University of Calgary’s Russell Wood will not be swimming varsity this year, meaning that he will not be competing at any University swimming competitions with the Dinos.
Wood would have been entering his third year of competition with the Dinos, already scoring points at both CIS Championships which he attended. Last year he swept all three backstroke events and was a member of all three Calgary relays that each finished second.
“Russell will not be swimming varsity this year, as of monday this week,” Coach Mike Blondal said over email. “He will continue to train in Calgary in preparation for Rio.”
We reached out to Wood for a comment, but received no response.
This loss will hit the Dinos hard as Wood has the most international experience out of the the solid squad that finished third in both the men’s and women’s divisions at the CIS Championships last season. In fact, Wood was the only swimmer from the University of Calgary to represent Canada this summer at the 2014 Pan Pacific Championships in Australia and at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Scotland.
While in Scotland, Wood finished seventh in the 50 and 200 back and eighth in the 100.
Wood will clearly be focused solely on World Championship Trials in April with the CIS Championships, which take place in late February, now out of the picture. Wood will continue to train with Blondal and the University of Calgary squad with goals towards competing in Rio and maintaining his position as the top backstroker in Canada.
The exact reasoning for Wood no longer swimming varsity was not clarified, however, whatever the reason is it will leave a huge hole in the backstroke events at the CIS Championships. The two swimmers that appear to be in a position to fill that void are Matthew Myers of the University of Toronto and Mitchell Benkic from UBC. Benkic finished second in the 100 back last year at the CIS Championships with his time of 53.71, taking down Myers who touched third in 54.01.
Myers however showed more range in the backstroke, also taking silver in the 200 to Wood, and finishing third in the 50 behind both Wood and David Sharpe of Dalhousie. Sharpe will no longer be competing as he’s already swam for five season under Dalhousie, the maximum permitted by CIS rules. It appears as though Benkic and Myers will be going head to head.
Benkic has the advantage in the 50 backstroke without a doubt. His personal best of 25.07 in short course meters is about even with Myers, Myers having a slightly faster time by two one-hundredths. Finals will be swum long course, meaning that Benkic will be the favourite as his long course personal best of 26.83 is significantly faster than Myers’ best of 27.21.
In the 100, it looks as though it will be extremely close after prelims, as both swimmers have almost identical times in the short course pool, however Myers will have the advantage come long course finals. His best time of 55.97 is almost a full two seconds faster than Benkic’s of 57.72. Benkic did however, beat Myers to the wall in the 100 backstroke at the last CIS Championships so there’s no doubt that he can challenge Myers for the win in the 100 as well.
The 200 should go to Myers as his long course 200m backstroke best time is over seven seconds faster than Benkic’s. There’s no doubt that Myers is the favourite here, but his real struggle will be in the sprint backstrokes where it seems as though Benkic is making a statement.