Acadia men’s swim team looking to break 39-year title drought

Thirty-nine years.

That’s how long it’s been since an Acadia University men’s swim team last won an Atlantic championship.

But this year that long drought may be coming to an end. Acadia had the top men’s team at swim meets in the Atlantic region in the first half of the season.

“We just had a great bunch of young guys that came into the program this year,” said Acadia swimming coach Gary MacDonald, now in his fifth season at the Wolfville, N.S., university.

“They are really showing what they are made of and we’re just trying to really develop a culture here of a championship attitude.”

Gary MacDonald is now in his fifth season as Acadia University swimming coach. (Paul Palmeter/CBC)

MacDonald, a former high performance swimmer who captured a silver medal in the 4×100 medley relay at the 1976 summer Olympics in Montreal, knows a thing or two about winning championships.

He spent a dozen years coaching at Dalhousie University and helped several Dal men’s teams to Atlantic University Sport titles. The Tigers men’s team have dominated the conference with 21 straight championships.

But so far this season Acadia has had the edge. This year’s AUS championship is coming up next month.

“It’s just been amazing, everyone has just been so supportive,” said Dean Sangster, a first-year business student at Acadia.

Sangster has been Acadia’s top swimmer. Despite being a rookie, the backstroke specialist from Truro, N.S., has been blowing away the competition.

“I came from quite a small team in Truro, there were a lot of girls and not many guys,” said Sangster. “Coming here to Acadia where there are 40 swimmers in the pool and many of the guys are just as fast as me, and it really pushes me to go as hard as I can go.”

The Acadia swim team is working out twice a day preparing for the second half of the season. (CBC)

For the first time, Acadia’s men’s team is ranked in the U Sports Top 10.

Sangster is one of seven Acadia swimmers (five men and two women) who have already qualified to swim at the U Sports national swimming championship in Victoria in late February.

“Every year I’ve been here I think the most we’ve had is two guys qualify, so that’s a big change,” said Brett Liem, a fourth-year swimmer from Bedford, N.S., who is taking a double major in physics and math.

“Hopefully we can get a few more to qualify and maybe win the AUS title for the first time in a long time.”

Both the Acadia men’s and women’s teams have been working hard since returning to campus just a few days after Christmas. They’ve been swimming twice a day, including early morning swims that start at 6 a.m.

“Like most teams we are in kind of a training-camp mode right now,” said MacDonald. “We know we’ve got to keep pushing because you are only as good as your last competition, our guys are just buckling down right now.”

MacDonald is confident his swimmers can continue their success into the second half of the season. He wants to see more members of the team qualify for nationals. Most importantly, he wants to bring an AUS swim banner to the Wolfville campus.

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