Left to right, Dylan Wooley-Berry, Allison Loewen and Laurel White are expected to be top performers for the Mount Allison swimming Mounties this season. PHOTO SUBMITTED
SACKVILLE, N.B. – After 20 years as head coach of the Mount Allison Mounties men's and women's swim teams, John Peters is fairly confident he has finally been able to assemble a team that will make things interesting for the other strong squads in the Atlantic University Swim Conference.
“We are especially pleased with the strong lineup of women we have been able to assemble," he said following a recent team workout at the local pool. "Two or three rookies should join Marya Peters to give us strong entries in the relay events and it looks as though we ought to make a real run for second place."
So why shouldn't they set their aim on first place? Well, for one thing the Dalhousie Tigers recruit heavily across the country and the Halifax area provides a great feeder system so that their team is invariably ranked in the top 10 in Canada with even some Olympic-level competitors in the lineup.
With the addition of Allison Loewen and Laurel White, Peters is looking to move over UNB in the women's division as they begin their season in October, the first of four tournament-style meets to be climaxed with the annual AUS championships in Newfoundland.
Loewen brings a ton of talent to the table. The daughter of two Mount Allison graduates is an imposing figure who has already set a qualifying mark for the senior nationals. She hails from Montreal and has enjoyed a long series of successes as a sprinter in the freestyle. Peters is confident she will easily qualify for the Canadian Interuniversities Sport (CIS) championships during the season.
Laurel White of Charlottetown has made the PEI Canada Games team on several occasions and is a powerful individual medley specialist. These two newcomers will join Marya Peters to form three-fourths of the relay teams that should bring a lot of points to the Sackville team.
Marya has been the sentinel for the women's team for the past couple of years, being one of the top people in her category in qualifying for the national championships.
Coach Peters says the team suffered just one loss – Maddie Crowell who doubled as a cross-country champion – so they should enjoy plenty of depth. He believes swimmers like Emily Byrne, Lea Richemarsden and Zoe Leblanc will score well in the tournaments as the Mounties set the bar higher than before.
While the young ladies are flexing their muscles in anticipation of challenging those from Dalhosuie, UNB, UPEI, Acadia and Memorial, the men face a much tougher task. Missing for the first time in five years will by Mitch Peters, ranked as one of the Atlantic's premiere performers, but the coach is relying on another Sackville athlete to pick up some of the slack.
For example, Peters won seven medals in the Atlantic championships earlier this year. He was Mount Allison's MVP all five years and chosen athlete-of-the year for his brilliant efforts in both swimming and cross-country. Mitch was not only unbeatable in the pool but also was an inspirational leader on a team that finally broke the barrier last season by making it into second place ahead of UNB.
"Mitch will be really difficult to replace," says the coach, as he stood out among his peers from an early age as a member of the Sackville Swim Club and added to his resume by winning in the Bermuda championships and was seriously considered by the Canadian Olympic team for a tryout.
Stepping into these vacated fins will be another local boy who has a brilliant resume on entering university. Dylan Wooley-Berry will no doubt face some pressure, but coach Peters says he must be given time to adjust to the university competition. He swam with the Canada Games Team on two occasions, serving as captain on one occasion. He also holds a Bermuda championship and has become prominent as a leader in the local swim club. Last year he competed in France where he was on a Rotary Exchange program.
Dylan also brings a strong pedigree as his father Paul was the number one swimmer during his time with the Mounties.
Coach Peters is a tough taskmaster, as he demands commitment and dedication to the program. This calls for 15 hours a week of workouts, with sessions from Monday through Saturday each week. Twice weekly the athletes are in the weight room building their strength and running becomes natural as many double as members of the university's cross-country squad.
With most of last year's team returning, the men are expected to definitely be in the race even without the amazing contributions of Mitch Peters.
While swimming may not hold as high a profile in the community as some of the other teams, it is gaining more support each season and peaked last year with the daughter and two sons of the coach – all Sackville natives and members of the SSC –adding a nice touch and numerous first place finishes.