T-Bird tidal wave takes national competition

by Bruce Mason
Staff writer

UBC has successfully defended both its men's and women's national swimming titles. In fact, the Thunderbirds were in a league of their own at the Canadian Interuniversity Athletic Union (CIAU) championships held recently in Guelph, Ont.

In what national news media characterize as a "tidal wave," the UBC's women's team finished with 620 points, way out in front of runner-up University of Toronto, which had 433.5. The team was paced by swimmer and first-year Arts student Jessica Deglau who captured seven gold medals. Calgary, Victoria and McGill rounded out the top five.

UBC also claimed the men's title easily, finishing 140 points ahead of second-place University of Calgary. Toronto, Victoria and McGill finished among the first five teams.

Thunderbird coach Tom Johnson -- named both women's and men's coach of the year in the CIAU for the second straight season -- says it's no secret why UBC has the top-ranked swim program in Canada.

"It's a direct result of the commitment of the department, the hard work of coaches, and above all, the fact that our swimmers are buying into what everyone is telling them -- that they have an opportunity to excel in global competition while they earn a first-rate education," he explains.

The 1999 CIAU Swimmer of the Year, Deglau set a CIAU record in the 800-metre freestyle and finished in top spot in the 200-metre freestyle, the 200-metre butterfly, and the 400-metre freestyle.

The national team member also swam with the record-breaking Thunderbird women's relay teams. UBC shattered previous records in all three relay events: the 4X100-metre freestyle, 4X200-metre freestyle and the 4X100-metre medley.

Marianne Limpert won gold medals in the 100-metre freestyle and the 200-metre individual medley. Sarah Evanetz won the 100-metre butterfly.

Garrett Pulle was a stand-out on UBC's men's team, winning three solo (100-metre and 50-metre butterfly, and 100-metre freestyle) and two relay gold medals. The national team member helped set a CIAU record in the 4X100-metre medley relay and swam with the first place 4X100-metre freestyle relay team. The UBC men's team also won all three relay events at the meet.

"UBC's coaching staff and all athletic department employees share a vision -- a model of development which starts when a child first enters a pool and continues right up to the podium," say Kim Gordon, UBC's intercollegiate co-ordinator.

Gordon, who is also president of the Canada West University Athletics Association, the conference in which UBC competes, says UBC is producing "healthy athletes" as a result of forming national and local coaching partnerships.

"Our partners enable us to have many more coaches on deck than would otherwise be possible," she explains. "Swimmers of every level of development have access to coaches and role-models as well as an opportunity for educational excellence. They're not only great in the water -- they go on to become leaders in the community."