U SPORTS Early Season Check In: UBC Women, McGill Men Hold Top Rankings

by SwimSwam Contributors 5

November 02nd, 2023 Canada, College, News, U Sports

Courtesy: Ella Milloy

The 2023-24 U SPORTS season is well underway. With two months of competition completed, we’re setting the scene with the top stories you should be following between now and the national championships in March. Momentum is already growing as teams look to defend their titles and defy their odds as they dive into a new season.

Battle in the Rankings

Defending national titles was the name of the game at the 2023 U SPORTS Championships in Victoria, B.C. The University of Toronto’s women’s team successfully defended its championship title with a total score of 1,336 points, topping the UBC Thunderbirds (1,166.5) and the McGill Martlets (872).

Now, two months in, teams have been eagerly awaiting the updated U SPORTS Top 10 rankings. On the women’s side, teams are already putting pressure on the defending champions. UBC leads with 789 points over the University of Calgary Dinos (553). McGill retains its 3rd-place position over Toronto with 472 points.

The men’s rankings point to another competitive season. The McGill Redbirds lead with 513 points, followed by the T-Birds (470), Calgary (352) and Toronto (287). The uOttawa Gee-Gees, who finished 3rd in Victoria, are 20 points behind the Varsity Blues.

A uOttawa Gee-Gee competes at the 2023 U SPORTS Championships in Victoria, B.C. Photo: Ella Milloy.

The UBC men won their 6th consecutive U SPORTS swimming title at last year’s Championships. They will surely be looking to reclaim their top spot as they aim for a 7th title this year.

The current rankings will likely change over the next month, as the Canada West (CanWest) teams prepare for UBC’s Odlum Brown Colleges Cup from November 4-5 and the CanWest Conference Championships, hosted by the Calgary Dinos from November 24-26.

There are four distinct conferences in U SPORTS: CanWest, OUA, RSEQ and AUS. U SPORTS has slightly different restrictions compared to the NCAA—pro swimmers are eligible to compete, and student-athletes have up to five years of eligibility rather than four (the NCAA has recently allowed student-athletes to use a 5th-year if they competed during the COVID-interrupted 2020-21 season).

Other meets to follow this month include RSEQ Cup 3 on November 11 at the University of Ottawa, the Ontario Division Championships at the University of Toronto (Fairweather Division) and Brock University (Boles Division) from November 25-26, and the Kemp-Fry Invitational from November 24-26 at Dalhousie University.

Pan Am Games Advantage

UBC’s Emma O’Croinin celebrating a win at U SPORTS nationals. Photo: Ella Milloy.

Several U SPORTS swimmers competed at the 2023 Pan American Games in Santiago, Chile. Many of those in attendance were major point scorers for their teams at the 2023 U SPORTS championships earlier this year.

UBC’s Hugh McNeill won Canada’s first individual men’s swimming Pan Am medal since the 2015 Games in Toronto, capturing gold in the 200 back in 1:59.96. The third-year T-Bird won the 100 back and the 200 back at the 2023 championships in 55.68 and 1:59.58.

Teammate Blake Tierney secured one silver and three bronze relay medals, highlighted by an individual bronze in the 100 back (54.25). In Victoria, Tierney won silver in the 50 and 100 back in respective times of 26.15 and 56.19, and added a bronze in the 200 IM in 2:04.78 for the Thunderbirds.

On the women’s side, T-Bird Emma O’Croinin brought home golds by virtue of her prelims swims in the 4×100 and 4×200 free relays. She placed 6th individually in the 200 free in 2:00.79. O’Croinin’s strengths remain in the mid-distance and distance freestyle events, where she won the 2022 and 2023 U SPORTS gold in the 400 and 800 free. She also won gold in the 200 free in 2023.

While these T-Birds competed internationally, the rest of the team raced against the University of Victoria Vikes at the Pacific Coast Swimming Invitational. The full team competed at Calgary’s Dino Cup from October 27-28.

