With the end of the 2012-13 season fast approaching, members of the Cougars swim team are looking to finish strong on the national stage.
Five Cougars will be representing the University of Regina at the CIS championships on Feb. 21-23 in Calgary, including third-years Samantha Bancescu and Jessica Winter, second-year Chris Myers and rookies Dale Hamilton and Quinn Moore.
The team is coming off of a strong showing at this year’s Canada West Championships, where five new school records were set and a conference medal was won by a member of the Cougars women’s swimming program for just the second time ever.
“[The season’s] been going good, and I guess after this weekend, I’d have to say it’s been going really good,” Bancescu said with a laugh.
With her third place finish in the 100-metre backstroke, Bancescu earned the Cougars their second conference medal since 2010, and locked down a spot at this year’s CIS championships.
Her time of 1:04:55 also set a new U of R record.
“It means a lot,” Bancescu said, of having her name in the record books. “I’d like to hope that those records are there for a long time, but I mean, even just to make an impression on the program, for as long as those records stand, I think that means a lot to me.”
While it’s no secret that the U of R’s swim program has struggled over the years, Bancescu believes that’s a dying trend.
“In the last year, I think the number of people that we’ve sent to Canada West has doubled, and I’d like to hope that maybe it doubles again for next year. I think what it comes down to is just bodies. We need more people, and so I’d think that may be on the recruiting aspect, we need to kinda just get in there and snipe some of those Grade 12’s,” she laughed.
One recent recruit has already shown he’s up to the challenge.
First-year Quinn Moore, a local product out of Campbell Collegiate, has been turning heads in his rookie season.
Moore was awarded SaskSport’s Athlete of the Month Award for his performances in December.
“He had a couple of competitions that he went to within the month and did very well, so that’s kind of exciting,” said Noreen Murphy, manager of SaskSport awards. “He’s going to be very good I think. He’s developing very well, and he’s already – in his age category – putting up pretty impressive personal bests in all of his events he’s entered in.”
At the Paul Bergen Junior Invitational Swim Meet in Portland, Oregon from Dec. 7-9, Moore took home silver medals in the 100m and 200m backstrokes.
“In the last year, I think the number of people that we’ve sent to Canada West has doubled, and I’d like to hope that maybe it doubles again for next year. " – Samantha Bancescu
His time of 1:59:96 in the 200m marked a new Saskatchewan Senior/Open Provincial Record.
At a competition in Regina later that month, he set another senior/open record in the 100m individual medley.
The performances earned him a nomination on behalf of Swim Saskatchewan, Inc., which led to the athlete of the month award.
In an eventful first-year of university swim competition; Moore sees his success at the Oregon meet as a highlight.
“I was really excited going into that, because the past few years I’ve been going there and I’ve swam really well,” he said. “I don’t know if I was in the perfect mental state … or if it was just like I was physically ready, or the stars aligned or something, whatever it was, I didn’t expect to go as fast as I did there. I expected a few good swims but not as well as I did.”
While fortune may have shone on Moore in the month of December, his luck would turn at the beginning of the New Year, when he was hampered by an unexpected injury in the weeks leading up to Canada West championships.
“I got tendonitis in both my elbows, so that’s been [affecting me] over the past three, four weeks or so,” he said. “I’ve just been working on healing that right now… I didn’t swim too well at CanWest because of that.”
Despite the nagging injury, Moore led the men’s team with 31 points at CanWest championships.
Coming from a family of swimmers, Moore has been hitting the pool competitively since the age of 10.
“I started originally because my mom was afraid that we’d drown at our cottage,” he said with a laugh. “Then she looked more into it, and she found that there was a competitive club that we could swim with, and from there, all three of us, my two siblings and I, we just loved it and moved up through the groups there and just stuck with it.”
Moore’s brother Max and sister, Taylor, have both swam at the university level, which helped spark recruitment interest in Moore before he was out of high school.
After courting emails from swimming programs across the country, he decided to sign with the U of R based on his familiarity with coach Sylvain Pineau.
“He’s been working with me for just over two-and-a-half years,” Moore said. “I was pretty comfortable coming into the program here knowing that I already had a good relationship with the coach.
“Sylvain is definitely working on building the team, and we’ve got a lot of other guys coming in who are improving. It’s definitely not a one person job.”
Moore and Bancescu will get one more chance to leave an impression before the season’s over at the CIS championships in Calgary.
Bancescu, who will be making her third straight appearance at the CIS championships, has her eyes set on medalling for the second competition in a row.
“It would probably mean the world to me,” she said. “I’m really happy with my medal this past weekend [at Canada West], but I think a national medal would be 100 times better.”
But as much as that national medal would mean to her, Bancescu knows just as well as Moore that one swimmer does not make a team.
“I’d like to just say that most of my success … it’s not just my personal success,” she said. “With the support of my team and everything, I’d say it’s more of a team success than just Sam Bancescu’s success.”
Photo by Kelsey Conway