Photos from Silhouette Photo Archives
By: Coby Zucker
The swimming season is a short one punctuated by smaller meets, split in half by the Divisional Championships and capped off with the climactic Ontario University Athletics Championships. For the team, the OUAs give the opportunity to show the improvements made across the season, and encourage their teammates in an event packed with some of the best swimmers from across Ontario.
“We’re very excited about the OUAs,” said head coach Grey Fairley. “This is always the most fun meet of the year. The passion and the excitement that all teams exhibit but especially, obviously, our team, it’s just so infectious. We’re all exhausted at the end of it, but it’s like we’ve taken ourselves to a higher plane of existence.”
Hannah Dvorski, now in her fifth and final year of eligibility on the team, will be looking to add to her collection of hardware in the 50m, 100m and 200m backstroke, and on the three team-relays.
“I think physically, we’re all there right now,” said Dvorski. “We’re just getting into the right mental headspace and just believing in ourselves. I think, as we get closer, we’re going to start to feel what we refer to as the ‘OUA magic’. So I’m excited for that to take place and I know we’re all really really excited.”
Dvorski is looking to improve on her bronze finishes in the 50m and 100m at the Divisional Championships, and put forward a performance that will help the women’s team climb the standings.
On the men’s side, third-year Simeon “Mony” Tchervenelekov is coming off a dominant performance over Waterloo University in a recent dual meet at McMaster. Tchervenelekov is looking to notch his first podium OUA finish in the intermediate medley, breaststroke or team relay categories.
Chosen as one of the team’s captains for the season, Tchervenelekov has the added responsibility of looking out for the rest of the team and helping them get into mental form for the OUAs.
“I know a couple of the guys who got sick this past week,” said Tchervenelekov. “And you know they’re getting worried about their performance. That’s kind of where [Mitchell Muizelaar], the other captain, and myself, on the men’s team at least, stepped in and kind of give them a little boost of morale.”
Emotional and mental readiness, as well as generally getting into the right headspace, is a pivotal part of the OUA preparation. As practice eases up and distances decrease in favour of shorter sprints, the shift in focus moves from the physical side and starts to emphasize capturing the championship mentality.
“I feel like the team a couple of weeks out of OUAs, we’re all physically there,” said Tchervenelekov. “And then about like a week out, it starts to hit us and we get a little bit nervous. But that’s good because OUAs is coming up and you know it’s the meet of the year and everyone gets a little nervous, and that’s how you know that we’re ready.”
For Dvorski, the emotional frenzy of the OUAs is underscored by a degree of sentimentality as she participates for her final time.
“It’s special to wear the Marauder on your cap and to represent McMaster on the blocks,” Dvorski said. “I think I’ve done it well for the past five years, and I’m excited for what the future holds for me.”
Although the University of Toronto Varsity Blues have swept the OUAs for the past five years, the Mac women were able to score a bronze medal finish two years running, and are looking to keep the streak going. Their male counterparts will also have their sights firmly set on a return to the podium. This year’s OUA Championships, hosted by Brock University, runs from Feb. 7-9.