Last Month, four members of the Fort St. John Inconnu brushed up on their French and tested their talents against some of the best swimmers in the country.
In two events over the course of a week, the Inconnu competed at the Age Group Canadian Swimming Championship and the Canadian Swimming Championships from August 1-9.
Skyeler Kerr surprised everybody, including himself with a top time in the 16-year-old category 50 metre backstroke at age groups, a race that he doesn’t consider one of his strongest. The time of 27.61 was an inconnu club record and is another swim that qualifies Kerr for the 2016 Canadian Olympic Trials.
“It was one of those events that we throw into the meet because it isn’t on our main roster and we do it to have fun and see where we can place,” Kerr said. “I went into it really relaxed, because you are having fun at that point and we don’t set the highest expectations for ourselves because we just want to enjoy it and it went well. I was very happy.”
Adding another Canadian Olympic Trial time to his resume was a huge step for Kerr.
“We want to have as many events as we can at Olympic Trials just for the sheer experience of it, getting to go through with a full meet,” he said.
Kerr also finished just off the podium in the 50m butterfly in fourth with a time of 25.71.
18-year-old Ben Blackmon also scratched his way onto the podium at age groups in his signature 200m backstroke event with a third place finish.
“I always have those competitive guys up there that I get to race against. Last year I actually came third in age groups too. So I just sat in the same spot,” Blackmon said with a laugh. “I was just a little bit off in that race so I wasn’t too upset. Getting third was definitely a confidence boost going into going into the next meet… it was awesome to get that bronze medal.”
Cale Murdock qualified for his first ever age group final in the 17-18 year-old 200m freestyle and finished 10th with a time of 1:56.46. That time had him just three seconds off the eventual winner of the final. The time was also two seconds off the senior national qualifying time that Murdock had hoped to achieve in Quebec City.
Brittany Welsh had strong swims in both the 100m freestyle and the 100m backstroke but fell just short of qualifying for a final in both events.
Kerr added that as a team the experience in Quebec City was an exceptional bonding opportunity.
“Oh it’s just incredible,” Kerr said about sharing the time in La Belle Province with his teammates. “It’s not often that you get to travel the country with some of your best friends, people you see everyday and get to experience all these new things with them.”
Blackmon felt the same way in the team environment, which was one of his last events as a member of the Fort St. Inconnu.
“Quebec City was fun, four of us there and it was like a little family that we had there. It was great racing. I just had fun for a meet, I was happy about that,” he added.
The team as a whole finished in 66th place out of 127 teams with 120 combined points.
At the Canadian Swimming Championships in Pointe-Claire both Kerr and Blackmon represented the club, lining up side-by-side with future Olympians and present Olympians. The two swimmers were amongst 470 athletes from 110 clubs across all ten provinces in Canada. The event also included several swimmers that represented Canada at the Pan Am Games in Toronto earlier this summer.
Kerr upped his qualification times in both the 50 and 100m butterfly.
“It’s a really big meet, everyone is pretty serious. Everybody is racing and ending off their season,” he said. "The times were a little off, we we’re just playing for feel. We definitely learned a bunch of things this season that we can apply.”
Blackmon managed to qualify for the B final in both the 100 and 200m breastroke. In his go to event, the 200, Black finished 19th with a time of 2:22.28 in the prelim and 15th in the final with a time of 2:22.37.
In the 100m, he finished 20th in the prelim with a time of 1:06.23 and 19th in the final with a time of 1:06.18. That was the first time in his Inconnu career that he qualified for the 100m breastroke final at the national level.
“I feel like we kind of eased up for the bigger meet in Pointe- Claire, so I thought I could pull it out there,” he said. “You have all that time off, your body is nice and calmed down… I was expecting a little bit better in Pointe-Claire, but just going there and making two B finals this time at a national level meet was pretty good. I can’t be too hard on myself for not getting best times in every race.”
Blackmon wasn’t quite happy with how he finished the breaststroke, but had one final chance for redemption in the 200m Individual Medley (A race where a swimmer swims each stroke: freestyle, backstroke, and breaststroke) and took complete advantage of it. He set a personal best and a club record in the race with a time of 2:14.14.
“I was kind of glad because my breaststroke did kind of feel a bit off, “He said. “I was kind of glad to get the other strokes involved in there. I think that’s something that I need to keep thinking about... I think that’s why I got my best time, I [told myself] ‘okay I have other strokes in here now, I can do a better job of focusing on them.’”