The honour of winning an inaugural cross-country duel meet went to the University of Calgary Dinos swim team Fri. night.
Following the Dinos trip to Toronto last year, the University of Toronto Varsity Blues took their turn to venture on a tour of Alberta last weekend, racing both the U of C and U of A teams. The duel meet is a new experiment in intercollegiate swimming.
"While the cost is huge, the stimulation to all the programs is fantastic," said Blues' head coach Byron MacDonald. "The athletes have to be tough to fly all that way, compete, then get up early and drive four hours and compete again."
The Blues seemed to face an additional struggle in the final metres of their races, likely feeling the effects of Calgary's relatively higher altitude.
On the women's side, the Blues never recovered after the Dinos scored a 1-2 finish in the first medley relay. Led by Kevyn Peterson's and Katy Murdoch's gold medal performances, the lady Dinos soundly beat the Blues 80 to 50 points.
Despite the loss, Blues co-captain Kate Plyley recognized the value of the competition.
"The Calgary-Toronto duel meet is a good opportunity for two Canadian teams, from opposite sides of the country, to race each other at a meet besides the CIS [Canadian Interuniversity Sport] championships," said Plyley.
But the men's side proved to be much more competitive. U of T brought a surprisingly strong team, including FINA world championship medalist Colin Russell, so the result was not decided until the concluding relay event.
Two points separated the Blues and the Dinos prior to the 'chuck wagon race,' but the Dinos roared back when Kevin Gillespie pulled away, effectively preventing an upset. The final score was 72-70.
MacDonald was not deterred.
"It was worth the $20,000 dollars to come to the event," he said. "I'm ecstatic that our men could come so close to the number-two Dinos."
Russell agreed that it was pretty tight, but amicably shook hands with and congratulated Dinos co-captain Chris Tobin.
"We started off slow, but we're not worried about winning CIS," Tobin said. "This was a training meet and we were happy to see two more guys make the CIS cut."