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Beaver Brae swimmers make history

Kate McKie, Sophie Prepp and Matthew Debbo were the first members of the team to compete at the OFSAA swimming championships.
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Sophie Prepp, Matthew Debbo and Kate McKie of the Beaver Brae Broncos competed for the school at the OFSAA swimming championships in Toronto.

KENORA – An achievement by a trio of Beaver Brae Broncos swimmers is one they hope pays dividends for years to come.

Kate McKie, Sophie Prepp and Matthew Debbo became the first members of the squad to compete at the OFSAA (Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations) swimming championships, which were last month at the Toronto Pan Am Sports Complex.

“All of us felt really honoured to be able to go and represent our school, especially since we haven’t had a swim club here for many years,” Prepp said.

“To actually be able to not only compete at our district meet but to then go on to the provincials is something we’re all proud of.”

While all three students are used to competing at big swimming competitions as members of the Kenora Sharks swim club, the OFSAA competition was a completely different animal as there were 3,000 competitors from 350 schools at the two-day meet.

“It was a completely different beast than anything that I have ever participated in during my over 40 years of coaching - with the number of athletes competing, the way that the meet was run and the speed at which everything happens,” said Janet Hyslop, Beaver Brae swim coach.

“All of the girls swam on the first day with their preliminary events in the morning and then their finals in the afternoon, with only an hour in between. The boys did the same thing on the second day and the facility itself was so heavily attended by schools and athletes that there were restrictions on people entering or even coming into the pool to watch. It was absolutely crazy.”

All three swimmers achieved personal bests at the event, with Debbo leading the way by finishing 43rd overall in the 100-metre freestyle and 64th in the 50-metre freestyle.

McKie placed 45th in the 100-metre breaststroke and 51st in the 100-metre individual medley, while Prepp was 54th in the 100-metre backstroke and 66th in the 100-metre freestyle.

“It was definitely one of the busiest meets that I’ve ever been a part of, especially with how crowded it was on deck, but it was a wonderful experience,” McKie said.

“We learned a lot from it and I think going forward the best thing that you can do is to just try something and set goals for yourself that you can try to achieve,” Debbo added.

Prepp and Debbo are both graduating from Beaver Brae in a couple of months, but McKie is eligible to return to the meet next March in her Grade 12 year.

Coach Hyslop hopes that more swimmers will be able to join McKie for that event.

“One of my goals is to be able to form a relay team with the kids here and to continue to bring that team element to an individual sport,” Hyslop said.

Prepp said while it’s nice to come away with some hardware from events, achieving personal goals is what stands out the most from the OFSAA experience.

“Instead of comparing yourself to all those other swimmers that are there, you just try and push for your own best time,” Prepp said.

“That’s a win for anybody.”