“We were really pleased with last season,” said head coach Robin Ferdinand. “In the past we had always been under half of the total score of Dalhousie and this time we were about 60 per cent of their score. We’re coming along.”
UNB took home 19 medals at last year’s Atlantic University Sport Championship, the most in over 10 years. The women’s team finished second overall while the men finished fifth.
“We were aiming at quality performances instead of quantity and every single person made the finals of at least one of their events. We were really pleased.”
The Dalhousie Tigers have dominated AUS pools for over a decade. The men’s team has won every championship since 1999 while the women’s team has won every year since 2002.
“Success breeds success and they just started getting more and more strong swimmers,” Ferdinand said about the Tigers’ string of titles.
“The other teams are evening up a lot more this year. At the first meet of the season, Acadia showed they have strong swimmers, Mount Allison has strong swimmers and we do as well. It’s starting to even out a bit.”
UNB had a fairly strong showing in the season’s first meet Oct. 17 – 18 at Acadia University. The women finished third — half a point behind second-place Mount Allison — and the men finished fourth.
“It went quite well. On the first day, they outperformed what I was expecting them to do because we were right in the middle of hard training, we got on the bus for five-and-a-half hours, we were there for 20 minutes and then they had to race. I was really pleased with their performances.”
The weekend was highlighted by rookie swimmer Charli LeBlanc winning the women’s 50m backstroke with a time of 30.03, making her the first AUS swimmer to qualify for nationals. LeBlanc also won the 100m backstroke and helped her team win the 400m medley relay.
Ferdinand expects the team to excel in backstroke and butterfly, but noted they also have strong breaststrokers as well.
The women’s team features quite a few highly touted new recruits. Along with LeBlanc, the team has also added Caroline Mercier, Allison Somers, Andrea Greene, Victoria Gardiner and Kelsey Taylor.
“We’re really pleased with our first-year athletes,” said Ferdinand.
There will also be a few sibling swimming for the Varsity Reds this season — Jessica and Charli LeBlanc; Andrea and Amanda Greene; Cassey and Keelan Mooney; and Eric and Chris Garcelon.
Ferdinand said it says a lot about the team and school when older siblings want their younger siblings to join them at UNB.
“It’s a really fun dynamic. It’s definitely positive to have all the brothers and sisters around.”
Both the men’s and women’s team have modest goals for the 2014-15 season.
“The men’s team is a little smaller and our top recruit coming in, Connor Adams, broke his femur during orientation week. Their goals are mostly to come top eight and hopefully crack the medals in a couple of events. Our team is small but mighty.
“The women’s team … we’re just looking for top eight and top three performances. We want to claw our way closer and closer to the AUS Championship.”
The Varsity Reds host the Amby Legere AUS Invitational from Nov. 1 – 2 at the Sir Max Aitken Pool. It is the team’s only home meet of the season.