The McGill swim team won six races and surpassed all expectations by finishing second overall in the combined women’s and men’s standings at the RSEQ championships, a three-day meet that wrapped up Sunday at the Centre PEPS on the campus of Université Laval. The Montreal Carabins swept both the men’s and women’s titles, with McGill placing second in the former and third in the latter but second in the overall points total.
Highlighting the weekend for McGill was five new qualifiers for the national championships and 13 podium finishes, led by Kade Wist, a sophomore from Calgary, who captured three gold medals (400 freestyle, 200 butterfly, 4×200 free). Wist’s time in the 400 free was a personal best by more than four seconds, stopping the clock in 3:54.97.
Teammate Samuel Wang, a freshman from Sherbrooke, collected two gold medals (50 and 100 butterfly), one silver and a bronze. He also broke a school record in the morning preliminaries for the 200 fly, touching the wall in 53.21 seconds to break the mark of 53.44 set by Marc-Andre Benoit in 2014.
The Wist-Wang duo combined to give McGill a clean sweep in the three butterfly races.
Joining Wist on the winning relay was sophomore Duncan Burns of Fredericton, N.B., freshman Alexandre Grant of Beaconsfield, Que., and David Whiteside, a mechanical engineering senior from Burlington, Ont. McGill also collected a bronze in that 4×200, the only school over the weekend to register two podium finishes in the same relay.
McGill’s lone gold medal recipient on the Martlets squad was Jessica Warrack, a chemical engineering junior from Rocky View, Alta., who won the 400 individual medley in 4:50.35. Warrack also registered three bronze medal finishes, in the 400 free, 800 free and the 4×100 free relay.
All gold medalists automatically earned conference all-star status in addition to qualifying for the U SPORTS national championship meet in Sherbrooke, Feb. 24-26, however, they had all qualified earlier in the season. Five new McGill swimmers qualified over the weekend, bringing the team’s season total to 12 men and nine women.
The new qualifiers included rookie Alexandre Grant (200 free) of Beaconsfield, Que., sophomore Jason Galet (100 breast) of Montreal and freshman Stuart Lau (1500 free) of Edmonton, along with sophomore Isabelle Brathwaite (50 free) of Dollard des Ormeaux, Que., and sophomore Emily Goodwin (200 fly) of North Vancouver, B.C.
The Redmen collected 13 medals over the weekend, including five golds, one silver and seven bronzes, while the Martlets posted 10 podium finishes, with one gold, three silvers and six bronzes.
In the post-event awards ceremony, fifth-year Martlet veteran Valerie De Broux from Westmount, Que., received the RSEQ leadership award for best combining academics with citizenship. The 25-year-old master’s student in nursing has been the swim team representative on the Varsity Sports Council and has volunteered with the “Best Buddies” program to enrich the lives of local adults with intellectual disabilities. A peer tutor with fellow undergrads, she serves as a Teaching Assistant in nursing and has also been working part-time as a nurse at the Montreal Children’s Hospital.
“The most impressive thing was how we performed as a team today,” said head coach Peter Carpenter. “At the beginning of the meet we had set out one primary goal, which was to stay ahead of Laval in the combined points category (over the season’s five major meets). With a 21.5 point lead coming into the meet I was fairly confident. But in the first day of the weekend, however, Laval had made up 13.5 of those points.
“(Sunday) morning we met again and talked about reversing that trend and our team responded by reaching five more evening finals than Laval. When we met again before the evening races, I doubled down on our goal and asked the team to try and make the night special for our graduating students. We also stressed not only holding Laval off (in the season standings) but wanted to beat them in this meet overall, in their own pool. I have to say that tonight was one of those incredibly special nights when everything fell into place and everyone did their job. We ended up catching and passing them to finish second in the meet.”
Carpenter singled out Redmen team captain Keelan Marks, a finance senior from St, Bruno de Montarville, Que., who has been a key part of the team’s leadership group for the past three seasons. “In his last night of swimming for the Redmen, he posted two huge personal bests, in the 200 breast and 200 IM. I can barely put in to words what he has meant to me and the team and I am crushed to see his McGill swimming career come to an end.”
The Montreal Carabins captured the men’s banner, collecting 225.4 points over the season’s five league races, followed by McGill (185.2), Montreal (149.5), Sherbrooke (72.2) and UQTR (2.2). The Carabins also swept the women’s title, with 282.8 points. Laval was second (146.4), followed closely by McGill (137.2), then Sherbrooke (25.1) and UQTR (19.5). In the combined standings, the Carabins were first with 508.2 points, followed by McGill (322.4), Laval (295.9), Sherbrooke (97.3) and UQTR (21.7).