Not much noise can be heard at 6 a.m. on a Prince Rupert weekday morning; maybe some songbirds or a few ripples of nearby waves.
But if you’re at the Earl Mah Aquatic Centre, you can hear the slicing of the chlorinated water and some barking coach’s advice.
“I train nine times a week,” said Prince Rupert Amateur Swim Club (PRASC) Rapids team captain Sarah McChesney.
“I’ve been swimming since I was in Grade 2, so probably 11 years.”
McChesney is sitting in the Aquatic Centre’s lobby, pulled from her underwater home to talk about the next phase in her swimming career as she departs the club and heads for Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops in September.
The 17-year-old has also probably forgotten what the colour silver looks like.
McChesney went seven-for-seven in her categories at PRASC’s latest regional meet. That included a gold aggregate in 15-and-over girls (most overall points in the division), and a first-place finish in 50m freestyle, as well as the 100, 200 and 800, and the 50, 100 and 200m backstroke.
“Up until Grade 11, there was a year-and-a-half where I didn’t lose a race in the region,” she said.
“So that was pretty cool.”
The captain and lone female in the club’s higher ages likes routines. Getting up at 5 a.m. is alright with her as long as she does it consistently, and the same mantra probably applies to winning. That’s why this September will be a shock to the Rupertite’s system, and it won’t just be Kamloops’ chilling temperatures.
“I don’t really do very well with coping [with change]. I like the same [things]. I’ve never trained in a 50m pool. That’s going to be very different. We train 25m here [at the Aquatic Centre],” said McChesney.
It’s also the first year the Thompson Rivers WolfPack will have a varsity swim team in quite awhile. Brad Dalke will head the program, the coach of the Kamloops Classic Swim team, and he’s already got an ace in the hole when McChesney decided to attend the school after TRU hosted the B.C. “AAA” provincial swim championships.
“I guess you can say I’m the guinea pig [for the program],” she said.
McChesney would love to get involved with teaching classes more formally but there are only so many hours in the day.
“If I did teach the kids I’d have to miss out on practice or miss a dryland session so it gets really challenging.”
There was a time where she couldn’t even do that. The star swimmer hurt her Achilles tendon playing basketball, and was expecting her most recent meet in Kitimat to go south. But a few weeks before regionals, she got some good news after swimming the 800m.
“Getting back, I swam the Friday night and the timing system wasn’t working right, so I didn’t know what my time was. The timers said ‘five seconds’ and I said ‘what, did I add five seconds?’, because I would have been happy with that and (Rapids head coach) Chris [Street] was like, ‘no, you took off five seconds’.”
The future kindergarten teacher has a special dynamic with her coach.
“I’ve really enjoyed having Chris as my coach, I can’t thank him enough,” she said.
“He’s the person who gets up with me every morning and gives me my [training] set. I’d just like to thank a lot of people, with swimming you meet a lot of people and you meet a lot of parents who swim and their kids swim and you become friends and to leave all that and to start somewhere else is going to be really difficult.”
Thompson Rivers’ newest frosh porpoise knows others attending the school who play basketball and volleyball, but not any who will join her at the pool. She’ll also live in a residence that’s two minutes away from the facility.
“I don’t know any other swimmers there which is good because I want to start new and I want to start fresh,” she said.