Posted on: May 16, 2018
The Thompson Rivers University WolfPack swim team has made a major jump in its compete level. Head coach Brad Dalke has secured the services of one of the top young swimmers in the nation.
Ryley McRae of Sa-Hali Secondary in Kamloops has agreed to join the WolfPack program beginning in September. McRae, a finalist for the Kamloops Sports Council male athlete of the year award for 2017 is graduating this June and is considered to be one of the top young swimmers in the nation.
He had interest from a number of universities both at the USPORTS and NCAA level.
McRae said one of the big reasons for staying in Kamloops and swimming for the WolfPack was his connection to coach Dalke. “Brad and I have a great relationship on the pool deck. We are just like friends. I thought staying home for at least the first year would be a good idea. I plan on entering Engineering and thought it would be a better fit shifting into university with the heavy course load.”
Dalke responds by saying, “He has come a long way in a short period of time. Before we started to work together he was at the provincial qualifier level. Last year, he progressed to being ranked in the world. He is currently ranked 12th in the world in 18 and under boys and is 187th in the world overall for 1500 meter freestyle.”
The two have worked together for six years with the Kamloops Classics.
“We have this sort of banter thing going on, ‘McRae explains. “ It is not like he is ultra-serious with me. It is almost ‘up in the air’. We like to see where things take us rather than have a definite path defined.”
“When you are working with a swimmer you always think they have the potential to improve,” Dalke adds. “What Ryley did last year was nothing short of phenomenal. He dropped a minute in his 1500 freestyle and won his race (at Nationals) by over 40 meters against a pretty talented group of kids. I always thought Ryley would be able to move up but I was shocked on how well he did on the international stage.”
McRae also medaled in the 400 free, 200 butterfly and 800 freestyle at the 2017 Junior Nationals. He has been selected to the national development team. In January, he travelled to South Africa to compete in the Midmar Mile (the largest open water event in the world).
McRae has already achieved Canada West and USPORTS qualifying times before entering university. Dalke believes the 6’1” swimmer would be ranked among the top five swimmers in the nation in that race.
The coach believes his latest recruit is the prototypical swimmer, “He is a long lean body. He is like a thoroughbred in the water. He has nice long arms and big wide shoulders. He is very very good at kicking and can because of the long torso he has a great distance per stroke so get going quickly. His specialty are the distance races. He is also a very good butterflier. As he gets older and fills out, he will get quicker in the short races.”
Dalke expects McRae to also compete in the 200 fly, 800 free and 1500 freestyle.
Dalke says the addition of McRae and his Kamloops Classics teammate Tanner Douglas will give the WolfPack a lot of depth, especially in relays. “They give us more flexibility for sure. Ryley will be a finalist at both the Canada West and USPORTS levels. Depending on his health he should be right there. Tanner will be good for relays and give us depth in training. Adding these two kids makes a significant difference to our men’s team. The returning swimmers will have to really work for their spots on relays and to be part of our traveling team.”
McRae is the WolfPack’s third recruit for the coming year. The other is Emily DaGasso of Kamloops, who swims with the Kamloops Classics as well.
McRae’s summer goals include qualifying for the 2018 Junior PanPacs (Pan Pacific) swim championships this August in Fiji along with qualifying for the Junior Olympics in Buenos Aires.
FINISHING KICKS: McRae is entering TRU at a good time as the institution is making moves to establish an Engineering degree.
When did he decide that swimming was his sport? “It was about eight or nine years ago. I was kind of the black sheep with my friends. I couldn’t find my way or know what I wanted to do. I got into swimming and really enjoyed it. Just the feeling of swimming and being in the water. It was individual but it has a team concept as well. I like the fact I can kind of get away from everyone when I swim. I think Brad has really helped me with that, especially becoming a distance and butterfly swimmer.”
Dalke on McRae’s relationship with Kamloops swimmer and former teammate Colin Gilbert who is into his second year with the University of Denver (NCAA Division I) and is McRae’s role model. “Colin is a distance swimmer and butterflier and made the junior national team (like Ryley) Colin blazed the way. The other kids in our program like Ryley have been able to see his progression and follow in his footsteps. The other part of it is that when you go to a national championship and you are sitting there beside someone who has qualified for the finals, it really builds your self-confidence. Right now in Kamloops, we have my daughter Megan (Dalke-UBC), who has won medals at the nationals, we have Colin who has won national medals, Eloise Ladyman (Waterloo), Ethan Jensen (UVIC)…we have a ton of kids who are finalists at Nationals. For the younger kids coming up, it pays huge dividends. They look at the older swimmers and feel like they belong, not like it is a big struggle.”
McRae on being nominated for the male athlete of the year along with his idol Gilbert, who won the award, “It was kind of surreal. It was amazing that I was on that level with Colin. But he, being my role model, I always strive to be like him. I’m happy to have been one of the finalists.”
While Gilbert had this to say about his protégé, “Ryley was always in the younger group at KCS while I was in the senior group (Brad’s group), so I never got the chance to know him a little better until he got into Brad’s group a couple years back. Ever since he joined the group he’s really developed as an athlete, and a young man. In our senior group at KCS, I like to think that a lot of the group feeds off of each-others energy and translates that energy into performance, as well as fun. My last two years in the senior group I got to know Ryley more and he truly is a hard working kid. He has a great mind set when he is racing and I think what sets him apart from others in the pool is that he is focused. It’s really great to see that as I am no longer swimming with KCS for most of the whole year (I now train and study at the University of Denver), I hear the great accomplishments Ryley is attaining and how he is continuing to put KCS on the map. I’m sure that he will do the same with TRU and I wish the best for him both academically and athletically while being a member of the WolfPack .”