To note, Dinos rookie Alexanne Lepage won four individual gold medals in the 100 and 200 breast and the 200 and 400 IM events at the Dino Cup. Lepage is coming off of two golds at the World Juniors in September. Her time of 1:07.04 in the 100 breast in Israel was the 5th-fastest in Canadian history.

Teammate Richie Stokes and Nathan Versluys captured double gold in their home pool in the 100 and 200 back and the 200 and 400 free, respectively.

Other Pan Am highlights include Calgary’s Stephen Calkins and Toronto’s Gabe Mastromatteo’s relay medals. Mastromatteo placed 6th in the 100 breast in 1:01.39. Kevin Zhang of the Waterloo Warriors placed 5th in the 200 fly in 1:59.30.

Mastromatteo will be one to watch again this season. The junior won the 50 and 100 breast at the 2023 championships. His time of 27.53 broke the 2015 U SPORTS record of 28.46, held previously by Konrad Bald of the McMaster Marauders.

His time of 1:01.38 in the 100 also broke former Varsity Blue Eli Wall’s U SPORTS record of 1:02.43 from 2016.

McGill on the Move

McGill’s Hazem Issa at the 2023 U SPORTS Championships in Victoria, B.C. Photo: Ella Milloy.

The McGill Martlets and Redbirds have risen steadily in the U SPORTS rankings over the last few seasons, with the Montreal-based school being the 1st in RSEQ conference history to win the men’s, women’s and combined categories three years in a row.

The six RSEQ schools – McGill University, Université de Montréal, Université de Sherbrooke, uOttawa, Université Laval and UQTR – competed in two short course (SCM) cup meets in October. The Martlets and the Redbirds dominated their respective and combined categories at both competitions.

Senior Elisabeth Ling has already earned herself RSEQ Athlete of the Week recognitions. At Cup 1, Ling won three gold medals and one silver. Ling’s top individual performances were in the women’s 50 freestyle, winning in 27.58 and the 100 free in 56.98.

Two weeks later, Ling was recognized as the Swimmer of the Meet for the second consecutive time, earning the highest points plus another three gold medals and a silver. Ling improved on her Cup 1 performance with a 25.96 in the 50 free while tying her 100 free time.

McGill’s Hazem Issa, of Cairo, Egypt, earned Swimmer of the Meet recognition on the men’s side. The junior captured three golds and one silver, with top performances in the 50 free in 22.85, the 4×100 medley relay in 3:43.65 and the 4×100 free relay in 3:21.52.

Notably, one of McGill’s top point scorers Pablo Collin, has not yet competed. Collin was recognized as the RSEQ Male Athlete of the Year and was awarded the U SPORTS Male Student-Athlete Community Service Award. The French native won two gold medals in the 200 free and 400 free and a pair of relay bronzes at last year’s championships.

The uOttawa Gee-Gees remain 2nd behind McGill in the RSEQ team rankings. Third-year Hugo Lemesle has already contributed significantly to his team’s point scores in both the breaststroke and relay events. Lemesle won silver and bronze in the 200 and 50 breast at the 2023 championships.

Look out for rookie Alym Kurji in the backstroke events. Kurji won the 50 and 100 backstroke at the first RSEQ cup meet, breaking the 2018 team record in the 50 in 25.52.

On the women’s side, Laval’s Axelle Cara stood out with two silvers and two bronze medals at the 1st meet. Cara’s strength in the sprint butterfly and backstroke events and the individual medley will contribute to the Rouge et Or’s standings. She will face strong competition from fourth-year Carabins Anais Arlandais, who competes in many of the same events.

More to come for OUA and AUS Schools

A Dalhousie swimmer competes at U SPORTS. Photo: Ella Milloy.

Although the RSEQ and CanWest schools have competed at several meets already, the OUA and AUS schools have only had a few chances to score points.

