Several years ago, Manta Swim Club decided to place a renewed emphasis on producing high-performance athletes.
That decision has netted the graduates of the club’s Rayzor Elite program more than $1,000,000 in college and university scholarships.
This year alone, Manta is sending six of its graduates off to school, as Wyatt Yarish (University of Calgary), Karyl Clarete (Iowa State), Breanne Siwicki (University of Minnesota), Chantal Asselin (Rutgers University), Anik Chartrand (Delta State University) and Kendra Hinton (South Dakota State University) all cash in on their countless hours in the pool and the gym.
"We’re seeing the kids who are graduating getting better and better," said head coach Tom Hainey. "U.S. colleges are very picky about who they’re bringing in."
Hainey tells his swimmers that if they survive the elite program, with its 5:45 a.m. morning sessions and three-hour after-school workouts, they will almost certainly attract interest from institutes of higher learning. Thirty-two swimmers between the ages of 14 and 18 are currently in the program.
"We’re careful about who gets in (to the elite program)," he said, "and once they’re in they generally don’t leave. They’re all excited about the possibility of going to school in the States."
Siwicki, who’s been turning heads in recent months as she’s broken the Canadian age-group record in the 400-metre individual medley, as well as numerous provincial records, said it’s been her goal to get a college scholarship "ever since I knew what it was."
"It’s a dream come true," said the St. James resident, who recently swam with the national junior team in Australia. "I worked really hard and did what Tom said. I kind of surprised myself at the (2012) Olympic trials. That changed my outlook."
Chartrand, a long-distance specialist who lives in Southdale, said there’s a domino effect for the whole club when swimmers start to earn scholarships.
"It shows how amazingly dedicated we’ve been for the past six years, training with the team," she said. "If one person starts to sign, you realize you can do it too."
Clarete, a River Heights resident who swims middle-distance freestyle races, said she wasn’t too convinced she could reach the next level until a couple years ago.
"I knew it was possible," she said, "but it didn’t start happening or seem achievable until I saw some of my older friends going to the States. Then it became my goal."
Hainey said the adjustment to university studies is often easier for Manta grads than for a typical student because they’re already adept at managing their time well. Even with their intense training schedule, the swimmers must keep their grades up to continue in the program.
"Academics is always first," Hainey said. "No fooling around. They know there’s no pot of gold in amateur sport. The Olympic team is the ultimate goal, but they’re still going to have to have a degree of some sort. We want them to represent Manta well on the academic side."
The club’s next major event is the world championship trials in early April. Hainey thinks Siwicki and recent grad Chantal Van Landeghem, who’s now at the University of Georgia, both have an excellent chance to make the national team.