Para-swimmer to test international waters

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Charles Reid
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Para-swimmer Hannah MacLellan trains at the CARI pool in Charlottetown.

Islander Hannah MacLellan is excited to compete this week at the Can-Am swim championships in Florida

At least three Islanders are escaping the harsh P.E.I. winter this week, but it won’t be a holiday when para-swimmer Hannah MacLellan, her coach and her mother land in Florida.

MacLellan competes at the Can-Am international championships, which run today through April 2 in Miami. The 14-year-old with cerebral palsy qualified for the event at the Garden of the Gulf provincial championships in January with a 50-metre breaststroke time of one minute, 27.95 seconds.

She’s the first Island para-swimmer to qualify for an international meet. The Pownal native is also one of the youngest swimmers entered in Miami. The meet features many of the best para-swimmers from Canada, the United States and the world.

It’s an outdoor pool, but MacLellan isn’t concerned about the change in environment, nor is she anxious about her first international meet.

“No, I’m just glad to be going,” MacLellan said Monday. “I’m more excited (than nervous).”

Last year she set a personal best in 200 metre freestyle at the 2013 Summer Canada Games. This year she has no specific goals at the Can-Ams, save one in the 100-metre breaststroke.

“I’d like to swim three minutes, seven seconds,” she said. That mark could qualify her for other international para-swimming events like the Pan-Pacific championships and the world championships later this year.

Thursday, MacLellan starts with the 50-metre breaststroke (she says it’s her best event), then does the 100-metre breaststroke  Friday before finishing with the 200-metre freestyle Saturday.

It’s a busy schedule, although MacLellan trains four times a week as a member of the Charlottetown Bluephins Aquatic Club. Her coach, Edie Rogers, said she’ll keep the teenager focused between her races.

“It’s just like any other swim meet, conserve energy, go back to the hotel and get (lots of) rest. (Watch her) diet,” said Rogers. “For Hannah, stretching is important.”

As for MacLellan’s mother, Stephanie Drake, her roles are a supporter, cheerleader and, naturally, being a mom.

“I’m a make-sure-you-get-your-sleep kind of girl, and driver, and cook,” said Drake. “I’d like to see her do another personal best. A 3:07 would be pretty wild."

MacLellan has been swimming competitively for four years. She’s supported by ParaSport and Recreation P.E.I.

She’s also benefitted from teammates and friends, who as MacLellan recalled were front and centre when she qualified for the Can-Ams earlier this year in her second attempt. Her first shot at a meet a month earlier missed by two one-hundredths of second. That’s basically an eye blink.

“My friends were cheering me on in. I was really excited (when I qualified). I’d been working on it for over a year,” said MacLellan.

For more on swimming with a disability in the province, contact ParaSport and Recreation P.E.I at www.parasportpei.ca or  368-4540.

Organizations: Pan-Pacific, Charlottetown Bluephins Aquatic Club

Geographic location: Miami, Para, Florida Florida.MacLellan Pownal Canada United States

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