Watching top athletes compete provokes a childlike glee — the kind that only comes from watching the very best do what they’ve trained for years to do. As I walked around the statuesque figures of buoyant perfection last weekend, the swimmers at the OUA championship seemed perfectly at home.
I was overdressed in a light jacket and the poolside of U of T’s Athletic Centre was sweltering, but the buffeting heat was forgotten the second the swimmers dove into the pool. I became transfixed watching the swimmers carve through the water at a speed that televisions fail to capture.
Byron MacDonald, recipient of the women’s OUA Coach of Year and Head Coach of the Varsity Blues men’s and women’s swimming teams, echoed this sentiment: “Rarely do you ever see firsthand someone who is truly among the very top of the world.”
The hosting Varsity Blues dominated the tournament. Thirteen of 15 OUA records set in the three-day tournament were broken by Blues swimmers. There were 42 events in total with medals awarded individually, and the Blues medalled in all but one of the events, earning a cumulative 62 medals.
The Blues earned two more OUA swim championship banners for their collection and the fourth straight banner for the women.
Banners are given to the best overall team performance in both the men’s and women’s categories.
The Varsity Blues’ women’s team decimated their competition, winning their banner with a lead greater than the total number of points the second place team earned. “I believe this is the largest margin of victory ever,” said MacDonald.
Olympic bronze medalist and star of the Blues swim program Kylie Masse took home female OUA Swimmer of the Year honours and won the Dr. Jeno Tihanyi Award for IM Excellence, following her OUA record performance in the 200m Individual Medley on Friday.
MacDonald commented, “[Masse] is truly magnificent to watch streak through the water.” She won a total of six medals this tournament alone.
The men’s team was also impressive, winning the banner with a healthy lead over second place University of Western Ontario Mustangs and a commanding lead over third place University of Ottawa Gee-Gees.
This is the fourteenth straight banner that U of T’s men’s team has won. Hochan Ryu won male OUA Swimmer of the Year after winning three gold and one silver medals at the meet. This is the third year running that he has won this accolade.
Members of both the men’s and women’s teams walked away with OUA Rookie of the Year awards. Ian MacKinnon won for the men and Rachel Rodé won the award for the women. MacDonald commented that “the fact that we graduate only one male and no female swimmers certainly means U of T should be highly favoured again next year.”
This year’s competition was a win for the swim team first and foremost, but also for school spirit. “Winning is great, but winning at home is extra special because so many parents and alumni could join in the celebration,” said MacDonald.
Great swim teams are somewhat of a legacy at U of T, as we have won more men’s and women’s OUA championships than any other school. The fact that we have such a young team going forward means we have both a history and a future to be proud of.