Reigning OUA champion Varsity Blues looking to swim their way to even more provincial success

Reigning OUA champion Varsity Blues looking to swim their way to even more provincial success

BURLINGTON, Ont. – All eyes will be on the pool this weekend, as the OUA Swimming Championships head to Western University. The Toronto Varsity Blues, after successfully defending their provincial titles on home turf last season, will be looking for similar success in London this time around, as the best of the best compete for the 2018 OUA titles.

Details surrounding the upcoming championship can be found in the 2018 Swimming Championship Fan Guide.

Certainly, a team to watch on both the men’s and women’s side are the aforementioned Varsity Blues, as the University of Toronto men will be swimming for their 15th consecutive OUA banner, while Toronto’s women are after their fifth consecutive provincial title this week.

Leading Toronto’s women will be 2017 FINA world 100 backstroke champion and world record holder Kylie Masse. The 2016 Olympic bronze medalist is the three-time reigning OUA Female Swimmer of the Year, having swept all three backstroke events from 2015-17, and will be looking for the grand slam this week. Joining Masse will be four other Varsity Blues women looking to defend their individual titles, including sophomore sensations Hannah Genich, Rachel Rodé, and Sophia Saroukian, who all won two individual gold medals in their first OUA championships last year.

The Blues men, meanwhile, will be led by fifth-year veteran and co-captain, Eli Wall. The Ottawa, Ont. native will be vying for a grand slam in the 200 breaststroke, having won the past three provincial titles. Last year, Wall won both the 50 and 200 meter breaststroke events, and he, along with Masse, is also preparing to represent Canada at the 2018 Commonwealth Games in April.

Also appearing in his fifth and final provincial championships will be three-time OUA Swimmer of the Year, Hochan Ryu, who will be vying for his fourth straight 400 individually medley (IM) title, and his third consecutive 200 backstroke gold medal. Third-year standout Osvald Nitski, who was named a U SPORTS Top 8 Academic All-Canadian in 2016-17, will be swimming for his third 1500 freestyle title in as many years, while also defending his 2017 title in the 400 freestyle.

The reigning team silver medalists in both men’s and women’s action – Western Mustangs – will once again be a threat to reach the podium this year. The women’s squad will be led in large part by fourth year swimmer Charis Huddle – ranked 5th in the 50 meter free and 10th in 100 meter free – and rookie Jessica Allen, who checks in ranked 9th in the 50 meter backstroke and 10th in the 100 meter backstroke. The former has seen great success on the season, especially at the UofT Winter Invitational, where she captured three medals (two gold, one silver) in the free and backstroke events, respectively. Huddle also tacked on a first place finish at the 100 meter free at the 2017 OUA Championships; something she will be looking to repeat in the 2018 edition.

Joining the medal-hopeful women’s squad will be a similarly talented men’s team, which includes the likes of Matthew Loewen, Alex Bartley, and several other talented swimmers. Among those purple ponies looking to compete for the podium will be a host of talented relay squads, which include the likes of 2017 relay medalists Matthew Fox, Gamal Assaad, and Brent Waddell

While Guelph was held just off the team podiums at last year’s OUA finale, they will be looking to cash in on a largely young, tight-knit group to secure team success this time around. The team is young, but they do still boast a pair of veterans pushing for provincial success. Fourth year graduating co-captain, Phil Vranic, will compete across three events (100, 200, and 400 meter free), and will be looking to cap off his award-winning season with championship success. Fifth-year co-captain Tara Mallory, meanwhile, will be taking part in the 400 and 800 meter free events, coming back to compete after a broken hand last season.

Also competing for the Gryphons will be breaststroke powerhouses Leili Tilvaldyeva and Samantha Anderson, as well as second years Sam Kuntz – a co-captain who has made tremendous improvements this season – and Lucas Liberty, whose energy and passion have been key drivers this year. All of these Gryphons swimmers will be led by first year head coach Chantique Payne, who has transitioned from the role of assistant for the past two years.

