BY KALISHA MENDONSA
The Lacombe Dolphins Swim Club is preparing for a busy season, with a number of meets being hosted by the local aquatic athletes this year.
Presley Waknuk, head coach, said the Dolphins have expanded their roster since last year, and are ultimately looking towards Provincial placements for their swimmers.
“One of the things we’re looking forward to is being able to host a big swim meet this year. We usually do it annually but weren’t able to host it last year, so we’re all looking forward to that.”
The meet will take place in June.
“That’s our regular club meet, but we’re also hosting Regionals this year, August 11th-13th. In addition to that, our region, which includes Red Deer, Lacombe and Ponoka, as a whole is hosting Provincials in Edmonton. We’re in charge of getting everything ready for that weekend, which is August 18th-20th.
“We have a really busy season ahead. It’s going to be exciting, but very busy,” she said with a laugh.
This is Waknuk’s fourth year as head coach of the club. This year, she will be joined by her sister Kyla to fill in as the second coach. Both Waknuk sisters have an extensive background in swimming, and Presley said the two of them are looking forward to developing new ways of coaching, together.
“I think it’ll be a smooth transition, as we already know we can work well together. She’s got a lot of new, fun ideas which will be great for all of our kids, but especially our younger ones. I think she’ll be a great addition to the team.”
The season doesn’t officially start until May 1st, but the Dolphin team is already in preparation mode.
“We’ve had quite a few new people join our team this year, and our registration numbers are up from last year. That’s in part due to working hard to get our name out there, but also due to the successes we have had in our past couple of seasons.
“Last year, we sent 33 kids to Provincials, which was a club record. We’re hoping for more this year, and hoping to build on that success even more.
“This year, I’m looking forward to keeping our momentum going and building on our success. I’d like to see us qualify even more athletes for Provincials this year,” Presley said, adding she is excited to see that momentum build with the addition of the many new faces to the team.
“With Regionals being hosted in Lacombe this year, I think we will have a bit of a home advantage and we can have those kids comfortable and ready to compete. It’d be great to see more of them move towards those Provincial medals.”
Last year, there were a few Dolphin athletes who scored fourth place in Provincials, and Presley said she is hoping to bump those swimmers up to a podium placement this year.
“I want to get them up to a place where they can be winning those medals. I’m really excited about those possibilities,” she said.
“I really want us to keep focusing on technique. That’s something I like to push – having strong technique and putting in the hard work at practices. I think the swimmers have learned by now that if they want to succeed, they have to put in the time and effort.”
Presley added she will work to push the swimmers past their limits, in order to become the best versions of themselves they can be. To build on last year’s success, she says there will be a strong focus on technique development and goal-setting.
In swimming, personal times are always a motivation for athletes to build stronger performances, and Waknuk hopes to encourage the Dolphins to out-swimming not only their competitors, but also themselves.
No longer a competitor herself, Presley said she’s happy with the change of perspective and has enjoyed her past years of coaching. She said she enjoys being able to play a mentorship role in the sport, and is happy to see the participation and profile in the group growing.
“Coaching keeps me involved in the sport, even though I’m not participating myself. It’s a great way to stay connected with the sport I’ve grown up in,” she said. “It’s all very exciting.
“It’s exciting that we have more kids. It makes practices better, because it’s easier to train as a team rather than individually. People tend to think swimming is an individual sport, but we train as a team and especially so with relays.
“You need your team, because they push you to get better. I think it’ll be a positive thing to come out of this growth we’re seeing.”
The group has run two registration events, but will still accept some last-minute registrations until April 30th. The team is hoping to garner more support from the Lacombe community, and invites them to keep their eyes open for updates about the upcoming tournaments this summer.