|Tony Staalstra says he's proud
his son, Gavin, has followed in his footsteps as a swimmer....
Then he laughs, because Gavin wasn't following anyone
at the Ian McCloy Island Swim on Sunday. The 17-year-old
from Lively, a representative of the Nickel City Aquatics,
finished a comfortable first in the two-mile event at
the 32nd annual swim, held at the university beach on
Lake Nepahwin. "It felt good out there," Gavin
said. "I haven't been swimming in a while, so it
was nice. "I was just sort of pacing myself the whole
way and I was using Chris (Eastick, who swims for the
Sudbury Laurentian club), to help me pace myself."
Gavin turned it up late in the race, however, and had
a healthy lead when his feet touched bottom near the finish
line. "I did this race two years ago and came second
in the two mile, so this is was what I was planning."
A serious swimmer for seven years, he enjoys the fitness
benefits, as well as the kind of individual competition
the sport provides. "I like racing and you don't
have to rely on a team – it's just you and it's
your fault if you don't do well," Gavin said.
The Island Swim, believed to be the oldest open-water
race in Ontario, fits the bill nicely. "I like open
water, because it's different," Gavin said. "You
don't train open water usually and you usually have a
wall to do flip turns and stuff, but this is just continuous,
so it's good for endurance for distance swimming, and
I swim distance usually, so it helps me out. "The
water was nice, too, and it's sunny out."
Swimming is a family tradition for the Staalstras. Gavin's
older sister, Carly Staalstra, was an accomplished competitive
swimmer, as well. Both were influenced by Tony, who has
been in and out of lakes and pools his whole life, as
a swimmer with the Laurentian Masters club and as a lifeguard
He was among the field of 75 swimmers – up 15 from
last year – who hit the water on a bright, breezy
Sunday morning. "I think swimming competitively helps
me coach better," Tony said. It's as a coach, and
not just a parent, that he has been impressed with Gavin's
recent results. "I'm really proud of the way he has
been swimming competitively," Tony said. "He
just got back from provincials, where he swam in the 1,500-metre
freestyle and was fifth in the province, qualified for
eastern nationals in the 800 free – he's doing very
well." Gavin figures he'll swim competitively for
at least one more year. "I don't know if I'm going
to university yet or college or whatever, but I'll definitely
have one more year of high school swimming," he said.
"I'll definitely always be swimming, just maybe not
competitively." Tony hopes Gavin keeps at it, however.
He's sure his son has what it takes to compete at the
next level. "I don't want him to sell himself short,"
Tony said. "I have an older daughter who was a very
strong competitive distance swimmer and she chose to get
out of swimming, as well, and I was a little bit disappointed,
but she wanted to focus more on her career. If he chooses
to do that, I'll probably be a bit disappointed. Swimming
is a great sport for kids, to get them through their teenage
years. It keeps them very well organized, it's healthy,
there's great camaraderie with others with like interests.
It keeps them out of trouble and it teaches good life
skills. Swimming is a life skill. With so much water in
Ontario, you have to know how to swim."
Leanne Luhta, who competed in the Island Swim several
years ago, just started training again this spring. She
was glad for the practise when she ended up in a battle
with organizer and accomplished local entrant Laura Young
on Sunday. "It was super," Luhta said. "I
was back and neck with Laura the whole way and I killed
myself trying to keep up to her. I didn't expect a race
like that." While she returned to swimming only recently,
Luhta has by no means been inactive. A native of South
Porcupine, Ont. and a former Sudbury resident, she now
lives in Lima, Peru, where along with her husband and
three children, she has taken up surfing. "Every
year, we come back in July, because we have a place in
Killarney," Luhta said. "Since I had been training
swimming again and I knew the Island Swim was in July,
I thought I would do it.
"After 32 years, it's still the same volunteers,
same people, and it's great to see endurance activities
like this still going strong." The swim is part of
the Sudbury Fitness Challenge, a series of seven athletic
events held in the area each year. It's also the most
northerly race in the Canaqua Sports Open Water Series.
Eastick was second in the men's two-mile race and Everett
Nina Kuckeram, Natalie Lefebvre and Abby McDonald were
top finishers in the women's two-mile event.
Buddy Green, Michael Wainmain and Philippe de la Riva
were top three in the men's mile, and Ali Bertrim, Tamera
Flannagan and Julie Rathwell in the women's mile.
Connor Watson, on the men's side, and Dylan Clement,
in the women's division, won the 500-metre race.
results are available here.