Haney Seahorses swimmer Joel Blanco won a bronze medal at the Bell Canadian Swimming Trials. (Special to The News)

Haney Seahorses swimmer Joel Blanco won a bronze medal at the Bell Canadian Swimming Trials. (Special to The News)

Haney Seahorses swimmer wins bronze on national stage

Joel Blanco making fast transition from water polo to sprint swimming

From April 5-10, the top swimmers in Canada gathered in Victoria for the Bell Canadian Swimming Trials, and a Maple Ridge athlete brought home a medal.

Swimmers competing at the meet included Olympic medalist Penny Oleksiak, Kylie Masse, Maggie MacNeil, Katrine Savard, Taylor Ruck, Kayla Sanchez and Rebecca Smith, as well as up and coming stars like Joshua Liendo and Summer Macintosh.

It also included the Haney Seahorses Swim Club’s entry Joel Blanco, who competed in the 100-metre and 50m freestyle events, and won a bronze medal.

The Canadian Swimming Trials were Blanco’s first national-level competition. Only seven months ago, he made the transition from water polo to sprint swimming. Blanco qualified for the trials earlier in the season, and has now cemented himself as one of the top sprinters in B.C. over the first half of the year.

Swimming his first event of the trials on April 8, Blanco placed 10th overall in the 100m freestyle. He swam well, and it was a chance to shake off some of the nerves that come with swimming at the biggest competition in the country, explained head coach Sarah Rudolf.

His next race was April 10, the last day of competition, where he would stand up in the 50m freestyle against some of the fastest men in the country. This event included the likes of Joshua Liendo, who posted the second fastest time in the world so far this year in the finals. Liendo posted a time of 21.63 seconds to win the 50m freestyle. That broke the old record of 21.73 set by Mission’s Brent Hayden 13 years ago.

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Blanco had a great race in the morning, posting a best time of 23.76, and getting his hand on the wall to tie him for second in the Junior final. Achieving a second swim was a huge accomplishment for the Haney swimmer, but also brought on the nerves of having to race his first national-level final, said Rudolf.

Blanco ended up taking off another .06 seconds at night, finishing third, and earning his first medal at the Canadian Swimming Trials.

Although a medal was a great accomplishment for the HSSC swimmer, the experience of the competition was priceless, said Rudolf. Having had a taste of elite-level swimming, Blanco is excited to continue to develop through the second half of the season, and to see what he can accomplish before heading off to compete with the UBC Thunderbirds.

“We are all so proud of what Joel has been able to accomplish in such a short period of time and look forward to seeing what he is able to accomplish in seasons to come!” said Rudolf.

Next up for HSSC is the Western Canadian Championships in Edmonton, from April 21 to 24, followed by the West Coast Open hosted by the Richmond Rapids from April 30 to May 1st.

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