15-year-old Abbi Bahler takes part in the 69th annual Red Deer Catalina Swim Club Freeze or Fry on Saturday. (Photo by: Ian Gustafson/ Advocate staff)

Freeze or Fry swim meet makes a splash in Red Deer

Over 160 swimmers took part

There’s nothing like competing with your teammates doing something you love.

That’s what 15-year-old Abbi Bahler who has been swimming since she was six years old said makes her passionate about the sport.

“I’ve made some pretty good friends in swim club and competing together, training together, and being together as a team is really nice. It’s a fun environment to be a part of and be around,” Bahler said.

She and 165 other swimmers took part in the 69th annual Freeze or Fry swim meet over the weekend with athletes coming from all over the province on Saturday at the Red Deer Recreation Centre. This was the first time the Red Deer Catalina Swim Club was able to hold the event in three years.

Bahler explained she was competing in preparation for the Canada Summer Games in Niagara where she will represent Alberta for the first time.

“Today’s mostly for practicing race plans and stuff like that I mean we’re not rested or anything for this meet so a lot of us aren’t close to our best times so it’s mostly just for practicing our race plans, being there for the younger kids on the team and being supportive,” Bahler said.

Bahler first started competing in Grade 8 and representing her province wasn’t an opportunity she could say no to.

“I was really happy. I’m really excited about it, it’s going to be a good experience,” she added.

Jennifer Bahler, president of the Red Deer Catalina Swim Club is thrilled to have the swim meet back after the COVID-19 pandemic prevented it from happening the last few years.

“The kids love this meet. I mean if it’s a fry they’re more excited than if it’s a freeze but it’s a great meet it’s a very unique meet. We’re one of the only 50-metre pools in Alberta that winter clubs use to compete in and so our kids love it,” Bahler said adding it’s a developmental meet for the swimmers.

The majority of the competitors in the Freeze or Fry are from the Catalina Swim Club. However, she said the unique part about competitive swimming is that if a swimmer gets a good time during a competition it will count towards national or international times.

“We have national-level swimmers going for more national times so if they get it here, it counts. We have kids who are working for their provincial times if they get it here, it counts,” she said.

The number of swimmers was down this year for the meet but according to Bahler, most swim meets are experiencing the same. The Red Deer Catalina Swim Club also suffered a 25 per cent decline in registration but still had 80 swimmers in the program. In past years the Freeze or Fry has had as many people as 300 people and Bahler said this meet specifically is very important to the club.

“It’s a revenue builder for our club so that we can continue to support our swimmers going to international and national meets. It’s also a team-building activity for the club itself but also the greater community,” she said.

“I mean we’ve talked about next year we’re doing our big 70th Freeze or Fry and we’ve already had alumni reach out to us and say ‘I remember it I used to swim in the 70s and I remember this meet.’ It’s become more than anything else it’s a tradition.”

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