The June 25 weekend saw 18 members of the Merritt Otters Swim Club in Kelowna for the annual Ogopogo Invitational.

The Otters collectively posted 43 top-six finishes, and recorded an astounding 68 personal best (PB) performances.

Leading the way for the Merritt squad were Paige Asselstine, Ashley  and Bianca Cavaliere, and Diya Chhabra. All four swimmers ‘ran the table’ — setting PBs in all six of their events.

They were followed closely by Riya Chhabra, Kendra Marklund and Mathias Redknap — each of whom set five PBs on the weekend.

Four Otters swimmers earned aggregate awards for their strong all-around efforts in their respective divisions: Evan Hales (third in division one boys), Bianca Cavaliere (third in division four girls), Rahul Chhabra (second in division six boys) and Laura Lefebvre (third in division six girls).

“The weekend in Kelowna was a great meet for everyone,” said Otters’ head coach Gabriel Lee, who won both the races he entered for the third weekend in a row. “It really raised our confidence, as everyone was taking time off [their previous best performances]. Every swimmer that attended got at least one best time.

“Our swimmers were all being aggressive, and competing hard against the other swimmers in their heats. That was good to see so early in the season.

“We had numerous heat wins, and that was huge,” said Lee. “I received a number of positive comments from other coaches — stating that our club was certainly growing and becoming very competitive.”

Once again, some of the Merritt swimmers registered double-digit improvements in their times. Evan Hales knocked off a combined 36 seconds in his 100 metre free and 100 metre individual medley races, while his brother, Koen, slashed his 100 metre free time by a healthy 14 seconds.

First-year competitor Shale Maurice, competing in the division one girls category, improved her 100 metre freestyle time by a little more than 12 seconds.

“These kids are dropping their times and in huge chunks,” said Lee. “It speaks really well for regionals later on in the summer, and even provincials.

“In the future, I hope to see not only provincial qualifiers on the Otters’ team, but provincial finalists, medalists, champions and record holders. That’s a ways down the road, but if the team keeps performing the way they did in Kelowna, those goals can certainly be on the horizon.

“I’m very proud of our team, and very proud to be a part of it.”

The Merritt Otters were scheduled to host their own home meet this past weekend, with clubs from throughout the southern Interior in attendance.

Results from the Merritt meet will be in this Thursday’s edition of the Merritt Herald.

“I expect our team to be the loudest and fastest group of swimmers, all the while remaining humble and true to themselves,” said  Lee last Wednsday. “The Merritt weekend is going to be a huge checkpoint in the season, and I’m very much looking forward to it.”