by Roxanne Hooper
New starting blocks attracted more than 100 new swimmers to the annual Flippers Invitational meet in Langley this weekend.
The City’s Al Anderson pool was packed with 439 swimmers, plus coaches and parents gathered under shade tents around the outdoor pool deck. Most only emerging into the direct sun when they were needed in the water or pool side for timing.
A lot of swimmers – from as far a field as Hope and Port Moody – were anxious to check out the new blocks, just acquired by the 54-year-old Langley club, said president Leah Esplen.
“When you’ve got something like new blocks or something that would really affect an athlete’s performance, they’re eager to try it out, and their coaches are going to want them to check it out,” said Esplen.
The two-day competition saw swimmers as young as two and as old as 61 in the water this weekend.
“Everyone had a good time,” Esplen said, noting it took weeks to prepare the huge event that closed down the pool to the public both Saturday and Sunday.
While no records were apparently broken during this weekend’s meet, the highlight of the event was a fun parent relay. About 65 parents, including 16 from Langley, took their turn in the pool.
“That was fun. That was definitely a highlight,” said the president.
This was the first big event where the team was able to try out the new starting blocks in a competitive environment.
“We’ve been using the blocks for as long as anyone can remember, and we have some grandmothers in the club,” Esplen said.
Last year, they discovered cracks in two of the existing aluminium welded blocks, and realized replacements were mandatory. Dipping into the club reserve, $42,000 was spent to buy nine blocks – not including installation, she explained. The club paid for eight, while the City purchased the ninth.
“We wanted blocks that are going to last,” she added, noting these ones will require resurfacing in 15 to 20 years, but are expected to outlast the life span of even the younger members.
The club is now gearing up to host the Fraser Valley Regionals from Aug. 5 to 7. The winners from that will advance to the provincials, happening two weeks later in Kamloops.