Blues swimmers make waves at Winter Invitational

Varsity swimmer Jess Yu flies to first place

Blues swimmers make waves at Winter Invitational

Over the weekend, the Varsity Blues swim team competed against multiple schools, including Western University, Brock University, and the University of Ottawa in the Winter Invitational at the University of Toronto’s Varsity Pool.

The first day of the tournament kicked off without delay at 6:00 pm, following a 5:45 pm warm up.

Hundreds of swimmers and spectators lined the decks and stands as family and friends of swimmers from all over Ontario supported the teams. The pool was so full that it was hard to find seats, which, for a Varsity Blues game, is an impressive turnout.

The night started off with 16 heats of women’s 50 metre freestyle. The competition was fierce and prepared for the night ahead; swimmers such as Charis Huddle from the Western Mustangs displayed their athleticism with swift turns and fluid, speedy movements. The Varsity Blues fared well, taking second and third place in this event.

Chris Ruus of the Blues also impressed, placing first in his heat of the men’s 200 metre backstroke. Going up against very strong swimmers from Brock and Guelph, the Blues swimmer accentuated his fluid arm strokes and strong leg kicks to take first place in his heat and seventh overall. The U of T men continued to show that their training has paid off, claiming top spots in the men’s 200 metre freestyle and 50 metre breaststroke.

U of T swimmers finished off day one with nine first-place finishes out of 16 events. Multiple top-five finishes followed.

The second day of the meet started strong with a win from Varsity Blue Jess Yu in the women’s 200 metre butterfly. Her strong arms and graceful kicks brought her out on top, with Laurentian Voyageurs’ Riley Konrad and Ottawa Gees-Gees’ Claudie Richard falling short of victory and claiming second and third place respectively.

In the middle of event 22, the pools were cleared due to an emergency. A male swimmer was taken away on a stretcher and the decks were cleared for the emergency medical technician. All spectators were moved to the lobby as the swimmer who looked to be in distress was taken out. About half an hour later, spectators were allowed back in, as the competition started again, picking up at the sixth heat of event 22. Mitch Ferraro of the Varsity Blues took second place in the event followed by fellow teammate Cameron Kidd, who claimed third.

The women’s 100 metre breaststroke event was a strong one for the Blues, with Rachael Parsons winning the first heat. Her ability to maintain long strokes while still keeping her immense speed pushed her to first. Nicole Demirov came second in the following heat of the same event, showing the strength in the training of the U of T women.

The day started to wind down with a win from Varsity Blues swimmer Rachel Rode in the first heat of the 50 metre butterfly. The intensity of her arm strokes pushed her to her winning position.

What’s next for the Varsity Blues? The team has continued to improve over the length of the season and will give their best efforts at the OUA Championships in London, Ontario as well as at the U Sports Championships held at Varsity Pool from February 22–24. Come out to support the Blues and experience some world-class swimming competition.

Varsity Blues swimming program claim overall victory in OUA quad meet

Kylie Masse wins 50-metre freestyle and 50-metre butterfly

Varsity Blues swimming program claim overall victory in OUA quad meet

The Varsity Blues swim team competed this past Saturday against Wilfrid Laurier, Queen’s University and York University at the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) quad meet. Held at the Varsity Pool, both the men’s and women’s team took overall first place tournament wins, claiming victory over the three other participating schools.

The meet started with a brief 15-minute delay, but got off to a quick start with both the Varsity Blues men’s and women’s teams claiming victory in the 200-metre medley relay. The teams were well rehearsed, with quick switches and fluid movements through the water. Early on, the Blues seemed to have a clear advantage; starting with the third event the women’s 400-metre freestyle, Blues swimmer Sophia Saroukian showed off her strong strokes and clean movements to claim a first place finish with a time of 4:20.27. 

Continuing the Blues women success, Kylie Masse claimed first place in the 50-metre freestyle and 50-metre butterfly. Teammate Sophie Du Plessis also rose to the occasion, scoring multiple points by winning the women’s 100-metre backstroke with a time of 1:03.58, breaking her seed time, as well as winning her heat in the women’s 100-metre butterfly with a time of 1:03.84.

There was a slight pause after the first women’s 200-metre freestyle after York Lions swimmer Olivia Smail suffered an injury in the middle of her heat. The athlete was helped to the side and taken away to be treated for her injuries. After the break, the meet continued with the second heat of event.

The Blues men continued to excel in their strokes. Second-year backstroke and individual medley swimmer Matthew Mac won the men’s 100-metre backstroke with an impressive 56.04 time. The Varsity Blues men did especially well in the men’s 50-metre butterfly, claiming first, second, third and fourth place. Gaël Chaubet won first with a U SPORTS standard time of 24.75.

Overall, Toronto displayed their dominant skill through intimidating wins across the entire meet. Moving forward, the Varsity Blues will hope to replicate this success for the rest of the season. With another OUA meet in Guelph on November 25, the Blues will continue to improve upon their results and attempt to continue their impressive winning streak.

