Barrie swimmers Hart and Stehle on fast track

 DAVID MANN, Special to the Examiner

Barrie Trojan Swim Club members Rowan Hart, left, and Jarod Stehle continue to rise through the ranks with Swimming Canada. EXAMINER FILES

Barrie Trojan Swim Club members Rowan Hart, left, and Jarod Stehle continue to rise through the ranks with Swimming Canada. EXAMINER FILES

Rowan Hart and Jarod Stehle are one step closer to fulfilling their dreams of one day swimming in the Olympics.

The Barrie Trojan Swim Club members have been named to the Swimming Canada national ID team.

Last season, Hart had the best 100-metre breaststroke time in his age group and Stehle had the best time for 200-m backstroke.

Up until now, Hart and Stehle have been marked by their green and white Barrie Trojans colours, but soon the swimmers will have a much bigger target on their backs, the size of a Canadian flag.

“They’re watching me for my times, for my races, how well I’m doing, if I’m on track to make finals at certain meets,” Hart said. “It’s a pretty big deal, in my opinion.”

Swimming Canada monitors its athletes primarily from afar, but they have representatives at some of the larger meets.

The Canadian National Development Program focuses on developing talent for the progression to the senior national team.

Swimming Canada invests in the athletes.

The program is divided into three tracks based on the level of the swimmer. At each of the levels swimmers are paid and given apparel like swim caps and goggles.

“It kind of gives me a perception of where I’m at right now and where I could be in the future,” said Hart, who is coming off a recent week of swimming at Camp Chikopi.

In order to progress with the program, Hart will have to reach designated times; the next step would be making Team Canada and competing at swim meets around the world.

For an athlete who trains nine times per week during season, Hart is quick to praise his coach for this accomplishment.

“I attribute this success to Jason Morawski. He has trained me for the last two years, I’ve known him for the last four,” he said. “He’s the guy that is there every day; he never skips out.”

Hart is among a handful of elite swimmers with the Barrie Trojans, but this 2016-17 season was especially special.

“The whole club registration is the best we’ve ever done. And our competitive performances have been good, highest rankings ever at provincials – we came in third,” Morawski said.

Most recently, Stehle, Kendra Lutsch and Trojans graduate Adrian VanderHelm all competed at the Canadian World Trials in April.

When sharing his exciting Swimming Canada news with his coach, Morawski was excited for Hart, but just as eager for more training.

“This is great, now here’s the next step,” he said.

Fortunately, most Trojan swimmers like Hart are on the same page as their coaching staff.

“I’d say my biggest goal is to qualify for world trials and podium at Eastern Nationals,” Hart said. “Easterns didn’t go very well, I kind of had a down meet, hoping to bring it up.”

As for next steps in training, there is an Ontario Swimming Academy, but it requires participants to move away to attend.

“For me, I’m not too keen on leaving home. I kind of just want to stay where I am right now. To be on the Team Canada team, you just have to have a certain time,” said Hart, who is going into his seventh season with the Trojans.

There is enough healthy competition among Barrie swimmers that it only pushes teammates to improve.

One of the best examples of this is Hart and Stehle, a teammate relationship that has turned into a unique bond, both in and out of the water.

“Jarod has been one of my closest friends since nine years old,” said Hart, reflecting on their friendship. “We’ve been training partners for the last two years; just to achieve this honour with him is amazing.

“It’s a lot less stressful now because I have someone else there with me who I know,” he added.

Hart and Stehle will be holding one another accountable to hit the wall first in races, knowing that their suddenly swimming with a lot more on the line.

If nothing else, the national development program has reminded Hart that his swimming goals are attainable.

“Honestly, I think I have a pretty good shot for the 2024 Olympics. They say the peak age for swimmers is between 20 and 25. I’ll be around 22 around then, so it will be kind of a perfect time to qualify.” 

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