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Langley & Abbotsford Olympians take overall Westerns title

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By Rita Mingo

Some of the finest young Canadian swimmers took to the Pan Am Pool in Winnipeg this past weekend and, when the dust settled, the Langley & Abbotsford Olympians Swim Club claimed number one status.

LOSC was the combined team winner at the 2024 Speedo Western Canadian swimming championships with 2,657.5 points, followed by Cascade Swim Club of Calgary at 1,558 points and Edmonton Keyano Swim Club with 852.

“They all work very hard and it’s nice to see their performance come through and come together as a team to win this; it was really fun,” said LOSC head coach Ryan Skomorowski. “We’ve got to get working really hard now and really focus on grinding it out and getting ready for (Olympic & Paralympic) trials (May 13-19 in Montreal).”

LOSC was ably represented by several swimmers, including Julia Strojnowska, Leilani Fack and Ashley Ko. The trio competed in all three women’s relays, winning a pair of golds and a silver. They also, as individuals, copped their fair share of hardware.

“It’s extra special (winning as a team) because we get to see all the work we’ve done together and when you win it feels really good to be there together,” said Strojnowska, who won a gold, silver and bronze on her own. She tied with Rebecca Smith of Cascade for the top performer in the women’s open category.

Being successful as a team is something that Fack says is extra important to her and her mates.

“It definitely is,” she insisted, “because when we train together we see how hard each of us works and to see that pay off, it’s just heart-warming in a different way.”

The top male open winner was Zackary Bowie of EKSC.

There were a number of standout performances on the weekend, including that of Aiden Kirk of the Kelowna AquaJets, tops in the junior boys division. The 16-year-old was a gold medalist in the 14-16 age group 1500m free, the 100m free, the 400m IM, as well as the 400m free, in which he went under four minutes for the first time.

“I felt pretty good about that,” Kirk said of that swim. “I honestly didn’t think I was going to go that fast so it’s kind of a shock … and it’s just super exciting to have done that time; I’m super pumped about it.”

He was also thrilled, understandably, with his overall medal haul.

“I was trying to go for a sweep in all the freestyles which was a fun goal me and my coach made up, but I was really just trying to do that for this meet.”

The junior girls winner was Matea Gigovic of Calgary’s Killarney Swim Club, who won gold while setting a meet record in the 13-15 age group 100m free.

“It was really good,” she said. “I didn’t love my time this (Saturday) morning so I really wanted to beat it in the afternoon and I haven’t gotten any best times this season so this is the first one. I am really happy about it.”

Gigovic also collected silver in the 200m free, and gold in both the 100m fly and 50m fly (the latter in a tie).

In Para swimming, Maxine Lavitt of the University of Manitoba was the top female, while Reid Maxwell of EKSC the top male.

“It wasn’t my best performance, I was faster about two weeks ago,” Lavitt said of her gold-medal swim in the 400 free. “I think the preparation was better; I’m still getting used to racing this event. I have to better prepare mentally. I let my mind wander a little bit. I’m more of a sprinter but Breanna (White) is awesome to race, she was pushing me to finish.”

“I’m happy with my swims,” added Maxwell. “I came into this meet not tapered so I just wanted to see what I could go and I am happy with it.”

A total of 452 athletes from 67 clubs competed in the four-day meet.