By Earl Zukerman
Veteran Steven Bielby of Pointe Claire, Que., won three gold medals and one silver en route to earning swimmer-of-the-meet honours as the McGill Redmen finished third of five teams at the third Quebec Cup competition of the season, held at the Université de Montreal’s CEPSUM pool, Saturday.
On the women’s side, Valerie De Broux, a nursing sophomore from Beaconsfield, Que., also won three races. She led the Martlets to their third consecutive second-place finish in as many RSEQ conference meets this season.
Bielby, a fifth-year civil engineering senior who scored a combined 614 points, led a first-ever 1-2-3 finish for McGill on the men’s side in the running for athlete of the meet, which is calculated based upon points earned on a standard established by FINA, the international governing body of swimming. He edged out teammates Pierre-Alexandre Renaud (598 points; 3 gold, 1 bronze) of Laval, Que., and Montrealer Marc-Andre Benoit (551.5; 2 gold, 1 silver, 1 bronze).
“After relatively difficult starts to the season, Bielby finally looked like the dominant swimmer he has been over the past four years,” said Peter Carpenter, in his third season as head coach of the McGill squad. “And Benoit has finally shaken some early season sickness to re-emerge as a major threat.
“I have never seen one team have the first three finishers in the swimmer of the meet category on the men’s side since I arrived at McGill, so that is the most impressive thing to come out of the meet.”
Other multiple medal winners for the Redmen were Michael Luck, a sophomore from Beaconsfield and Patrick Mazurek, a 20-year-old junior from Toronto, each with a pair of first-place finishes. Sprinter Erik Cheng, a sophomore from Ile-Bizard, Que., also claimed gold and bronze medal finishes.
The female athlete of the meet was Gabrielle Soucisse of the Montreal Carabins with 697.5 points.
McGill middle distance swimmer Katie Caldwell, an elementary education freshman from White Rock, B.C., finished sixth in the FINA points race with a score 478.5, winning a pair of silvers and a bronze.
Other Martlets who reached the podium included Jennifer Darling (2 silver) of Vancouver, B.C., Laura Mendonca (2 silver) of Pointe Claire, Sophie Overney-Ragan (2 silver) of Beaconsfield and Taryne Landry (2 bronze) of North Vancouver.
Another bright spot for McGill was Grace Quinn, a physical education sophomore from Knowlton, Que., who qualified to compete at the CIS championships for the first time, clocking in at 30.46 seconds in the 50-metre backstroke. She made the cut by a hundredth of a second.
“We performed far better than at the first Coupe de Quebec meet of the year, although the scores don’t really reflect a huge improvement,” continued Carpenter, who explained that the main reason for that was UdeM’s performance. “They were ready to go and over half their team was shaved down and going after CIS qualifying times. This led to a record point output for them – 360 combined points – which just meant there were fewer points available for the rest of the teams.”
Laval was undermanned, finishing second on the men’s side and a surprisingly distant fourth among women. McGill took advantage and beat the perennial powerhouse in the combined men’s and women’s score for the first time this year.
“Our team has finally rounded into shape and it was nice to see our cream start rising to the top,” noted Carpenter, whose troops will head to Halifax next weekend for the AUS Invitational hosted by Dalhousie University, where McGill is hoping to have several new CIS qualifiers.
“Many of the men have yet to qualify but being in a shaved and tapered situation and having heats and finals will certainly help our situation,” Carpenter added. “The team looks very ready.”