Also making the trek to Western will be medal-threats on both the men’s and women’s sides – the uOttawa Gee-Gees. After third and fourth place finishes, respectively, at last year’s championship, the Gee-Gees have done well to set themselves up for similar success in 2018, with the men’s team ranking 5th in all of U SPORTS to join Toronto as the only two OUA men’s squads to boast a national rank. Both uOttawa teams earned top spots at the Carleton Invitational and Gee-Gees Invitational, but will also have a spotlight on some individual performers.

At the forefront of the Ottawa arsenal is reigning Dr. Jeno Tihanyi Award winner for IM Excellence – Montana Champagne. Champagne enters the championships ranking in the top ten in several disciplines, including 100 and 200 individual medley. Champagne is the proud owner of a combined eight gold medals across the UofT Winter Invitational and Gee-Gees Invitational, and will once again be looking to turn in a gold medal winning effort in the 200 meter IM this weekend.

Joining his fellow Gee-Gee is newcomer Davide Casarin, who is a threat across several events, as witnessed in his decorated freshman campaign. His impressive 12 medals across three meets this season, spanning the backstroke, free, and medley relay, make him one to watch when the action kicks off in London.

Third year swimmer Delphine Vandal will be a threat for the women’s squad, as she has collected podium finishes across three events this season. Highlighted by four gold medals at the Gee-Gees Invitational (200 meter free relay, 100 meter, 200 meter, and 400 meter free), Vandal has also seen success at the Fairweather Divisionals and UofT Winter Invitational.  

The Golden Hawks, meanwhile, will hope they can soar high by swimming fast at this year’s championship, building on their efforts from the 2017 edition. While the team results may not have been where they wanted last year, one swimmer who did stand out for Laurier was Jasmine Raines. As a rookie, Raines took home two gold medals, including an OUA record-setting effort in the 200 meter breaststroke. She was the first Hawk to win two golds at the championship since 2010, and will look to lead the team once again with more medal-winning races this time around.

On the men’s side, Connor Norval will be one to watch for Laurier, as the first year swimmer has already qualified for nationals in the 200 meter butterfly. Fellow freshman Ethan Locis has also seen success on the season, with first place finishes at the OUA Sprint Invitational and the deBray Divisional Championships, as well as additional top ten showings at the UofT Winter Invitational. 

The closely-situated Warriors will also be relying on some record-setters to lead their championship charge. On the women’s side, the Warriors are hoping rookie Eloise Ladyman can unleash a similar effort as in her first meet with the school, when she broke Waterloo’s 30 year old record in the 100 meter backstroke event. 

Ladyman won’t be alone in the team’s quest for success, as they’ll also boast second year swimmer Jocelyn van Leeuwen, who led the Warriors to meet victories over Brock and Laurier last weekend by winning the 100 meter fly, as well as the 50, 100, and 200 meter freestyle events.  Helping to round out the women’s side, meanwhile, is fourth year veteran and team leader, Josie Andres, who also brought home three gold medals and meet records at the deBray Divisional Championships.

Flipping to the men’s squad, fifth year Jon Ramkissoon will be one to watch as he enters the championship as one of the top breaststrokers the province has to offer. Ranking 5th in the 50 meter and 8th in the 100 meter, the Trinidad and Tobago native already boasts deBray Divisional Championships meet records under his belt this season. Joining Ramkissoon is Leon Ouyang, who will check in with a pair of backstroke event wins at Brock and Laurier last weekend.

McMaster earned the team bronze last year in women’s action and will once again bring a talented roster of female swimmers to the pool this year. A pair of veterans – fifth year Olivvya Chow and fourth year Carleen Ginter – will headline the No. 5 nationally-ranked Marauders roster and will do so with a terrific pedigree of success. Chow medalled in both the 50 meter and 100 meter breaststroke at the Fairweather Divisionals and holds the second-ranked time in the OUA for both. Ginter, meanwhile, also found the podium at the Fairweather Championship – picking up silver in the 800 meter free.