The OUA teams will be ramping for the Fairweather and Boles Division Championships at the end of November. Up until now, they have mostly competed at a series of dual meets, including Brock’s Badger Invitational, Guelph’s OUA Sprint Invitational, Carleton’s Tri-Meet and the Battle of Waterloo.

The Marauders proved to be dominant at the Badger Invitational, winning 19 of the 34 events. On the men’s side, Sam Chisholm, Cameron Johnsen and Kalen Murray won gold in two events each. The Marauder men scored 932.5 points over the Brock Badgers’ 559 points.

The women’s team earned eight 1st-place finishes and wrapped up the meet with 903 points over the 2nd-place Queen’s Gaels’ 582 points.

The Varsity Blues have yet to compete against any OUA teams. However, the 2023 OUA Champions travelled to race yards against Rutgers and Columbia on October 27. The women’s team tied against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights.

Ainsley McMurray and Katie Marovino proved to be strong point scorers for the Blues. Fifth-year McMurray won the 50, 100 and 200 yard free events. Marovino topped the podium in the 500 and 1000 yard free.

The men placed 2nd to the Columbia Lions, with a final score of 172-89. Coming off his Pan Am performances, Mastromatteo won the 100 and 200 yard breast.

The Blue will compete against Florida Atlantic University on November 4.

The Atlantic schools have only competed at Acadia University’s Jack Scholz Invitational so far. The Dalhousie Tigers swept the meet, winning the men’s, women’s and combined categories. The Acadia Axemen and Axewomen finished 2nd in the team rankings, followed by the Memorial University Seahawks.

Dalhousie’s Reagan Crowell placed 1st in the 100, 200, 400, 800 and 4×100 freestyle events. Teammate Logan Sparkes won the 200, 400, 800 free and the 200 IM events. Sparkes also anchored Dalhousie’s gold-medal 4×50 medley relay.

Finally, Sophie Rooney of host school Acadia won four individual golds in the 50 fly, 50 free, 200 medley and 200 back.

All three swimmers represented their schools at the 2023 U SPORTS Championships in February.

The AUS schools will compete at the Amby Legere Invitational, hosted by the University of New Brunswick from November 4-5.

 

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Current Top 10 Rankings

Women

  1. UBC – 789
  2. Calgary – 553
  3. McGill – 472
  4. Toronto – 370
  5. uOttawa – 123
  6. Lethbridge – 116
  7. Laval – 105
  8. Montréal – 83
  9. McMaster – 73
  10. Dalhousie – 69

Men

  1. McGill – 513
  2. UBC – 470
  3. Calgary – 352
  4. Toronto – 287
  5. uOttawa – 267
  6. Laval – 213
  7. Lethbridge – 189
  8. Montréal – 89
  9. McMaster – 74
  10. uAlberta – 72

ABOUT ELLA MILLOY

Ella Milloy is a reporter, digital content creator and former competitive swimmer based in Ottawa. Her work has appeared in Capital CurrentThe Canadian Baseball Network and The McGill Tribune. She has also done coverage for Swimming Canada, Swim Alberta and SportBrand Canada Inc.

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Javier
4 months ago

Isn’t this Stephen Caulkins 7th year of his undergrad?

OldManSwims
Reply to  Javier
4 months ago

He first started training with Denver in the 2016-17 season according to swimrankings, so that would make this year #8 of undergrad if he went straight through, I feel like there must have been a break in there somewhere.

To be fair I don’t see him on the Dinos 2023-24 roster on their website so maybe he wrapped up his studies last year?

Adrian
4 months ago

I expect big things from the Regina Cougars this year

Bo Swims
Reply to  Adrian
4 months ago

We’ll see at Canada West pretty quick…

Moe
4 months ago

Unfortunately the UOttawa GeeGees pool is still under construction and was supposed to be completed in July. Their training is seriously affected. Hope for their sake this situation changes soon!!