While swimmer Kat Kranjc had some mixed feelings regarding her performance at her first U Sports Championships in Toronto, all in all, it capped a strong rookie season for the Whistlerite.
In her first year at the University of Western Ontario, the fact Kranjc even qualified for nationals was impressive unto itself. Once at the meet, held from Feb. 22 to 24, Kranjc placed 44th in the 100-metre freestyle, 25th in the 50-metre freestyle and 38th in the 50-metre butterfly. She also helped the Mustangs to a fourth-place finish in the 400-metre freestyle relay.
The 50-metre freestyle was a tough pill to swallow, not only because the top 24 advance to finals, but because a surprise swim-off was necessary to determine who went on.
"I did not know about the swim-off at all, so I took off my race suit," she said. "Swim-offs usually happen at finals, so even if we did know, it wouldn't have mattered.
"I had to go run, put on my race suit and be behind the blocks in 10 minutes, and that's not easily done."
Still, Kranjc picked up plenty of useful experience that she can use as she furthers her swimming career in Ontario. Seeing a nation's worth of talented swimmers allowed her to observe how the best, including Canadian Olympians like Kylie Masse of the University of Toronto and Yuri Kisil of the University of British Columbia, remain consistent.
"There were a lot of fast swimmers and I don't think the majority of the swimmers knew that," Kranjc said. "It was more just a mind-blowing experience.
"It's a learning experience because you can watch how fast these people go and see what they're doing right to make them go fast and apply it to yourself.
"They have a lot of power and even if they have a slight, little mess-up, they don't give up... There are people that when they make a little mistake, they go 'There's no chance.'"
It was especially eye-opening to see how unflappable the swimmers were in light of some odd equipment issues during competition.
"It was not letting the little things get in the way of the race," she said, noting some of the timing systems inside the starting blocks weren't working and competitors put their feet through the touchpads. "People were cutting their feet open and not being able to compete anymore.
"You want to be confident going into the finish or doing a flip turn without your feet going through it. I've never seen that happen before at any other meet. It was definitely a surprising thing for everyone on our team."Kranjc explained the Mustangs ramped down their training leading into the provincial meet two weeks before nationals. The move had some mixed effects on her outcomes, she said.
"We were on a month of taper going into that meet. We had a meet two weeks prior, the OUA championships," she recalled. "That's the one that our coach mainly tapered us for, because that's the one the majority of our swimmers were swimming in.
"I thought I swam decently well for not training as strong for so long.
"It made it easier for the first swim meet (provincials). It also made it easier for the second swim meet (nationals), but it also made it harder to beat my times from the first swim meet because I already had one go at it.
"It was hard matching those times where I had my first chance."