One final stroke
Cougars swimmer Maggi Pettit’s last chance to a earn CIS berth comes at Canada West Championships
Rounding the last lap of her university swimming career, all that is left for Maggi Pettit to do is to make it to the big stage.
The fifth-year University of Regina Cougars women’s swimmer has been in the Canada West Championships every year with Regina, but has never competed in the CIS Championships.
Pettit’s last chance to do so comes this weekend, when the Cougars travel to Vancouver for the conference championships. Other Cougars that will be at the tournament, which runs Friday to Sunday, are Hector Fukushi, Erika Brown, Craig Soutar and Jessica Winter.
“I would have liked to qualify for CIS earlier on in my career, but I’m still hoping for it this year,” said Pettit, a science major. “I think I have a good chance to do it. I would be disappointed if I didn’t qualify, but if I don’t I guess that’s just the way it goes.”
Canada West is not used as a qualifying tournament for CIS. Qualifying for both the conference and national tournament is based on time standards. To qualify for a particular event, swimmers have to swim the determined time at any meet during the year. It is harder to qualify for nationals than the conference meet. In previous years, Pettit has certainly been close to obtaining her goal.
“Last year I was two tenths of a second off in the 50-metre freestyle,” noted Pettit, who specializes in the 50m, 100m, and 200m freestyle and qualified to compete in these events at Canada West. “In previous years I’ve actually had a qualifying time for CIS, but it happened after the event so it was too late. Suffering these losses just motivates me every year.”
Since she has been so close before and is a year older, Pettit looks poised to qualify for nationals on paper. However, nothing is a guarantee when it comes to swimming.
“[Maggi’s] best chance is the 50m freestyle. In the 50m freestyle, you could simply touch the wall at a different angle and not get the qualifying time,” said Cougars head coach Sylvain Pineau. “Whether she qualifies or not should be decided within two to three tenths of a second. Sometimes 50m freestyle can go very well and sometimes it doesn’t. It’s a bit of a gamble and it’s a very tough event mentally because some days it clicks and some days it doesn’t.”
In his first year as head coach of the Cougars, Pineau has been working hard to create a winning team. Early on, Pineau felt the attitude amongst the swimmers was not very good. Because of their ranking, the team did not hold high expectations of themselves. According to Pineau, the attitude is more positive now.
“I think some of the success we’ve had as a team has helped,” said Pineau. “We have quite a few guys who are interested in joining the team next year as well. Swimming well now will help people consider the University of Regina in the future.”
“People are starting to come around now,” added Pettit. “We have five swimmers going to Canada West this year. That’s one more than last year. We have three people going who weren’t there last year.”
As well as improving team morale, Pineau has also tried to help Pettit reach her goal. He has sensed how motivated she is to finally achieve that goal this season.
“Maggi’s been training very well this season and adapting her program a bit to the new coach in town,” noted Pineau. “She’s been listening well and making progress in most of her events. She’s a very good team person who is liked by everybody and is good to be around.”
Pettit has appreciated her coach’s efforts.
“He’s got a different training style and it’s definitely working well for me,” she said. “I definitely feel stronger then I’ve felt in previous years. Being a sprinter, you can kind of get the mentality that you’re only a sprinter. He’s been pushing me to do everything. At one meet, I competed 16 times in three days.”
Fukushi, Brown, and Soutar are also looking to qualify for nationals like Pettit. Winter, on the other hand, has already qualified for nationals in the 100m, 200m, 400m, 800m, and 1500m freestyle. It has been an impressive rookie season for the science student, who has also earned a berth in the World Aquatic Trials this April in Victoria and the Olympic Trials in 2012.
As for Pettit, even if she does not qualify for nationals this season or win a medal in the conference tournament, it would be hard for her to look back on her time with the Cougars as a failure.
“It has been great to stay in Saskatchewan and do the sport that I love to do,” Pettit said. “There’s something about competing for your university that is so special. The swimming team has always been close. This year, even though some of us haven’t been swimming together, we still hang out outside of the pool.
“I have had some great teammates in my time with the Cougars. Linda Duarte and Mya Demchuk (two former Cougar swimmers) have helped me out a lot during my career. This year, since we have a young team, I have tried to take on a similar role and show the young swimmers how the Cougar program works.”
Pettit plans to stay at the U of R next year and work towards her masters. While her university swimming career will be over, the nine-year swimmer’s love of the sport will always remain.
“Swimming is such a great sport regardless of how old you are,” said Pettit. “I love to race and I love getting in the pool early in the morning.”
Joining Pettit at Canada West
Qualified Event: 400m freestyle
Previous CW Best: Placed 15th in 200m breaststroke last season
Coach’s Comments: “I think Hector could get a top 16 finish if he swims well.”
Major: Kinesiology & Health Studies
Qualified Event: 100m butterfly
Previous CW Best: N/A
Coach’s Comments: “She did not swim last year due to injuries so she has made some great progress from meet to meet. Two weeks ago, she was the best she’s been in a long time.”
Major: Campion Science
Qualified Event: 50m freestyle
Previous CW Best: N/A
Coach’s Comments: “He just made the standard two weeks ago. It would be great if he could put up another personal best time. He will enjoy the experience”
Major: Luther Science
Qualified Events: 50m, 100m, 200m freestyle; 50m, 100m, 200m individual medley; 50m, 100m, 200m butterfly; 50m, 100m, 200m breaststroke
Previous CW Best: N/A
Coach’s Comments: “She should lead the way and has a good shot to win us a medal. She spends the most hours in the pool.”