No one can predict the future, but it appears as if Red Deer Catalina Swim Club’s Rebecca Smith has the talent to take her career as far as she wants.
The Red Deer native, who just turned 13 last week, dominated the provincial scene at the 11-12 year-old age class during the short course season plus made her mark at the national level, breaking the 28-year-old Canadian 200-metre backstroke record with a time of two minutes 17.96 seconds at the Western Canadian championships.
“Backstroke is one of my best events and I worked really hard in practice to get that (record),” she said. “I was really nervous going into it, but I think I knew I could do it.”
Competing against competitors 15 and under she finished sixth in the final.
“Being up against older swimmers helped push me,” said Smith, who also bettered six Alberta records at the meet.
She then attended the provincial age group championships, winning seven gold, breaking three more provincial records and eight club marks.
“My goal going into the provincials was to go for them (records), but really I just wanted to do my best,” she explained.
Smith has been swimming with the Catalina Club since she was eight. She first got into the pool at age six and took to it naturally.
“My dad used to swim and my sister (Madalyn) is two years older than me and she swims,” said Smith.
In fact Madalyn is one of the premier competitors in the breaststroke for her age group in the province.
“It’s a lot of fun having her on the team,” said Rebecca. “She’s good in the breaststroke and that’s my weakest stroke, so she helps push me.”
“They are great support for each other,” said Catalina head coach Mandi Smith, no relation.
“They do a lot for each other when they go through some tough stuff . . . if they have success or not. The kids support their teammates and despite being younger are team leaders, but also look up to the older kids.”
Rebecca Smith works on all four strokes — freestyle, backstroke, breaststroke and butterfly — in practice as one of her favourite events is the Individual Medley.
“It forces me to work on all strokes in practice, which does make it more fun as I get to do everything every day,” she said. “And I do work harder on the breaststroke.”
Mandi Smith knew from the outset Rebecca had the talent, and desire, to make her mark on the provincial scene.
“She has a natural talent,” she said. “She has a positive attitude, loves racing and the loves the sport. She works hard to improve technically. She’s not a big kid, but had the aptitude for the sport.
“She’s been strong since the start. She undefeated in the short course this year and of course broke the 28-year-old Canadian record.”
Smith is now heading into the long course season and a new challenge as she steps into the 13-14 year-old division, but that’s fine with her.
“The older group will be a bit tougher, but it’s also a challenge for me,” said Smith, who also played basketball at Gateway Christian School.
While she competes in both short and long course, she indicated she may enjoy long course more, although she spends most of her practice time in the short course pool at Michener Centre.
“We do try to practice outdoors (at the Recreation Centre) in the long course pool when we can,” she said. “It does take a little bit to get used to swimming long course while practising short course.”
Smith has been on a number of provincial teams and also competed for the Junior National team last year at the Challenge Cup in Edmonton against Mexico and the United States.
“I don’t think they have that competition this year, I’m not sure, but that would be one of my goals to get back on that team,” she said.
What she did make, along with five of her teammates, was the Prospects West team that will attend the 13-and-under camp in Kamloops. Last year she was on the team that went to Montreal. She will also swim for Northern Alberta at the North-South provincial meet along with four of her teammates.
The Catalina Club is one of the top clubs in the province, which is a benefit said Smith.
“I really enjoy the club and it’s fun working with the older kids as they push me and it’s special being with my sister.”
She can’t say for certain what the future holds, but knows it will involve swimming.
“I plan on swimming a lot longer,” she said.