CIS Championships: UBC Women Win; Men Second

CALGARY – The University of Toronto Varsity Blues put an end to 18 years of western domination Saturday night, emerging victorious in an extraordinary three-way race to capture the 2013 CIS men’s swimming title at the University of Calgary Aquatic Centre.
 
In women’s action, the UBC Thunderbirds captured their second consecutive national banner with a big 691.5-548 win over the host University of Calgary Dinos. But while the women’s race was a foregone conclusion through much of the meet as the Thunderbirds kept pulling away, the men’s race was a three-way dogfight for the first time in recent memory and it all came down to the final event, the 4x100-metre medley relay.
 
When the dust had settled, the Varsity Blues found themselves atop the team standings with a 15-point cushion, 539-524 over UBC. Calgary finished just 10 points in arrears of the Thunderbirds with 514 points.
 
The Thunderbirds won the final race of the meet, with Kelly Aspinall, Sergey Holson, Coleman Allen, and Luke Peddie beating out the Calgary foursome to claim gold. But that win still didn’t provide enough to leapfrog the Blues, who finished fifth in the event – which was enough to bring home their CIS title.
 
“I’ve been doing this over 30 years, and this is the first time I remember a three-team race like this,” said longtime Varsity Blues head coach Byron McDonald, who was named the CIS men’s team coach of the year. “It brought out the best in our swimmers, and it was something they’ll remember for the rest of their lives. It’s nice to win by 150 points, but you don’t really remember that – when our swimmers go home, they’ll remember this forever.”
 
“I’m really proud of our guys,” said UBC head coach Steve Price, who earned the women’s coach of the year award. “They stepped up and battled all the way to the end, and that’s all I can ask of them. Our women are a dominant team – they stepped up and got better and better as the meet went on. They’re a proud bunch of girls and they showed that today.”
 
While the men’s team title heads east after the Dinos and Thunderbirds combined to win 18 consecutive CIS banners, the individual athlete hardware stayed mostly west. UBC swept the swimmer of the year awards with Savannah King taking her second consecutive MVP honour while fifth-year men’s teammate Kelly Aspinall also won individual laurels.
 
King, a 2012 Olympian, swept the distance freestyle events with gold medals at both 400 and 800 metres. Aspinall, meanwhile, set championship records in the 50- and 100-metre backstroke events.
 
“It’s so exciting to get two in a row,” enthused King of her team’s back-to-back national titles. “We fell off the rails for a few years, but we’re back on top and I think it’s going to continue. I’m excited to be part of it.”
 
“I’m really happy with the meet,” said Aspinall. “I met a lot of goal times, got on the (FISU Summer Universiade) team, and I’m walking away from the CIS meet really happy with what I’ve done. Our team put up a great fight, and I’m really proud of the guys.”
 
The top rookie honours went to Calgary freshman Tianna Rissling on the women’s side, while Victoria’s Eric Hedlin received the men’s award. Rissling won a total of four individual medals at the event, including gold in both the 50-metre breaststroke and the 400-metre individual medley. Her IM swim on Thursday night set a new championship record, and she finished a mere handful of points behind King in the overall swimmer of the year standings.
 
On the men’s side, Hedlin’s performance in the swimming marathon, the 1500-metre freestyle, won him a gold medal and top rookie honours with his time of 15:13.23. He and his Vikes teammates swept the podium in the event, with Will Brothers taking silver and Richard Weinberger bronze.
 
The student-athlete community service awards went to Erica Dugas from Brock University and David Dorian from the University of Toronto.
 
Joining Aspinall wrapping up his CIS career with a pair of championship records was University of Calgary captain Jason Block, who swept the breaststroke events for the third time in four years. Block, who set a CIS record in the 100-metre breaststroke on Thursday, added another at 50 metres Saturday with his time of 27.22 seconds. He wraps up his CIS career with 11 gold and one silver medal in the breaststroke over the past five seasons.
 
Saturday night featured a number of marquee swimming events, from the women’s 800 and men’s 1500-metre freestyle to the medley relay and the 100-metre freestyle. In the 100 free, UQTR’s Caroline Lapierre-Lemire out-touched UBC’s Heather McLean to take the gold medal and win the Sprinter’s Cup, awarded annually to an athlete that sweeps the 50-metre and 100-metre freestyle events. Lapierre-Lemire set a CIS championship record in the 50 free on Friday night and was thrilled with her repeat performance.
 
“I’m very, very happy,” said Lapierre-Lemire. “Especially after the night I had last night, I wasn’t sure I’d be able to do it again. To come back tonight and get another win, I can’t ask for anything more. It’s just been a great meet for me.”
 
Former CIS swimmer of the year Erica Morningstar dominated the field with a victory by nearly three seconds in the women’s 200-metre individual medley. Morningstar, a two-time Olympian, announced after the race that it would be her final meet as she takes a break from the sport to consider her options moving forward.
 
She joined her Dinos teammates atop the podium one last time by swimming the backstroke leg of Calgary’s gold medal-winning medley relay along with Fiona Doyle, Lindsay Delmar, and Amanda Reason.
 
Other gold medallists on the day included Calgary’s Gleb Suvorov and Montreal’s Gabrielle Soucisse in their respective 200-metre backstroke events. Dominique Massey-Martel of Laval was crowned champion of the men’s 100-metre freestyle, while McGill’s Steven Bielby wrapped up his sweep of the men’s individual medleys with his time of 2:00.00.
 
COMPLETE RESULTS: http://english.cis-sic.ca/championships/swim/index.
 
INDIVIDUAL HONOURS
 
Women
Swimmer of the year: Savannah King, UBC
Rookie of the year: Tianna Rissling, Calgary
Sprinter’s Cup (single winner of both 50 and 100 free): Caroline Lapierre-Lemire, UQTR
Coach of the year: Steve Price, UBC
Student-Athlete Community Service Award: Erica Dugas, Brock
 
Men
Swimmer of the year: Kelly Aspinall, UBC
Rookie of the year: Eric Hedlin, Victoria
Coach of the year: Byron MacDonald, Toronto
Student-Athlete Community Service Award: David Dorian, Toronto