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Canadian Interuniversity Sport – OTTAWA (CIS) – The University of British Columbia Thunderbirds hope to repeat as women’s and men’s team champions this weekend when the top varsity swimmers in the country travel to Quebec City for the 2016 Speedo CIS championships.  

Championship website: http://english.cis-sic.ca/championships/swim/index

National rankings (team & individual): https://registration.swimming.ca/universityrankings.aspx

CIS champions, awards & records: http://english.cis-sic.ca/sports/wswim/history

It will mark the first staging of the national meet in the capital of “La Belle Province” since 2006 and the first one at the Desjardins-Université Laval Aquatic Centre, a spectacular Olympic-standard facility which opened in 2013.    

The three-day competition runs from Friday to Sunday with preliminaries starting at 10 a.m. (short course) and finals at 6 p.m. (long course) daily. Live results from all sessions will be available on the championship website (click HERE) and all evening finals will be webcast live on www.CIS-SIC.tv

In women’s competition, UBC has won a record 20 CIS banners over the years and comes in as reigning four-time champion thanks to a hard-fought victory over the Montreal Carabins last winter in Victoria (581 points to 544). The Toronto Varsity Blues rounded out the podium (412).

All three powerhouses repeated as conference champions this season but it is the Blues who enter the CIS meet atop the Swimming Canada women’s rankings with 622 points, ahead of the Thunderbirds (543), Laval (301), Western (209) and AUS champ Dalhousie (206). The Carabins (187) settle for No. 7 despite their RSEQ title.

Despite the loss to graduation of – among others – superstar Savannah King, a two-time Olympian and two-time CIS swimmer of the year, UBC still boasts a championship-caliber roster highlighted by London Olympian Tera van Beilen and Erika Seltenreich-Hodgson, who was named CIS female swimmer of the year in 2013-14 and earned the same honour at the Canada West level this season. 

More importantly maybe for the UBC women, who edged Calgary by a narrow 12.5-point margin at the conference championships, no team members took the year off from CIS swimming to focus on their Olympic training, a reality that hit Montreal the hardest. 

After giving the T-Birds all they could handle a year ago, the Carabins will be without a number of star athletes in Quebec City, including 2012 Olympians Katerine Savard and Barbara Jardin, as well as Sandrine Mainville, who merited the Sprinter’s Cup at the 2015 CIS championships after sweeping the 50 and 100-metre freestyle finals. Savard was named the CIS female rookie of the year last winter thanks to her seven gold medals in as many events.    

For the top-ranked Varsity Blues, looking for their 16th national title but their first since 1997, the uncontested leader is super sophomore Kylie Masse, who also claimed seven medals (0-4-3) a year ago in her first appearance at the CIS meet. Masse is coming off a remarkable performance at the OUA championships, where she set six conference records as well as new Canadian standards in the 50 and 100 backstroke events.

On the men’s side, it’s a different story for UBC, which returned to the top of the CIS standings last winter for the first time since 2012 thanks to a dominant win over defending two-time champion Toronto (737 points to 584) and third-place Calgary (365.5).

The Thunderbirds have no less than six top swimmers focusing on their Olympic training this season, including Coleman AllenLuke ReillyLuke PeddieSergey HolsonYuri Kisil and Stefan Milosevic. Allen, the 2013-14 CIS male swimmer of the year and three-time Canada West MVP, claimed four CIS gold medals last winter, including a sweep of the butterfly finals.

At the Canada West championships last November, UBC edged Calgary by 32 points.

For their part, the Varsity Blues cruised to their 15th OUA title in 16 years, finishing almost 400 points ahead of Western in the standings. The strong Toronto lineup is highlighted by reigning CIS male swimmer of the year Eli Wall, who won national gold in the 100 and 200 breaststroke in 2015, and Hochan Ryu, named the male swimmer of the meet following the recent OUA championships thanks to his four individual gold medals, including a conference record in the 200 medley.   

Heading into the weekend, Toronto holds a commanding lead in the national rankings with 589 points, followed by UBC (334), Calgary (276), Alberta (249) and Western (210).

The other two conference champions, Dalhousie (135) and Laval (125), are ranked seventh and ninth, respectively.

“With the guys, we have six out for the Olympics here, but with the girls, we just had a lot of quality swimmers graduate,” said UBC head coach Steve Price. “We decided not to go out and try to find replacements, and instead put it to the athletes we had that it was their time to step up and to see what they could do. To their credit, they’ve taken it to heart.

