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Varsity Blues move atop men's standings in CIS swimming

The Canadian Press

2/23/2013 1:19:56 AM

CALGARY -- The Toronto Varsity Blues used an impressive day that included three gold medals to take an eight-point lead in the men's team standings on Day 2 of the CIS swimming championships Friday.

Mike Smerek won gold in the 50-metre butterfly, Frank Despond was first in the 400 freestyle and Zack Chetrat had Toronto's third gold in the 200 fly.

The Blues, who are looking for their first men's title since 1994, have 395 points. The powerhouse UBC Thunderbirds are second with 387, while the Calgary Dinos are well back at 331.

On the women's side, the Thunderbirds look well on their way to defending their national title with 476.5 points heading into the third day of competition. Calgary sits second with 380 points, with Toronto is in third at 203.

"We had a great day," said Blues head coach Byron McDonald. "We knew that if we want to win a national title, we had to stay close on Day 1, which we did, we had to pull ahead on Day 2, which we've done, and now we have to hold on for dear life tomorrow.

"Our day is probably as good as UBC's, but you never know. If we come out guns blazing tomorrow morning, we have a chance to win."

For his part, UBC head coach Steve Price likes his team's odds looking at the competition's final schedule of events Saturday.

"It sets up really well for us on the third day," said Price. "We have strong 100-metre freestyles and strong 200 back. It's going to be a battle to the finish -- if we have a morning like we did today and execute at night, we shall see. It could come down to the relay, and we want to make sure going into the relay that we're even or ahead.

"On the women's side, our girls know it's not over until it's over," Price added. "We have close to a 100-point lead and we want to try to build on that tomorrow, because we know what it takes to win this championship."

The night was capped off by a fantastic race in the men's 4x200-metre medley relay that solidified Toronto's position atop the men's standings. Swimming the third leg for the Blues, rookie David Riley made up huge ground to bring Toronto from sixth place to third and setting up Chetrat for a final leg that won the silver medal. Calgary took the gold medal in the event, with the Alberta Golden Bears beating out UBC for bronze.

A night after four meet records were broken, two more CIS championship marks came crashing down Friday night. UBC's Kelly Aspinall managed to rewrite the record in the men's 100-metre backstroke, touching the wall in 51.95 seconds to break the previous mark set in 2009 by UBC's Callum Ng by nearly three tenths. It was Aspinall's second meet record in as many days, as he broke the 50-metre backstroke record on Thursday night.

"Coming in here, I wanted to give everything I had because these are my last CIS championships," said the fifth-year Aspinall. "To get two records in two nights, I can't ask for much more. But what I really want is the team championship."

Aspinall took another gold medal later on the night, out-touching teammate Luke Peddie in the 50-metre freestyle.

In the women's 50-metre freestyle, UQTR's Caroline Lapierre-Lemire swam a lightning-fast 24.87 seconds, beating out favoured Erica Morningstar of the host Dinos to capture the gold medal.

"I'm really excited," said Lapierre-Lemire. "This is a race I won't soon forget. I knew that against such a strong field, I had to have an almost perfect race to win."

It was Lapierre-Lemire's second trip to the top step of the podium on the night, as she also captured gold in the 50-metre butterfly.

Meanwhile, Calgary star Jason Block reclaimed his national title in the 200-metre breaststroke, following up his 100-metre title from Thursday night.

Montreal's Gabrielle Soucisse opened the night with gold in the 100-metre backstroke, while UBC's Savannah King defended her title in the 400 free. Her Thunderbirds teammate Tera Van Beilen beat out a pair of Dinos for gold in the 200-metre breaststroke, and Victoria's Stephanie Horner came all the way back from a swim-off for the last spot in the 'A' final to win the gold medal from lane eight in the 400-metre freestyle.

The UBC quartet of King, Brittney Harley, Van Beilen, and Heather MacLean defeated the host Dinos in the women's 4x200-metre freestyle relay. That set the stage for the men's race, won by Calgary team of Russell Wood, Reid Scarrow, David Woodman and Connor Maxey.

00:52ET 23-02-13