If you've been in the vicinity of the University of Calgary Kinesiology complex, more specifically Baron's Court, over the past two weeks, you may have noticed an overwhelming presence of scruffy young men, perhaps in the process of eating a breakfast bagel or two.
If so, you have witnessed firsthand a small glimpse of the Dino men's swim-team in their final preparation for the Canadian Interuniversity Sport championships, which will begin Feb. 19 on the pool deck of the University of British Columbia Aquatic Centre.
The beards are the swimmer's equivalent of the playoff beard donned by NHL teams contesting for the Stanley Cup. After weeks of whiskered existence, the Dino men will emerge on the pool deck next Thursday clean-shaven and ready to race. These beards have been weeks in the making and are a somewhat light-hearted echo of the weeks, nay months, of intense preparation to which they have dedicated themselves in the pool and weight-room leading up to the CIS championships. The breakfast bagels are a favourite post-workout snack.
The anticipation for next weekend extends, of course, far beyond the facial hair of the men's team. Although already having established themselves as Canada West champions for two years in a row, both the men and women have kept their sights on the glittering title of CIS champions.
"I am so incredibly pumped to race," says Jessika Craig, second-year team member and winner of the 200 metre backstroke at this year's Canada West championships. "This year, we are confident we can win."
This tone of confidence echoes across the U of C pool deck, but it does not indicate any underestimation of the challenge facing the Dinos as they again go head-to-head with the UBC Thunderbirds on their home turf. Both Canada West swimmers of the meet were awarded to Thunderbirds this year and UBC was still able to hold off the Dinos for the women's CIS title last year, keeping them from their first championship in history.
However, it is this lack of overt bravado in the Dinos' comportment that leads the observer to believe strongly in their ability to win.
It is a confidence that stems not from a self-conscious effort to intimidate, but from a simple knowledge that they have done what it takes to come out of this varsity season victorious.
"There has been so much hard work and incredible commitment put in to recruiting and building this amazing team," says Katelyn Murdoch, who recently returned from a semester of intense training in Australia, "Both the swimmers and the coaches have been completely dedicated, and it is going to pay off this weekend."
It is possible that this year's swim team has been described using the words "cohesive" and "dedicated" more than any previous year. Although the men and women must win separate titles, both are actively anticipating each others' win. They are united in the desire to make history, knocking the Thunderbirds off the top of the podium once and for all.
Both Dinos teams are ranked first in the country heading to UBC, placing high expectations on their shoulders.
At this point, it is merely a case of racing exactly how they have trained all year long and Murdoch believes that the Dinos are more than ready.
"All the work is done, now it's our time to shine."