(FREDERICTON, NB) For the first time in ten months, the UNB REDS women’s and men’s swimming teams were back on the starting blocks, officially.

The REDS swam in a virtual meet on Friday evening, at UNB’s Sir Max Aitken Pool, with their times being stacked against times being recorded at similar events at other schools.

“It was very different,” said fourth year REDS swimmer Jennifer Moore (Hamilton, ON). “We were sitting on the deck, waiting for other teams to show up.”

“It seemed like there was a lot less pressure because there was a lot less people around,” said Moore.

With other Atlantic University Sport competitors swimming in other locations, due to restrictions in place because of the COVID-19 pandemic, only REDS swimmers were in the pool Friday. They were joined by Jessica Pelletier, of the Acadia Axewomen. The Fredericton native has remained at home during the first term and has been training with the REDS.

While final results won’t be known for a few days, REDS head coach Marta Belsh was excited to see some good performances.

Newcomer Sydney Bewsher (Bedford, NS) swam a personal best of 1:06.55 in the 100-metre butterfly, shaving about three seconds off her previous best.

Third-year Red Erik Staeben (Fredericton, NB) recorded a time of 54.27 seconds in the 100-metre freestyle while fifth-year Red Leah Smal (Fredericton, NB) went 1:07.60 in the 100-metre backstroke, shortly after swimming the 100-metre individual medley in 1:12.60.

“It was kind of surreal, to be here racing for the first time in more than nine months, and with no other teams,” said Staeben. “It was a real important experience, I guess, for the whole team to be back on the blocks, because the whole season has just been a little low for all of us, from the lack of competition.”

Because of the pandemic, the AUS has cancelled the 2020-21 season and conference championships.

Teams are training, but competition is intermittent at best.

“It was awesome to see them back on the blocks and able to race,” said Belsh. “They’ve been looking forward to it. I think all of us were, as it breaks up the monotony of the training.”

Sophie Casey (Bedford, NS), in her first season with the REDS, recorded a time of 36.94 seconds in the 50-metre breaststroke.

Belsh spent the entire evening watching each swimmer closely, analysing almost every movement.

“We take some technical details, so out of all the races that we’ve seen, we can take bits and pieces that we can work on so that next time we have the opportunity those details are smoother, more efficient, a little bit faster through certain periods of races,” she said.

The virtual meet, which featured nine events, lasted about an hour and featured a full compliment of officials.

“I feel super lucky that we were able to race tonight and I’m glad that everyone was so enthusiastic to do their best,” said Staeben.

And while she only saw her teammates in opposing lanes, Jennifer Moore says it was as competitive as ever.

“To me, all of my teammates are pushing me just as much as any other competitor,” she said. “I’m just as eager to beat them in a race than anyone from another team.”

The REDS expect to participate in other virtual meets in 2021, after the break.

Original Link: https://goredsgo.ca/sports/mswim/2020-21/releases/virtual_meet

Photo: Andy Campbell/UNB Athletics

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