At last week’s regional swim meet, the Viper swim club made waves as over a majority of them won their events and qualified for provincials — the highest level of swimming competition for their age. With this tremendous success, Kristen Irving, head coach of the Vipers, talked about the swim team’s achievements.
“This is probably the best the Vipers have been doing in a really long time,” said Irving. “We actually just won the large team net point winners for regionals, we won the banner which hasn’t happened since 2014. This is the third banner in Viper history ever. It’s really exciting — it was a huge weekend. We had some amazing swims, some really great best times — I think out of the 36 swimmers we had going to regionals, we have about 28 to 30 going to provincials. Almost all of the kids qualified in either a relay or an individual event, which is really exciting. We even have some six-year-olds and six and under that have qualified as well.”
Irving then discussed what will be coming after regionals.
“A lot of the swimmers that did qualify actually qualified in all of their events — not just one of their events, they qualified in all of them. They’re ranking really high in the province, so we’re looking hopeful to get some medals out provincials as well — which will be really exciting for the Vipers. We had a lot of club records just crushed this weekend and in the whole season. We’ve won (most) net points at two other meets this year, the Summer Games and then we also won at the Lethbridge and Taber swim meet. Now, going into provincials, we compete as a region, so we compete as region F which is with all the other teams around the area.”
After this, Irving spoke on the improvement that she’s been seeing from the kids that are swimming this year, as well as touching on some of the records that have been broken this swim season.
“The one relay team — there was a record that they broke that was from 1988,” said Irving. “It was really old and they crushed it. There was another, Adison Hutzul, she broke the Viper record for the 1,500 metre, 800, and then she’s trying to chase down the ones for her backstroke as well. We had Evan Klemen go huge time with a 26 this weekend, which is really good for his 50 free. Then I would also like to mention Rebecca Carver, she took off a minute in her 800 from just swimming not too long ago which is just huge. Everyone in general — just the team has been really positive. Everyone gets along really well — we actually won the unofficial cheering award as well because we are a very loud encouraging team and we love supporting one another.”
Irving then discussed how the Taber swim team is becoming more noticeable due to all the achievements they have been making this year.
“It’s just been a really exciting year, really big things happening for the Vipers,” said Irving. “We’re no longer under the radar, we’re starting to get more recognized, and all of the hard work that has been put in over the past couple of years is finally showing. I’ve actually been with the Vipers for five years now, and I started off as an assistant coach in 2017 and then went to head coach. It’s really exciting to see all this hard work and stuff go into it, and then come in and see these results and the changes that have been made throughout the team. We’re really going up, progress for next year everything. I think the Vipers are just getting started essen- tially.”
Following up on her previous comment, Irving discussed how the swim team is now in the endgame for their competitions.
“Basically after provincials, this is it. Provincials are the last swim meet of the year — it’s the big meet per se, and then that’s it for the year. Then they come back next summer, so we’re looking forward to seeing what they bring, and put out for provincials, and hopefully, we’ll break some more records and even break down some provincial records — that will be really exciting too.”
Afterwards, Irving touched on if there was anything that she thought contributed to the success of the swim team this year.
“Honestly, the kids are just really dedicated, they work really hard, they respond well to feedback, and they want it. The whole year we’ve been talking about getting this banner, getting the net points, it’s been on our mind, so just something we're working towards, and we practice a lot we have double practices almost every day. A lot of the kids come to each practice, we put in the time and the work just all those miles in the pool. Just perfecting everything, and I think due to COVID, this may have happened sooner, I don’t know, but just this year, with all the kids' efforts, we have a really great team. A lot of strong really young swimmers like Dexter Leishman, he’s eight and he won first for all of his events at regionals. It’s his first year swimming, and so he gets to go to provincials and gets to swim all of his events. He’s actually ranked really high in the province and it’s just his first year for an eight-year-old, and he’s crushing it, he’s doing awesome. It’s just because they love it. They love swimming — they want to do better, they want the Vipers to be known — they just scream Viper spirit.”
Finally, Irving took a moment to speak on the camaraderie that she sees within the Vipers and her experience of watching these kids grow and improve.
“We’re not just a team, we’re a family,” said Irving. “Taber is a small town, they go to school together, they grow up together, and I think with that also being said, me being there for the past five years, I’ve seen all of their progress. All of their changes, from them just barely starting to swim — like not even knowing how to do freestyle — to now some of them are driving, having jobs, crushing their times, becoming leaders, and wanting to coach even. Just a big thing and I’m just really, really proud of everybody.”
Ian Croft, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Taber Times