Once an athlete gets a taste of a national championship event, the natural feeling is to go back for more. Kelsey Fillion is experiencing that feeling.
The Vernon Kokanee Swim Club 13-year-old sprinter qualified for her first national age group championships this year in Quebec City.
Competing in the 12 and under group, Fillion swam in four events – the 50-metre freestyle, 100-free, 200-free and 100-metre backstroke – and qualified for two finals.
She just missed the podium in her best event, the 50-free, finishing fourth, and was eighth in the 100-free where she swam a personal best time.
“I need two more age group times to go to Calgary for age group nationals next summer,” said Fillion, a Grade 8 student at Kalamalka Secondary. “I want to try and get on the podium there.”
It’s been a year where things have begun to click for the former rep and development soccer player, who decided to focus solely on swimming.
Fillion, who began swimming in Alberta before her family moved to Vernon, where she joined the Kokanee Grass Roots program, also qualified in 2015 for the provincial short- and long-course championships (short course means the pool is 25-metres long, like the Vernon Recreation Complex facility, long-course means the lengths are 50-metres, like an Olympic-sized pool).
At the short-course finals in Surrey, and the long-course championships in Victoria, Fillion made the finals in the 50-free.
“Long-course was better,” she said. “I got first in the B final, and about sixth or seventh overall. At the short-course finals, I made the final but it was a 12-13 age group and I was one of the youngest there, so I came about 12th overall.”
She set three Kokanee club records this season in the 50-free short-and long-course, and in the 100-free for long course.
Fillion, whose older sister Sydney also swims in the club, says freestyle is her best stroke and she’s working on that constantly with new club head coach Steven Vander Meulen.
“He does a lot of technique work and I’m getting better in my stroke,” she said. “I’ve started to notice that I’m going fast and getting higher in the national rankings.”
Vander Meulen, who swam for Canada alongside his brother, Gary, at the 1988 Seoul Olympics, is impressed with Fillion’s zealousness.
“Kelsey has a strong passion for racing, whether it’s at a training session or a swim meet,” said Vander Meulen. “She has an excellent athletic ability that allows her to adjust her racing and training when she needs to perform.”
Fillion, who lists math as her favourite school subject, lives for the water.
She attends a swim academy through school, which means time at the rec centre pool during the week on top of her six or seven Kokanee workouts per week.
In the summer, she can be found daily in the family outdoor pool “unless it’s freezing cold out.”
Vander Meulen says with consistent work, there are no limits for Fillion.
“She needs to keep working hard on her technique to be efficient in the water,” he said.
“We will be focusing on her kick over the year to help her keep improving and stay on top of her great performances she did last summer.
“With a focused approach to her long-term improvement, and an all-around balanced approach in training, I can see Kelsey having a bright future in Canadian swimming for a long time.”