The 2023 season is officially in the rear-view mirror for the Cochrane Piranhas Summer Swim Club, whose members are reflecting on another phenomenal few months in the pool.
The Piranhas recently wrapped up their summer swim schedule at the 2023 Alberta Summer Swimming Association (ASSA) championships, held Aug. 18 to 20 in Edmonton. Showcasing their swimmers' hunger and their overall depth as a club, the Piranhas brought home 20 medals, including 11 gold, five silver, and four bronze.
“We really exceeded our expectations and goals of what we thought the kids would achieve,” said head coach Amy Swedlo.
She added that in order to even compete at provincials, the Cochrane swimmers had to compete the weekend before at regionals. That meant there wasn't much turnaround time before the athletes found themselves back in the pool.
“There’s only about four practices and then they go and race again,” she said. “So we had swimmers from all five of our groups qualify, which was amazing. It wasn’t just one really strong group – we were happy to have that.”
According to Swedlo, the Piranhas managed to medal in every event except one.
“That shows great depth across all the different strokes and is super exciting,” she said. “Because it’s such a short turnaround time, it’s hard to have best times, because you don’t have much time to work on improvements, but we had some crazy ones.”
In addition to raking in the hardware, the Piranhas swimmers finished the season strong by posting 10 new club records. Individual record-setters included Oliver Johnson and Caebri Smith in the male 13-14 age category, Soleil Pugliese in the female 15-17 age category, Lennon Arsenault in the female 7-8 category, and Max Kruger in the male 18-plus age category.
Two of the Piranhas' relay teams also set club records. In the male open category, the 200-metre medley relay team of Thibodeau, Kruger, Aaron Swedlo, and Tony Koo claimed a new club record with a team-best time of 2:02.77.
Similarly, the male open 200-metre relay team, consisting of Swedlo, Koo, Thibodeau, and Bryson Hammer finished their fastest race with a Piranha-record of 1:49.36.
Continuing what was already a dominant season for two of the club's strongest swimmers, Smith set three individual Piranhas records in the freestyle stroke in various distances, while Johnson set four records in the freestyle, butterfly, and individual medley.
“Oliver and Caebri won every single one of their events quite handily, so they both came back with four individual gold medals and dominant performances in all their races," Swedlo said. "They had best times in three of four of their races, so that’s outstanding. It’s hard to see that [much improvement] across such a short period of time.”
Swedlo said the Piranhas' collective performance at provincials showed the young swimmers were able to peak at the right time this summer.
“The kids worked hard all season," she said. "We tried really hard to have a double peak – a soft taper for regionals and then a full taper could be at provincials where they’d really drop their time. It paid off for a lot of kids."
While the Piranhas didn't claim the provincial team banner as they did in 2022, Swedlo pointed out the club moved up from a medium team to a larger team this summer, which meant a tougher overall level of competition.
“Last year, we were a bit smaller, so we classified as a medium team and won the provincial banner,” she explained. “We were larger this year, so we were competing against the Calgary and Edmonton clubs that are much larger and deeper. We didn’t win the banner this year as a large club, but that wasn’t our focus. We just wanted our team to grow and let every kid have the chance to swim.”