The Kamloops Sunstrokes will be sending a large contingent of swimmers to the Canadian Masters Championships in Kelowna on the weekend.
The official number is 22 — which is the biggest group anyone can remember sending to nationals.
“It’s quite a bit more than last year, or the year before,” said Sunstrokes head coach Theresa Zunich, “We only had one or two go to those . . . it’s tough for some to travel too far.”
The masters championships start Friday, and will continue through Monday. Registration is limited to 500 swimmers, and individuals can participate in six events plus relays.
Masters swimming is for athletes 18 and over — the Kamloops club has swimmers right out of youth swimming all the way to 72 years old. The divisions at nationals start at 18-24 and range to 95-99.
Zunich, who also is the head age group coach with the Kamloops Classics club — for swimmers 18 and under — said masters swimming is a good place for athletes to go once they’re finished with the Classics.
“Usually what happens is they finish with the Classics, then they miss it and come back,” she said. “They love to compete and also to stay in shape. It becomes their sport and their livelihood.”
There are about 80 swimmers on the Sunstrokes roster, with around 30 showing up to each of the club’s practices. The club practises four days a week, totalling 5½ hours.
And Zunich doesn’t have to chase the athletes around to try to keep them focused.
“They have their own schedules,” she said. “A lot of them, when they miss practice, they train on their own. I leave workouts ready for them.
“They’ll do it on their own, I don’t have to pull out the whip.”
And while the level of maturity is quite a bit higher than the younger swimmers, old habits die hard.
“They are just like kids at times,” Zunich said. “They get nervous at the competitions and you have to help them through it. But it’s a lot of fun.”