Kylie Masse: the Blues athlete of our generation

Masse discusses setting a world record, juggling school, and a hometown parade

Kylie Masse: the Blues athlete of our generation

Kylie Masse begins the first day of class differently than most Kinesiology students. At a mid-morning media avail, she’s flanked by University of Toronto Varsity Blues Sports Information Coordinator Jill Clark and Events & Marketing manager Mary Beth Challoner. The trio make small talk until the clock strikes 10.

Masse sits in the stands above the Varsity Pool, overlooking the sight where she dominated at the OUA Championships earlier this year, and recounts her eventful summer, headlined by her world record performance at the World Championships in Budapest and concluded by a parade in her honour in her hometown of LaSalle, Ontario in mid-August.

The event reminded the Olympic bronze medalist of her own childhood and how impactful it was for her at a young age to meet an Olympian or an older athlete. “It was pretty neat honestly, it was really eye-opening and meant a lot… I hope to continue to be that role model for kids out there, for girls and females in swimming and every other sport as well.”

The 21-year-old Masse understands the impact and importance of being the first Canadian female swimming world record holder. Almost two months have passed since her feat, but she’s still processing her record time of 58.10 and can’t recount the specific aspects of the race explaining that “it’s all kind of a bit of a blur.”

COURTESY OF THE VARSITY BLUES

“It happened so fast, I turned around and looked at the scoreboard a few times to double-check that I was seeing what I saw,” Masse says. “I did several interviews right after in a row and I didn’t really know how to process the information because I didn’t really know how I felt, but it was super exciting.”

After the race, Masse didn’t have much time to celebrate the accomplishment. She enjoyed her time on the podium but with a race the following morning, Masse needed to focus on her next challenge.

“Social media was crazy and my phone was blowing up which was awesome and [it] means so much to have that much support and recognition,” Masse says. “I had to put my phone down because I needed to go to sleep, I need to reset, and I still had to race like another five times. It definitely took more days to sink in then it probably should’ve, but I mean I don’t think it’s really sunk in yet.”

The four first place finishes she earned at the OUA Championships in February are almost incomparable to her more recent accolades, but her growth and development are a clear byproduct of U of T’s historic swim program. Masse believes she left LaSalle with a “good technical foundation,” but emphasizes that her coaches Byron MacDonald and Linda Kiefer have played a key role in her evolution in the pool and her ability to balance swimming and school.

“When I got here [my technical ability] just grew immensely and I think I gained a lot of strength and learned a lot about myself in the pool and out of the pool,” Masse says. “Byron and Linda have always been there for everything that I need in the pool and out of the pool as well.”

Masse displays flashes of her small-town roots, remarking on the vast availability of drop-in dance classes in Toronto in comparison to LaSalle. “I like dancehall, which is a Caribbean music, and beginner hip-hop,” Masse explains to the Kinesiology Department’s Communications Specialist Jelena Damjanovic when asked about what she does in her free time. Masse also admits that the day before the interview was her first return to the pool after a month-long layoff.

The 2018 Commonwealth Games in Australia are her next major objective for Canada. She laughs, “The official team hasn’t been named yet but I think I have a pretty good shot of being on the team.” Masse also looks forward to the U Sports Championships that will be hosted at the Varsity Pool on February 22-–24, 2018. She hopes her fellow students will come out and support the team.

“The most important thing for me is enjoying to swim, and that’s when you swim fast,” Masse says. “I kind of like to say a happy swimmer is a fast swimmer.”

All we do is win, win, win, no matter what

Big week for Varsity Blues athletes

All we do is win, win, win, no matter what

While U of T students gear up for classes after reading week, many varsity athletes didn’t get much of a break. Multiple teams competed in a throng of meets throughout reading week.

The Varsity Blues men’s and women’s swim teams came home with Ontario University Athletics (OUA) banners; the track and field squad took on international competition in Washington and Ohio; and the men’s volleyball team shut-out number one team McMaster, while the women capped off a perfect regular season.

Swimming

The Varsity Blues swim teams didn’t disappoint during the OUA championships in London. Hosted by the Western Mustangs, the Blues dominated the competition with both teams’ closest challengers, the Mustangs, over 280 points away from the Blues women’s 1,049 point total and the men’s 1,019.

Over the course of the competition the Blues broke multiple OUA and national records, amounting to 18 in total. Second-year Kylie Masse led the women’s team, taking home four individual gold medals — one of which came in her national record breaking 100m backstroke race. Masse was named the Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) athlete of the week for her successes.

On the men’s side, third-year Hochan Ryu drowned the competition and was named the male OUA swimmer of the year, earning four individual gold medals, including a meet record; he was also a member of two of the Blues gold medal winning relay teams. The OUA banners signal the thirteenth straight banner win for the men and the third for the women. The wins place the squads comfortably at the top of the CIS leaderboards.

Track and field

Athletes from the Varsity Blues track and field team headed to the states for some division one competition when they attended the Husky Classic at the University of Washington and the Spire Invitational in Geneva, Ohio.

