Red Deer’s own Kyla Leibel earned a spot on Team Canada for the upcoming Lima 2019 Pan American Games in Peru this summer. (Photo by Scott Grant/ Swimming Canada)

Leibel wins two medals at Canadian Juniors in prep for Pan Am Games

She is also set to join the University of Texas Longhorns this fall

Kyla Leibel wins two medals at Canadian Juniors in prep for Pan Am Games

Red Deer’s Kyla Leibel appears more than ready for the Pan American Games.

The 17-year-old swimmer showed a glimpse of where she’s at in the pool last week, winning a pair of gold medals at the Canadian Junior Championships in Calgary.

The sprinter earned top spot in the 100m freestyle at the meet last Thursday, in a time of 56.36, which was also a meet record.

“In the morning came out first and set a new junior national record for the meet.

“At night, I won again and beat my time from the morning and got a meet record there, so that was a good event for me,” said the Red Deer Catalina swimmer.

“It wasn’t the optimal conditions but I still swam pretty well going into Pan Am Games and preparing for that.”

She followed that up with a victory in the 50m free on Sunday, finishing in 26.08 to capture gold.

After being out of competition for nearly a month, Leibel said that just that feeling of being in the blocks again got the competitive juices flowing.

“I wanted to get close to my best times or around them and get that feeling of racing again. It’s been a month since my last competition. Wanted to get off the blocks, feeling my stroke and get feeling that explosive, fastness that comes with sprint freestyle,” she said.

There will be no rest of the teen over the next several weeks, as Wednesday she takes off for Lima Peru, to join Canada at the Pan Am Games.

At the games, she will swim the 50m free and also be on deck and ready for the call if needed by the sprint relay teams.

“I’m really excited. We have a really good team going and I’m excited to be part of the relay teams and hopefully help them get a medal potentially,” Leibel noted.

“I definitely want to get a best time (in the 50m free) and potentially swim myself into a final.”

Once the games are over, Leibel heads off for a brand new adventure.

In February, the up-and-coming Canadian decided to accept an offer from the University of Texas and will join the Longhorns this fall.

Training camp starts on Aug. 15, just a few days after she gets back from the Games.

Although she had offers from other schools, including the University of Southern California, she simply fell in love with the team and the atmosphere in Texas.

“When I went on my trip, they seemed really nice and I really like the coaches. I think it’s going to be a good environment to train in, especially going into the Olympic year next year,” she said.

She will join a strong program, one that has won several Big 12 Conference titles in the last decade and was fifth in the entire NCAA last year. She will be the only Canadian on the team and is looking forward to the challenge of swimming at that level.

“They’re very competitive. I think the last seven years have won the Big 12 conference title… it’s pretty competitive and good swim school,” she said.

“I’m really excited to be with this group of girls and I’m a sprint freestyler and they have a very good sprint, mid-distance program, so I’m excited to be around those girls.”

Email sports tips to Byron Hackett

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