Louie Villanueva/the Gauntlet

Wild weekend for Dinos at nationals

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The University of Calgary Dinos swim team broke records and put on a show for the hometown crowd, but couldn’t win a banner at the Canadian Interuniversity Sport championships this weekend.

The men were engaged in a three-way dogfight for first throughout the three-day competition but ultimately placed third, 25 points behind the University of Toronto Varsity Blue and 10 points short of the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds. Meanwhile, the women finished comfortably in second place behind UBC. 

“So close, 10 points back,” said Dinos head coach Mike Blondal of the men’s finish. “There are so many ways you can sit back and think about all the opportunities to get those 10 points.”

The Dinos men’s swim team finished in medal positions throughout the meet and seemed to be on the cusp of taking over the standings but were ultimately overwhelmed by their opponents’ power.

“We had 16 men in the meet,” said Blondal. “Toronto had 18, UBC 17. So we were short a few swimmers to start with. We need better depth and our depth needs to score better.”

However, the meet was not an overall disappointment for the Dinos. Team captain Jason Block set two CIS championship records in the 50- and 100-metre breaststroke. Perhaps more surprisingly, Dinos rookie Tianna Rissling set a CIS championship record for the 400-metre individual medley in one of the highlight performances of the weekend.

“That was definitely a bonus,” said Rissling. “I try not to focus too much on my times. I mostly try to go for the race.”

It was a thrilling finish to an eventful year for the 20-year-old, who won four medals at the event and was named rookie of the meet on the women’s side.

“I don’t think it could have gone much better and I really have the team to thank for that,” reflected Rissling. “They are an amazing group of girls. It’s going to be a different team dynamic going into next year with some of them leaving and new people coming in.”

One of those familiar faces that will be leaving is Canadian Olympic swimmer Erica Morningstar who announced after her 200-metre individual medley victory that this was her final meet as a Dino.

“It’s really special,” said Morningstar on having the national finals in Calgary. “This is the reason I came back for a last meet. I definitely want to say thank you to my family and teammates who supported me.”

Family and friends came out in full force at the U of C Aquatic Centre. The building echoed with chants, drums and blaring music each night, and the pool deck was decorated in black and red, the official CIS colours.

“Honestly, with the pool looking so different and everything, it was actually like we were away from home,” said Rissling. “But it was definitely special to have all of our friends and family here and put on a bit of a show for them.”

Lindsey Delmar, Fionna Doyle and Gleb Suvorov also won individual gold medals for the Dinos. The Dinos also impressed during the relays, finishing either first or second in every relay event.

The Dinos will now turn their focus to the world trials in Victoria next month. Additionally, they will be busy wooing new recruits to fill some gaps in next year’s roster.

One of the most challenging departures this season will be fifth-year Jason Block. Although Block will continue to train with the Dinos next year, his sights will be set firmly on improving his times and making the Canadian Olympic team for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.

The Dinos have set an extremely high standard for themselves with their performances over the past few seasons. This season, the Dinos did not meet their own expectations despite some remarkable individual performances.