Sending teams comprised mainly of runners, the men’s team was lead by fourth-year veteran Sacha Smart who won the 600 m and 800 m competitions in Seattle. Smart, who competed on the Blues cross-country team in the fall, placed fifth in the 600 m at last year’s CIS championship. Sprinters Rayshaun Franklin and Isiah Weathers also enjoyed podium finishes in Seattle, placing first and third, respectively, in the men’s 300 m race.

Third-year distance athlete Gabriela Stafford not only placed second in the women’s 3000 m race, but also did it in a world championship qualifying time of 8:54.87 — a clocking which would have won the competition in 2014. Representing U of T’s field athletes was fifth-year horizontal jumper Julia Stille who, in keeping with her podium finishes throughout the season, placed second in the long and triple jump competitions.

The women’s track and field team sits at the top of the CIS leader board with a comfortable lead, while the men’s squad is just shy of 30 points behind powerhouse Windsor.

Volleyball

In an incredible demonstration of grit, the number four Varsity Blues men’s volleyball team defeated the top ranked Marauders in five sets to ruin McMaster’s perfect regular season.

The win, aided by a game high 23 kill performance from William Colucci, seemed to give the Blues a confidence boost, which carried them through wins against the Guelph Gryphons a day later, and an electrifying five set win over the Western Mustangs on Friday.

The win over the Mustangs awarded the Blues an OUA homecoming 12 years in the making, as the squad will play host to an OUA playoff game for the first time since 2004. Following a win over the Windsor Lancers on Saturday, the squad improved their winning streak to five.

Not to be outdone, the Blues women’s volleyball team completed a 19-0 regular season on Saturday with a win over the Lancers. Dropping only two sets all season, the women’s team sits five points behind UBC’s Okanagan campus who lead the CIS with 60 points. Last years OUA champions, the Blues will attempt to defend their banner this Saturday at the Goldring Centre in OUA quarterfinal action.

“Winning would be better”

Men’s and women’s swim teams face OUAs fins first

“Winning would be better”

Men’s Captain: Eli Wall 

Eli Wall. Courtesy Martin Bazyl.

Eli Wall. Courtesy Martin Bazyl.

Eli Wall has been swimming competitively for only 11 years, but can barely remember a time when he hasn’t been in the water.

The sport has taken him from his cottage, to the 2015 CIS Championships in Victoria, B.C. There, he was named the CIS Swimmer of the Year for his strong season which saw him take home two gold medals in the 100 and 200 breaststroke.   

This year, Wall hopes to repeat his successes both for himself and his team. Having recently returned from training in Fort Lauderdale, the team’s focus has turned from getting as fit as possible to improving their speed and technique. 

While the team is looking forward to defending their championship title at OUAs (Ontario University Athletics) even now, their sights are set on bigger goals: the CIS (Canadian Interuniversity Sport) championship. In 2015, U of T came just shy of a three-year winning streak. 

Wall thinks the team is stronger and more confident than ever. The first-year swimmers in particular, he notes, “are some of the hardest working swimmers I’ve ever had the opportunity to train with”. He knows that they will pull through in the upcoming competitions. 

As captain, Wall looks to keeping everyone focused. “If everyone stays on track individually, the team will thrive.” 

Wall cites his favourite swimmer as his third-year Blues teammate Cino Ling, and his favourite stroke as the 200 m breast.

Women’s Captain: Paige Schultz 

Paige Shultz. Courtesy Martin Bazyl.

Paige Shultz. Courtesy Martin Bazyl.

As a captain, Paige has taken a slightly different approach from Wall during her first year in the position. She acknowledges the difficulty of being a swimming captain — as the sport is both a team and individual sport — but she faces it all with excitement and positivity. Having lost the fun of swimming for a while, she rediscovered it through coaching children. “[…J]ust being easygoing with everything made my swimming so much better”.

Now she jokes behind the blocks and hopes that her swimmers don’t over think things before they compete.That isn’t to say Schultz doesn’t want to win, she does. She is confident about the OUAs, both for the team and for herself. She’s looking to add to her personal successes. In 2014 and 2015, Schultz won the 50, 100, and 200 freestyle events at the OUAs. Her fourth event, however, the 50m Butterfly, has always been placed right before or after one of her other races. This year, she’s hoping to win it, as well.

The team’s real goals, however, lie at the CIS championship. Ranked second in the nation, Schultz feels that retaining their position would be a big deal. “But winning would be better.”

Paige was actually propelled into her swimming career by a knee injury. Originally a gymnast she, like Wall, had also learned to swim at a cottage. When she hurt her knee, her options became surgery or swimming. Schultz won the Student-Athlete Community Service Award at CIS in 2015. She is a lifelong fan of the Dallas Cowboys and cites Dez Bryant as her favorite athlete. “If I could have half his confidence, I would be super happy… that’s the best part about him.” 

The Varsity Blues men’s and women’s swimming teams will head to London to compete in the 2016 OUA championships on February 11-13 where they hope to defend their 2014 and 2015 banners.