Van Ek returns to coach Piranhas

Entering into her sophomore year as head coach of the Grand Forks Piranhas swim team, Robyn Van Ek is excited about the prospects

Grand Forks Piranhas swim club coaches (from left) Robyn Van Ek

Grand Forks Piranhas swim club coaches (from left) Robyn Van Ek

Entering into her sophomore year as head coach of the Grand Forks Piranhas swim team, Robyn Van Ek is excited about the prospects of her young charges.The team just finished their first meet last weekend in Nelson after training for just over a month.Van Ek is a former Piranha herself, having swam with the club since she moved with her family to Grand Forks in 2007.After leaving Grand Forks Secondary School in Grade 11, Van Ek graduated from Claremont Secondary School in Victoria. She then moved away to Calgary for university but has returned the last couple of years to coach the swim club.Since there are no age limits for swimming, Van Ek, as well as her assistant coaches, also swims for the club.Van Ek said the practices have gone well so far and she’s pleased to see so many swimmers out.“We started out really strong,” she said. “We had about 45 kids in the club. Our first practice, the pool was packed. We have a lot of new swimmers this year. It’s great to have them and be able to teach them. It’s been really positive so far.”The Piranhas had 25 swimmers compete in Nelson.The ages of the swimmers range from 6- to16-year-olds.“The kids are all about team spirit,” said Van Ek. “We’re very family-oriented. We’re a very friendly club; very welcoming. The kids love being in the pool, playing games and having fun and improving their strokes.”Van Ek adds that there are some very competitive swimmers in the club that she expects will excel this season.Van Ek enjoys watching the kids improve and is looking forward to her third year as a coach with the Piranhas. “I really like seeing the kids enjoy themselves and enjoy the sport I grew up doing and loving,” she said. “I really try to create an environment through coaching that let’s them just develop their passion for the sport. It’s based on passion, dedication and commitment to practicing and working hard.”The club practices four times a week in the afternoons as well as twice a week in the mornings before school.Van Ek said she was drawn to swimming to satisfy her competitive urges.“I love to race,” she said. “I’m a huge competitor. I grew up as at ‘water child.’ I joined summer swim late at 10 years old. I just developed a love for the sport. I love everything about it: training, competing, developing as a team.”The Piranhas are back in the pool on Saturday (June 7) as they host their home meet at the Grand Forks Aquatic Centre.“It’s our home meet so hopefully we’ll have all 45 swimmers show up ready to swim,” said Van Ek. “There’s going to be quite a few kids who haven’t swam in a swim meet before so it’ll be really nice to get them out seeing what it’s like and having fun.”Teams joining the Piranhas at the meet are Trail Stingrays, Nelson Neptunes, Castlegar Aquanauts, Colville Sharks and Creston Wave.The swimmers will be attempting to improve their times all season in preparation for the regional meet which will take place Aug. 2-3 in Trail. The top three swimmers from each category at the regionals will qualify for the provincial meet in Kamloops August 15-17.Nelson meetThe Piranhas did very well in their first swim meet of the season on May 31 in Nelson.“The team trained hard throughout the winter and it paid off this weekend with 21 of 25 swimmers achieving best times,” said coach Robyn Van Ek. Kiyomi Dunnet was named the swimmer of the meet.“Her technical improvement, increased physical strength and sheer determination resulted in six best times,” said Van Ek. Dunnet also achieved a provincial qualifying time (PQT) in the 50 meter backstroke event.“Swimmers usually achieve a PQT until later in the season, but Kiyomi already has a head start.”Gold Medals: Kiyomi Dunnet – Division 3 GirlsLeena Corbeil – Division 5 GirlsTrentin Ludwar – Division 7 BoysSilver Medals:Shian Corbeil – Division 3 GirlsEthan Argue – Division 4 BoysNicole Nuyten – Division 6 GirlsRobyn Van Ek – Division 9 GirlsBronze Medal: Doug Van Ek – Division 8 Boys