Champagne set multiple Gee-Gees records. Photo: CC, Australian Paralympic Committee.
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Third-year Gee-Gee claims OUA medals, brings home a national title

Optimism was flowing for both the men’s and women’s swim teams early on in their seasons, as they were ranked seventh and tenth in the nation, respectively.

While neither team could maintain their ranking throughout the season, they made up for it with a strong Ontario University Athletics (OUA) finals showing, and a trip to the national swimming championship.

The men’s team was present in the top 10 in 10 weeks out of a possible 12, but the women’s team failed to rank following the first week.

The OUA swimming championships took place from Feb. 9–11 at the University of Toronto, and saw the Gee-Gees women’s and men’s team place fourth and third respectively.

Head coach Dave Heinbuch hoped they could have done even better, but was proud of his team’s result nonetheless.

“Our goal was to finish second in the men’s and third in the women’s. We weren’t quite there yet, but we are getting there,” said Heinbuch.

“In my four years, that was my best OUA championship, both teams stepped up big time, so I was really happy with the performances.”

For the men’s team, the third-place finish was their best since 2010 and allowed them to qualify four swimmers for the U Sports championships.

Montana Champagne made headlines for the men’s side, recording three individual medals (two gold and a silver) and two team medals (silver and bronze). He set Gee-Gees records in all five individual swims that he participated in.

The women’s team recorded four medals altogether and qualified six swimmers for the U Sports final.

Anne-Marie Kaczmarczyk’s OUA silver medal in the women’s individual medley, accompanied by three other bronze medals, was the medal tally for the team who finished fourth overall.

The only Gee-Gee to medal at nationals was Champagne, who recorded three medals in impressive fashion. He recorded a gold medal in the 400m individual medley, to go along with two silvers in the 200m individual medley and the 200m butterfly.

Heinbuch wasn’t surprised to see how well Champagne performed in the high-pressure of the national championship.

“First of all, his goals are to be an international-level swimmer. He lives that on a daily basis. Every day he comes in and works hard. His results are no surprise.”

The female 4 x 100m relay team had the best finish for the women’s team, placing 12th on the final day of the event.

Ultimately, Heinbuch thought his teams had a very good showing on the national stage.

“You know I was really happy with the men’s team ending up 10th,” said Heinbuch.

“The meet is so fast now, that if you can come in the top 10, you’ve done a pretty good job. Overall I was really happy with the men. With the women, we probably left a little bit of our performances at the OUA championships.”

With the national championships now over, Heinbuch’s attentions are turned to recruiting for next year.

“I’m learning the ins and outs of recruiting, and that’s what it’s all about. The better swimmers you can recruit, the better the team is.”

“One of the difficulties I have is that I only have one scholarship for each team. All the swimmers really like the U of O, so that’s the advantage I have, and it’s just convincing them to swim.”