The University of Toronto men’s team has have won the CIS Championships for the last two years, but with some of their stars such as five-time 200m butterfly CIS Champion Zack Chetrat gone, they’re going to have some very stiff competition with the likes of UBC if they want to retain their title.
2013-2014 Season Recap
The University of Toronto men won the CIS Championships last year with a total 690 points to UBC’s 609.5. UBC was over 200 points ahead of third place team, the University of Calgary, making it a true battle between only UofT and UBC for gold.
The University of Toronto men had tons of depth which helped them sneak in many different swimmers for points, and not just rely on their stars to take home wins for them. They did however, take home wins in the 50 breast, 50 fly, 50 free, and 200 fly.
They were the OUA champions as well, taking town top teams in Ontario such as McMaster University and Western.
To win the CIS Championships, it will definitely be a lot more of a struggle this year as the UBC team had some major pickups with the likes of sprint freestyler Yuri Kisil and University of Victoria transfer Keegan Zanatta who will both bring points to the team in multiple events.
The University of Toronto team did some solid recruiting under the coaching staff led by Byron MacDonald, picking up swimmers such as Oliver Straszynski who swam with the Toronto Swim Club under coach Bill O’Toole, backstroker Kyle Haas from the Oakville Aquatic Club, and Mitchel Ferraro.
Straszynski, a freestyle sprinter, boasts a 23.83 long course 50m freestyle and a solid 51.51 100m freestyle. With the prelims being held in short course meters this year and the finals in long course, Straszynski should be able to make the final in both events, although to medal he’d need some solid improvement. With the likes of Yuri Kisil, Coleman Allen hailing out of UBC, and Evan Van Moerkerke from Guelph, it’s going to be tough to crack the top three and make it onto the podium.
Last year, the bronze medal went to Moerkerke with a time of 48.88 (SCM), but this year there’s a chance that all three medallists will need to be under 50 seconds to get on the podium. Kisil holds a personal best of 49.26 in the long course pool and will most likely take the gold, Allen on the other hand is a 50-point which could make room for Straszynski to pop in to play. If Straszynski can take some time off, he’ll be in the podium mix, not to mention that some of the other athletes will be training through the meet with a large focus on the World Championship Trials held in April.
As for Haas, his backstroke times will rack up a few points for the Varsity Blues. He’s a 54.10 in the short course 100 back, a time that should get him into finals this year considering he would have been fifth overall at last year’s championships. The biggest issue for Haas will be once he qualifies for the finals, he’ll need to step it up and swim long course. His long course 100m backstroke personal best is significantly slower sitting at 57.19 from the 2014 Canadian Nationals, a time which won’t stand out against top level competitors such as Russell Wood and UofT’s own Matthew Myers.
Byron MacDonald however has a long history of producing top-notch swimmers who can perform both in the short and long course pools, so there’s merit to believe Haas will be able to throw down just as impressive of a long course 100 backstroke when February roles around.
Ferraro will also be a great asset to the sprint freestyles, holding times faster than Straszynski. His long course personal bests of 23.21 and 50.15 in the 50 and 100m freestyles will make him a solid competitor, the 100 free will most likely even get him on the podium. With that 50.15, he most likely won’t be able to slip by Kisil but he should be able to give Allen a run for his money. Familiar with MacDonald and his training program, Ferraro should feel comfortable with the team and ready to produce some fast times.
Throw Straszynski and Ferraro on the 4x100m freestyle relays, and they’ll have ground for a second place finish behind the UBC team which should win unless they experience a DQ. With Chris Manning and Steven Hibberd coming back for a fifth season, these two could find a place on the team, although one spot might be taken by Edward Liu. These two will also be a factor in years to come on the 4x200m freestyle relay.
With the addition of the freshman, the University of Toronto team will also look to rely on some of their returning stars such as Chris Manning, Matthew Myers, and newly chosen co-captain David Riley. MacDonald also stated that great things should come of Matt Dans who finished first this summer at the Canadian championships in the 100m fly with a gigantic improvement, and will continue to improve and become a major threat on the CIS scene.
Matt Dans finished fifth last year at the CIS Championships really coming out of nowhere. Dans, now going into his second year, has a personal best of 54.59 in the 100m fly. This race is Coleman Allen’s to lose, but Dans could get into a podium spot with the long course finals if he can challenge teammate Edward Liu and possibly some others. With Zack Chetrat gone, it does leave in open space in the top three which could go to a handful of swimmers, Dans included.
To round out the other strokes, Matthew Myers will be coming in hot in the backstroke events looking to take down Calgary’s Russell Wood who he had some fierce battles with last year. Myers finished third in both the 50 and 100 backstrokes, and second in the 200m backstroke an event which he has the best chance of catching Wood. Myers is definitely in the mix, and Wood should be a little slower as he’s the favorite to compete for Canada in the backstroke events at the 2015 World Championships so he most likely won’t be fully rested with World Championship Trials coming up in April. Myers will pick up a slew of points, and his overall improvement will be crucial to UofT staying on top of UBC, as the backstroke is one area where they lull behind UofT and the University of Calgary.
With Liu and Dans dominating the fly, Myers holding down the fort for the backstroke, Chris Manning is the man who will most likely take control of the breaststroke events this year. More dominant in the 50 where he was the co-champion last year, Manning overall has some steady sprinting speed no matter the stroke. He boasts a solid 50m freestyle, an event which he won last year at the CIS Championships with a time of 21.92 in short course meters. Last year, Brian Lee swam the 100m breaststroke split on the medley relay; this year could see Manning steering the breaststroke helm in an attempt to improve the 4x100m medley relay which finished fifth overall last year.
Manning swam the freestyle leg on the medley relay last year, and yes, he does boast an extremely good 100m freestyle, but with recent additions of freshman sprinters the decision will have to be made by MacDonald whether or not he’ll throw Manning on the breaststroke leg and put have a freshman swim freestyle, or keep the same order as last year.
Although the returning stars will receive most of the hype, there are a few swimmers who are returning with the potential to score major points as well. Ryu Hochan has the times to put up some solid points in the fly events, especially the 200 where he’s a 2:02.83 long course and a 1:59.90 short. In his freshman season last year, his 200m fly personal best would have thrown him into the finals, instead he placed 12th overall with a 1:59.99.
Long course finals this year will help Hochan significantly if he’s able to qualify for the finals. With a personal best of 2:02.83 long course there’s no doubt that he’s inching himself into medal territory, especially with Chetrat gone there’s a need for a star 200m butterflyer to step up. The second-year swimmer will have to take get competitive early in the prelims to solidify his spot in finals, whilst there he will have a large advantage against many of his competitors.
What To Expect
The University of Toronto men suffered some serious losses with the likes of Zack Chetrat and Frank Despond, but did pick up some solid swimmers who should be able to take home points throughout their entire collegiate careers.
If the UofT Varsity Blues want to beat their rivals, UBC, the returning swimmers are going to need to step up and improve placings. If even one swimmer has an off race it could alter the results greatly considering how close these two teams are.
All and all, the University of Toronto has a steady team and other than UBC, they’re fairly unmatched. The Championship victory should come down to UBC and UofT, with UBC having the edge with the likes of their new recruits and transfers.