Posted on: November 21, 2018
The Canada West swim championships are set for this weekend in Calgary, Alberta and the Thompson Rivers University WolfPack are sending their most talented and deepest squad.
The WolfPack will have a contingent of four swimmers to the 2018 event: Ryley McRae (Kamloops, BC) and Matt Gauthier (Sylvan Lake, BC) on the men’s side along with the sister duo of Emily and Gabby Dagasso (Kamloops, BC) on the women’s side.
“This year we are going into the competition with four kids who are solid qualifiers,’ says head coach Brad Dalke. “ All four have ‘second swim’ opportunities available. They will be scoring points. We are looking to get them into the finals.”
“We are putting the kids into their best events against the top swimmers in Canada West and see where we will place.”
McRae will be swimming in four events (400 and 800 meter freestyle, 400 and 800 metre butterfly). He has already reached USPORTS championship times in his events. Dalke says this weekend will give him another opportunity to prepare for that.
“I think the race I am most looking forward to is the 400 freestyle,” McRae says. “It is my favorite race right now.”
Emily Dagasso is also on the verge of earning a spot at the USPORTS championships as well. “She should be able to qualify with a time either this weekend or at the squads MJB Law Invitational event in December,” Dalke says she is 10-100ths of a second off the mark.”
“I am excited to compete with the best swimmers in Canada West,” says Dagasso, who will be swimming in the 50, 100 and 200 backstroke and the 50-meter fly. The last race won’t be for points. “ 50 backstroke has always been one of my favorites. It is short. It is fast, you really get the adrenaline going. You are just trying to go the fastest you can do.”
She says the key to success is the underwater part after the start. “You need to get go under fast.”
Both McRae and Dagasso are both first year university student/athletes. Are they intimidated by going up against older athletes?
“Both of them are seasoned racers,” Dalke states referring back to all their events growing up as members of the Kamloops Classics swim team. “This year, we went to the Colleges Cup at UBC specifically to get prepared for this event. It was a big revelation. I think for the kids it is just getting used to the idea of being a student/athlete being able to balance the academics and the work around the pool as well as their own responsibilities being at home. The student/athlete responsibilities are really the biggest challenge for them at this point of year.”
McRae is in the engineering program and had been taking seven courses at the start of the semester. He has dropped that to five. He is still swimming six days a week. “ It does make me feel a bit pressured but I feel I have been handling it very well. “
He says it’s been a welcomed relief getting into the pool to train. “ It has always been my escape from academics for a little bit. As much as swimming is a team sport and I love that aspect of it, swimming is very much individual. You aren’t talking to anyone while you are training for two hours. You get that time away and take a step back and look at everything that is going on in your life. I find it very relaxing. It is one of the main reasons why I have been swimming so long as it feels like a nice balance for everything in my life.”
Dalke is expecting both Gabby Dagasso and Gauthier to improve upon their performances from the 2017-18 Canada West championships. “We are expecting Matt to do better. Last year his best placing was 10th in the breaststroke. We are looking to see him make multiple championship and consolation finals this year.”
Will this be the year that Thompson Rivers earns its first Canada West medals? ““I think Ryley is in that situation,” the coach states.”Emily could stand up and if she puts her swim together she could find herself there as well. Certainly top five is what we are looking to do. Then it is a tossup. The races have to go perfectly.”
Dalke says swimming in Calgary will be an adjustment, “ Their pool isn’t as nice as the one we have here. There is a bit of altitude. There are a lot of challenges with the different location.”