Three weeks ago, Aquanaut head coach Debbie Murray made a pact with Gavin Paull—challenging him to break the minute mark in the 100m freestyle this season.
While his previous best had been a full two seconds over that elusive mark, Murray had an inkling Paull just might reach his goal at some point this season.
But she admitted she was surprised the 16-year-old accomplished his goal in just the first meet of the season, finishing with a time of 59.40 in the 100m free in Thunder Bay last weekend.
Paull also qualified for the Prairie Invitational meet in Winnipeg on Dec. 4-7, and has been selected to the Northwestern Ontario all-star team.
“Gavin has come into this year with a more committed effort," Murray said at practice Monday evening. ”It looks like he’s glad to be into the pool this year.
“It’s hard to knock off a few seconds from a time but he did four lengths of the pool in under a minute and I think his long-term goal now would be to place in the top eight in each of his freestyle events,” she added
Paull attributed his improved time to a better atmosphere swimming in the team’s home pool again, and a summer growth spurt that saw him add “six or seven inches” to his frame.
“I think my size helped me but I was still surprised I swam pretty fast," said Paull. "I’d like to take a few more seconds off [my time] and try to get to 56 seconds by the end of the year.”
But while Paull was the highlight of the weekend for the local swim team, Murray noted several others turned in impressive performances.
Brendan Cumming also made the Northwestern all-star team by swimming his best time in the 100m breaststroke, with Murray noting other swimmers to mention included Karli McKinnon, Megan Herbert, Elissa Green, Nathan Baird, Tim Green, and Richard Allan.
Twenty Aquanauts attended the two-day event, which attracted teams from Thunder Bay, Red Lake, Kenora, and Dryden.
“We took a good mixture of younger and older kids and they all did very well,” noted Murray, now in her 11th year as head coach.
Murray said they will be using the time before their next meet, the Kenora Region Invitational slated Nov. 21-23, to continue to practice their technical work.
“There’s still so much to teach," she stressed. "The stroke is a continuing thing we have to work on every day in practice through drills, and we expect [our swimmers] will continue to swim faster and faster as the year goes on.”