Tei Maxwell

Sharks swim for cookies in Ponoka Pool

Goodbun family boasts 35 years of swimming tradition with the Ponoka Pool Sharks — and the ability to bake a homemade chocolate chip cookie Albert Health Services President and CEO Stephen Duckett would feel proud to devour

By Dale Cory

The dedication shown by the members of the Ponoka Pool Sharks Swim Club really does border on an obsession — a passion unequalled in many sports. How else do you explain the following?

Consider the length of the season — swimmers begin training in September and continue through until June.

One must also take into account the fact these swimmers are in the pool at least five days a week, including early morning swims, after-school sessions, and two or three competitions a month.

Serious dedication there.

Then, head coach Bobbie-Joe Christensen goes and throws out a statistic that pretty much blows your mind.

“On average, our senior swimmers put in 15,000 to 20,000 m. per week,” says Christensen. “It is a demanding sport and these young athletes work extremely hard day in and day out. I am so proud of their dedication and commitment, and their ability to persevere.”

The Ponoka Pool Sharks Swim Club consists of 28 swimmers ranging in age from six to 17 years.

Christensen and assistant coach Jon Davies of Red Deer have seen a lot of success over the past three seasons with the club’s swimmers. Six swimmers over the past two seasons have achieved provincial qualifying times — with Mckenna Christensen earning two silvers and one bronze medal at provincial championships, while Jaylen-Rae Christensen, Jonah Harvey, Andrew Jones, Blake Shimp and Lanny Wildcat have all won numerous medals at age group trials.

“The swimmers in our developmental group are rapidly improving on their stoke techniques and we have a few up and comers that will certainly be achieving their provincial times soon,” says Christensen. “We basically have three categories in our club. The Great Whites are the older, senior kids, the Tiger Sharks are our intermediate group, and Hammer heads is our beginner group. Right now, our Tiger group is focusing on getting provincial qualifying times.”

Christensen’s focus with new swimmers is to perfect the four major competitive strokes — butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke and freestyle. The goal is to produce a well-rounded swimmer able to be successful in all strokes.

Swimming is a complex sport — considering its individual aspect that forces a competitor to race the clock, but the team component that has swimmers training with teammates.

Swimmers get involved for many reasons. When Jonah Harvey began swimming lessons, it was to appease his parents.

“My parents put me in seven years ago for fear that I would drown. My mother never learned to swim and she wanted me to be able to,” says Harvey, 15. “I love the workout. It keeps you in shape. And I love the adrenaline rush you get when you’re racing against everyone else.”

Harvey is currently a B swimmer — but inching ever close to A-level times, which will put him in the top five per cent in the province.

“Bobbie-Joe has helped me perfect everything and get to where I am now. I’m getting real close to those A provincial times. I’ll keep working and trying my hardest,” says Harvey, a Grade 10 student at Ponoka Composite High School. “My best stroke is the 50-m free, but my fly is pretty close, and I like swimming the breaststroke as well.”

So, what’s waiting at the end of the line for these swimmers who paddle roughly 15 km. every week? What’s the payoff for all that dedication and hard work?

Well, cookies of course!

The Ponoka Pool Sharks will host their annual Cookie Classic swim meet Nov. 27 at the Ponoka Aquaplex.

The origins of the name come from the fact Christensen’s entire family has a long history with the Ponoka Pool Sharks. Many years ago, her sister started handing out cookies to those swimmers who achieved best times.

“My sisters coached for about 15 years, my nieces and nephew swam, and my husband and his siblings were also Sharks back in the day. I have two daughters who swim, and I keep up the tradition of swimming for best time cookies my sister Billie-Jean started years ago,” explains Bobbie-Joe, who is in her 10th year with the club, fourth year as a coach and third year as head coach. “Best time cookies, all 700 of them, are made by my dad, Bill Goodbun, a long-time baker who retired 13 years ago, but still can’t seem to back away from the mixer. He and my mom Marlene not only bake all the cookies but they come out on meet day to hand out the cookies to the swimmers who achieve best times. We call it the Cookie Classic because everyone swims for cookies.”

For swimmers in the Ponoka Pool Sharks, the meet provides their lone opportunity to paddle in front of family and friends.

And…

“You’ve always got that chocolate chip cookie motivation,” summarizes Harvey. “You can take off a second or two going for one of those cookies.”

As for the Cookie Classic… The meet takes place Saturday Nov. 27 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Along with the Sharks, participating clubs include: Edson Orcas, Sherwood Park Sting-Rays, Red Deer Catalina, Olds Rapids. Penguins from Edmonton, Sylvan Lake Nauticals, Three Hills Neons, Athabasca Rapids and Leduc Otters — for a total of 152 swimmers.

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