Joining this veteran presence is a pair of first year swimmers – Veronica Nichol and Isabelle Lei. The former has found success in the 100 meter backstroke – wherein she ranks second in the OUA – as she earned gold at the Fairweather Divisional event, while also picking up bronze in the 50 meter back. Lei, meanwhile, ranks 2nd in the OUA in 100 meter free and 3rd in 100 meter fly; earning a gold and silver, respectively, during this season’s meets.

Helping to lead the men’s squad, meanwhile, is third year Marauder Mitch Muizelaar. The Mississauga, Ont. native won both medals for McMaster at the Fairweather Divisional Championship in November – silver in both 400 meter and 800 meter free – and will come in ranked in the top three in the OUA in the 1,500 meter, 400 meter, and 800 meter free, respectively.

Laurentian will be making the voyage to London with a number of strong swimmers in their corner. One of the most prolific Voyageurs to watch for is fourth year Riley Konrad, who will be looking to defend her 400 meter IM gold medal from the 2017 championships. Konrad has already made a strong case for a repeat, as she has earned gold in the same event at the UofT Winter Invitational, while also picking up three gold (200 meter butterfly, 200 meter IM, and 400 meter IM) at the deBray Divisionals. Adding to Laurentian’s haul at the deBray event was first year swimmer Natalie Lefebvre, who added two top finishes (400 meter and 800 meter free) as well.  

The Voyageurs men’s squad, who as a whole finished second at the deBray Divisional Championships, will be led by veteran Matt Schouten, who is ranked 5th in the 50 meter free. Much of Laurentian’s team silver can be attributed to Schouten’s five gold medals, which included top spot in the 50 and 100 meter free, 100 meter backstroke, 100 meter butterfly, and 200 meter free relay.

The Badgers have seen success both as a team and on the individual level this season, and will be looking to build on last year’s showing. As a whole, Brock’s men’s and women’s squads earned top five finishes at the deBray Divisional Championships, while each added a top three finish at the OUA Sprint Invitational.

For the men, Brock will be turning to Gokhan Bozyigit, among others, to help spark a podium push. The second year swimming made his mark at the deBray Divisionals, claiming three gold (200 meter butterfly, 400 meter free, and 1,500 meter free), while also placing second at the Gee-Gees Invitational in 400 meter free. It will be a first year presence on the women’s side that will look to drive the Badgers in-water success, as Maggie Smith strives to turn her multiple bronze medals and school records from the season – including medal-winning efforts in the 50 meter backstroke, 50 and 100 meter butterfly, and 200 meter individual medley – into championship triumph.  

Shifting to Queen’s, the Gaels will see the likes of Simon Law and Victor Uemura take to the pool, along with standouts Alexandra Lecky and Julia Mckennam on the women’s side; all of whom found the podium earlier this season at the Gee-Gees Invitational.

Also taking part in the 2018 championship will be the York Lions. Despite not reaching the podium this season, the Lions will turn to Kristina Steins (ranked 6th in 50 meter backstroke and ranked 4th 100 meter backstroke) to help turn their fortunes around and make waves at the 2018 championship.

Rounding out the field will be the Carleton Ravens, who despite not having the strongest showing at last year’s OUA championships, have seen more recent success during their 2017-18 efforts, especially on home turf. Both the Ravens men and women placed second overall at the Carleton Invitational in October, and will be looking for another strong individual showing from Moustafa Kamel, who added an individual medal (gold) for the Ravens at the deBray Divisional Championships in the 200 meter free. 

On the women's side for the Ravens, keep an eye on Logan Marks in the 100 meter and 200 meter freestyle. Also a threat for medal contention will be Carleton’s men's and women's 4 x 50 meter and 4 x 100 meter freestyle relays. Not only will they have a strong chance to qualify for the finals, but could challenge the top schools in the province along the way.

Championship action first hits the water on Thursday, February 8 with the preliminary rounds – a similar practice across each of the competition’s three days – followed by finals taking place in the evenings, beginning at 6:00pm on February 8 and 9, and 5:00pm on Saturday, February 10. Awards and All-Stars will be announced following the completion of competition.