On October 17, UNB swimmer Charli LeBlanc became the first swimmer in the AUS to qualify for CIS nationals with a blazing fast time of 30.03 in the 50m backstroke. Making the qualifying time at the first meet of the season would be reason enough for most swimmers to celebrate, but for LeBlanc it wasn't quite fast enough.
"I was happy because I made CIS and grateful that I made CIS, but at the same time I wanted to break 30 seconds," LeBlanc said. "So having only .03 in your way is the most frustrating thing."
LeBlanc is in her first year of swimming with the Varsity Reds but she's been tearing up pools across the Maritimes since she was around five, first with the Windsor Bluefins and then with the Yarmouth Whitecaps. She says the most noticeable difference in stepping up to the university level is pool length - the pool in Yarmouth was only 18.5 metres long.
The second biggest change is a distinct focus on speed. And by that she means not just getting faster in the pool, but on the deck as well.
"The meets are super quick," LeBlanc said. "You do one event and then there's two heats and you're into the next. Before I'd swim and have 25 minutes to an hour. Here I have, like, two minutes. So it's really hard to let go of one swim and get back into the other."
Swimming at this level, LeBlanc explains, is 90 per cent mental and 10 per cent physical. "You have to let everything go as soon as you do it. I barely talk at swim meets. I look like I'm angry all the time because I need to be thinking - not about myself but about what I need to do."
LeBlanc is confident she can reach her goal of swimming the 50m back in under 30 seconds this season.
"I've gone 30-flat in practice," she said. "I've been working on this for the past year and a half, and every single meet it's just like that two milliseconds or three milliseconds. It's right there. You just need to hit everything perfectly."
Doing that means nailing down all the finer details, getting a great start and hitting the turn perfectly. Coming from a shorter pool, getting the right number of strokes in and out of the wall has been a bit of a guessing game for LeBlanc. That's why the upcoming home meet at UNB this weekend is so full of promise.
"I know where these walls are," LeBlanc said. "I'm excited."
Day one of the UNB Varsity Reds' home swim meet starts on Saturday, November 1, from 2pm-4pm (warm-ups at 1pm) and again from 7pm-9pm (warm-ups at 6pm). Day two runs on Sunday, November 2, from 10am-12pm (warm-ups at 9am).