Barrie swimmers off to Etobicoke this weekend for Eastern Nationals

DAVID MANN, Special to the Examiner

Barrie Trojan Swim Club member Kendra Lutsch, 15, makes her way to the surface while training at the East Bayfield Community Centre. MARK WANZEL/PHOTO

Barrie Trojan Swim Club member Kendra Lutsch, 15, makes her way to the surface while training at the East Bayfield Community Centre. MARK WANZEL/PHOTO

The Barrie Trojans have enjoyed a record-setting year in the pool.

The club has seen its highest number of swimming members, best team placing at provincials (third), and largest contingent qualify for this weekend’s Eastern Nationals.

Among the decorated group of athletes, there are two who truly stand out: Jarod Stehle and Kendra Lutsch.

Both represented the Trojans in Victoria, B.C., last weekend at the Canadian World Trials.

Lined up in the pool with Olympians such as Penny Oleksiak, the pair experienced first-hand how fierce the level of competition is.

“I was going into that meet hoping to make Junior Worlds, and show other coaches that I was going fast and to get some more exposure to that kind of meet,” said 16-year old Jarod Stehle.

“Luckily, with swimming there’s always another meet,” he added.

The valuable experience Stehle and 15-year-old Lutsch gained over the weekend make head coach Jason Morawski optimistic about how they build off it.

“I think we both kind of looked at it as one of those stepping stones, we’re going to have 10 more years of swimming and 20 more national championships,” Morawski said.

Stehle and Lutsch don’t consider their coach’s suggested timeline for competitive swimming to be any bit unrealistic.

“I would like to do this forever, even when I retire turn into a coach,” said Stehle, who boasts the ninth-fastest 200-metre backstroke time in the country.

Lutsch also has high expectations for where she’d like to be in a decade.

“I hopefully want to be competing at the Olympics,” said the breaststroke specialist.

The pair will lead the Trojans’ charge of 16 swimmers into the water at Eastern Nationals this weekend in Etobicoke.

Lutsch finished in third place in her signature 200-m breast stroke swim last year in this competition, but this time around she said she won’t settle for anything less than first.

“I haven’t got a best time in a year, so this is the time,” Lutsch said. “I want to try and win it.”

Since coming off a solid competition last weekend against older athletes, both Lutsch and Stehle will have that confidence booster riding into this weekend.

“Kendra’s very fit, her aerobic fitness is pretty incredible and I think even beyond what she realizes it is,” Morawski said.

Lutsch pays close attention to stretching and what she eats, which helps to fuel her for the nine practices she endures on a weekly basis.

In fact, if there’s one aspect of swimming that she has room for improvement in, it’s the mental side.

“She often done races that she perceives she’s working her hardest and kind of gets to the end, ‘Oh actually I had quite a bit more in the tank’,” Morawski said. “It’s great you have that fitness and base and it’s just learning to tap into it.”

For Stehle, fitness is also an avenue he’s made strides in this season, specifically in his strength and conditioning.

“It’s good to build muscle and do those hard practices without shrivelling up. I feel like I’m growing all of the time,” said Stehle, who stands at just five-foot-nine.

Since he’s had such a strong campaign, particularly this season, Stehle has had more opportunity to participate in higher competition races, like World Trials. As his level of swimming has been raised, so has his love for the sport.

“Every year I’ve been enjoying it more and more, the personal growth and the lessons that I learn, and the life skills that come with it and the camaraderie that comes with my teammates,” said Stehle, reminiscing on his young swim career.

Stehle and Lutsch will be gunning to hit their walls first this weekend as each continues to make more of a name for themselves in the water.

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