOUVER, British Columbia, August 24. THE first workout for the men's and women's swimming teams at Simon Fraser isn't until Sept. 7, and many of the athletes are wishing they could mark the Canadian school's debut into the NCAA much sooner.
“I'm dying to get in there,” said fifth-year senior Courtney Triano. “We have a lot of meets that we're looking forward to.”
Simon Fraser University will be the first Canadian institution in the 106-year history of the NCAA this season, after a four-year transition process from the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics. Though they were able to participate in dual meets with NCAA teams last season, Simon Fraser was not allowed to take part in championship meets as part of NCAA regulations.
“Not getting to have a championship made it a little bit of a struggle to get motivated (last season), but now that it's here we're really excited to get into training,” said senior Kevin Nickerson.
Triano, who redshirted last season, said most of the athletes are excited about the chance to race new teams, some of which she believes will be tougher than the Canadian schools they've raced through the years. One of those teams will be UC-San Diego, last season's third-place finisher in the women's race and men's team runner-up at the Division II NCAA championships.
“It will make us more elite and competitive,” Triano said.
Nickerson and a few other SFU swimmers stayed in Vancouver over the summer to train for long course competitions, and he said the vibe on the deck increased as the time to the official NCAA debut drew closer. And while the team only has access to a 25-meter pool, Nickerson isn't concerned about racing in 25-yard pools in the United States.
“They (American teams) beat us on the turns, but when it came down to the touch we would usually be able to get there first,” he said.
Team goals haven't gotten very specific yet, but with a few people possessing times that could qualify for next March's NCAA championships, Simon Fraser could make a big statement in their first season.
“Everything can change a lot in this first year, and hopefully they can change a lot and get A cuts, and we'll be able to bring a large team,” Triano said.
On the recruiting front, Nickerson happily acknowledges that Simon Fraser is going to have an advantage over other Canadian universities — including perennial Canadian Interuniversity Sport champion University of British Columbia — because SFU can offer more opportunities to race abroad.
“In terms of recruiting, it will help us more for those who are interested in staying close to home but racing all these great teams in the States,” he said. “It gives them a little more incentive to come here.”
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