In the fast lane

Truro’s Sang­ster grabs gold as Ax­e­men make AUS his­tory

Truro Daily News - - SPORTS - JOHN MAC­NEIL @John­ny­ma­chockey

Acadia Ax­e­men rookie sen­sa­tion Dean Sang­ster wasn’t even born when the Dal­housie Tigers be­gan their AUS men’s swim­ming cham­pi­onship streak 22 years ago.

But the Truro na­tive was front and cen­tre Sun­day night in Hal­i­fax as the Ax­e­men ended the Tigers’ run of 21 con­sec­u­tive con­fer­ence ti­tles. Sang­ster, the AUS male rookie of the year, was also named the top fresh­man in the three-day cham­pi­onship meet as Acadia fin­ished 300 points ahead of sec­ond-place Dal, the host school.

“Every­body on the team was just ec­static about the whole thing,” said Sang­ster, 19. “It was a great feel­ing, es­pe­cially to take down Dal, who had one of the longestrun­ning win streaks in all of Canada, for any sport. All of our work fi­nally got rec­og­nized and we were first.”

As the Ax­e­men clinched their first con­fer­ence swim­ming ti­tle in 39 years, there was added eu­pho­ria at the Dalplex pool af­ter an Aus­record per­for­mance from the Acadia re­lay team of Sang­ster, An­dre Wal­cott, Shane Kenny and Brett Liem, the meet MVP. They won the fi­nal event, the 4x100-me­tre med­ley re­lay, in 3:43.01, snap­ping a four-year-old Dal record.

“We went up to grab our medals and every­body on the sides was jump­ing up and down,” Sang­ster said. “We just thought they were happy about the win. But when we found out that we broke the AUS record, we were very sur­prised. It was amaz­ing, es­pe­cially to end on such a high and with the AUS record, too.”

It was a ban­ner week­end for Sang­ster, a six-foot­six, 192-pound back­stroke spe­cial­ist and former Truro Cen­tu­rion. He earned one first-place fin­ish, two sec­onds and a third in in­di­vid­ual events and con­trib­uted to a pair of re­lay vic­to­ries.

Even be­fore the con­fer­ence meet, Sang­ster had al­ready qual­i­fied for the U Sports na­tional cham­pi­onships, set for Feb. 20-22 at Vic­to­ria, B.C.

His per­sonal gold came in the 200-me­tre back­stroke on cham­pi­onship Sun­day, af­ter post­ing run­ner-up fin­ishes in his other top events, the 50 back and the 100 back.

“I hadn’t lost the 100 back be­fore that Satur­day (loss to Dal’s) Chris­tian Payne, who I also lost to (Fri­day) in the 50 back,” Sang­ster said. “So I was def­i­nitely feel­ing some pres­sure to win the 200 back, but I knew that (Payne) hadn’t beat me in that be­fore. I just re­lied on the train­ing I had done and stayed fo­cused. I couldn’t stay too wor­ried about him. I was just aim­ing for a best time and a very smooth swim, and it went quite well.”

Sang­ster’s re­sults in­cluded bronze in the 50 freestyle and gold in the 4x100 freestyle re­lay.

Af­ter set­ting three Acadia back­stroke records ear­lier in his stand­out sea­son, he didn’t leave any­thing to chance. But that’s not to say the Cana­dian ju­nior life­sav­ing-sport in­ter­na­tional com­peti­tor doesn’t prac­tise a few su­per­sti­tions, or at least rit­u­als.

“Prob­a­bly the weird­est one I do is I don’t cut my nails be­fore swim meets,” Sang­ster said. “I don’t cut my fin­ger­nails two weeks out and I let my toe­nails grow un­til af­ter the meet. There’s noth­ing re­ally be­hind that, other than I think it might give me a lit­tle more pull.

“For most of my fi­nals, I wear my lucky ripoff pants. When they call my name (in pre-race in­tro­duc­tions), I rip off my pants and it gets me in the zone and more fo­cused. It’s a lot of fun and our team loves it. It’s a real en­ergy booster. They’re just a pair of ripoff pants that I found a few years ago at a thrift shop and I’ve been wear­ing them at swim meets ever since.”

Af­ter a sec­ond-se­mes­ter trans­fer to busi­ness from en­gi­neer­ing stud­ies, Sang­ster is feel­ing more com­fort­able on the Acadia cam­pus, where he wakes up at 5:30 a.m. for the team’s ear­li­est swim prac­tices.

The Ax­e­men’s his­toric fin­ish in Hal­i­fax was the talk of the town in Wolfville.

“(There’s been) a lot of recog­ni­tion not just for me, but for the whole team,” Sang­ster said. “We hang out to­gether a lot and peo­ple are just com­ing up to us, peo­ple we don’t even know and from other sports teams, rec­og­niz­ing our suc­cess. It al­most feels like we’re celebri­ties.”

Six Ax­e­men and four Ax­e­women have qual­i­fied for the na­tion­als.

ACADIA ATH­LET­ICS

Truro na­tive Dean Sang­ster of the cham­pion Acadia Ax­e­men won the 200-me­tre back­stroke as part of his medal haul in his first AUS swim­ming cham­pi­onships Feb. 7 to 9 in Hal­i­fax.

Sang­ster

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