“Even when we’re fully loaded, have all the bullets in the gun, so to speak, we never assume that we’re going to win anyway. We always take each year as it is and try to set the bar pretty high. This year, we knew we were going to be a little undermanned in terms of numbers, but if you look at our really strong teams from the past, especially the “Decade of Dominance”, it wasn’t a clean sweep every time. They weren’t walking away with the trophies on day two. What we try to drill into our swimmers is that you have to learn how to win in different ways – sometimes, you’ll win big, and sometimes it will come down to the last couple of swims. That was definitely the case at the Canada West championships.”

According to long-time Varsity Blues mentor Byron MacDonald, his troops travel to Quebec City with a clear goal in mind.

“Every year our goal is to win the national title. Some years we will be closer than others and this appears to be one of those years,” said MacDonald, at the helm of the most decorated men’s program in CIS swimming history with 18 team titles, three more than Calgary and four more than UBC. “We have a great history of performance when the meet has been held at Laval so we hope that brings us good fortune again. I expect the meet to be very fast as this is an Olympic year so everyone has been training a bit harder and is a bit more excited and ready to go.”

Pierre Lamy and Nicholas Perron from RSEQ rivals Montreal and Laval hope to see their athletes shine in front of friends and family. 

“We’re going to Quebec City to leave everything in the pool. We can expect solid individual performances from our swimmers,” said Lamy. “It’s nice to get to swim in our home province and we want to take full advantage of it. Travel won’t be a factor in our preparation this time around.”

“We have good momentum going in. After a tough start to the season, we’ve progressed from meet to meet, to a point where we almost won the combined team title at the RSEQ championships,” said Perron. “Our women’s and men’s teams are pretty similar. Not a lot of stars, but good depth. On the men’s side, our team captain Pascal-Hugo Caron-Cantin was named the RSEQ male swimmer of the year, while Geneviève Cantin and Marie-Pier Couillard are our leaders on the women’s side. All of them can definitely reach the podium.”   

Dalhousie coach Lance Cansdale guided the Tigers to their 18th consecutive AUS men’s title and their 15th straight women’s banner this season.

“All our male qualifiers are quality swimmers that have a chance to impact the scoring at the CIS championships. However, the key to a good team placing for us is scoring all our relays in the Top 8.  This will definitely challenge our depth, but I believe we are up to the challenge.

“We have an incredibly young female team attending this year’s championships, but are led by a few stars (Phoebe Lenderyou, Lise Cinq-Mars) and two captains that will make this their fifth CIS meet (Rachel Shin, Katherine Webster). I believe that the blend is a good one and if we swim to our potential, we should end the meet ranked as one of the best ‘pure’ university programs in the country.”

2016 SPEEDO CIS CHAMPIONSHIPS SCHEDULE (Heats 10 a.m. / Finals 6 p.m.)

Friday, Feb. 26 (order of finals)

#1 Women’s 200 Free

#2 Men’s 200 Free

#3 W 50 Back

#4 M 50 Back

#5 W 100 Breast

#6 M 100 Breast

#7 W 100 Fly

#8 M 100 Fly

#9 W 400 IM

#10 M 400 IM

#11 W 4×100 Free Relay

#12 M 4×100 Free Relay

Saturday, Feb. 27 (order of finals)

#13 W 100 Back 

#14 M 100 Back

#15 W 50 Fly

#16 M 50 Fly

#17 W 400 Free

#18 M 400 Free

#19 W 200 Breast

#20 M 200 Breast

#21 W 50 Free

#22 M 50 Free

#23 W 200 Fly

#24 M 200 Fly

#25 W 4×200 Free Relay

#26 M 4×200 Free Relay

Sunday, Feb. 28 (order of finals)

#27 W 800 Free

#28 M 50 Breast

#29 W 50 Breast

#30 M 200 Back

#31 W 200 Back

#32 M 100 Free

#33 W 100 Free

#34 M 200 IM

#35 W 200 IM

#36 M 1500 Free

#37 W 4×100 Medley Relay

#38 M 4×100 Medley Relay

About Canadian Interuniversity Sport

Canadian Interuniversity Sport is the national governing body of university sport in Canada. Every year, over 12,000 student-athletes and 700 coaches from 56 universities and four regional associations vie for 21 national championships in 12 different sports. CIS also provides high performance international opportunities for Canadian student-athletes at Winter and Summer Universiades, as well as numerous world university championships. For further information, visit www.cis-sic.ca or follow us on:

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For further information, please contact:

Michel Bélanger        

Communications & Media Relations

Canadian Interuniversity Sport

T: 613-562-5670 ext. 25

C: 613-447-6334

E: belanger@universitysport.ca

Mathieu Tanguay

Laval University

T: 418-656-2131 ext. 4165

C: 418-569-9778

E: mathieu.tanguay@sas.ulaval.ca