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Swimmers vie for high school bragging rights

by RON BARRY - Friday, December 13, 2013


CINDY WILSON Photo/TELEGRAPH-JOURNAL

This article is courtesy of THE TELEGRAPH-JOURNAL

NBIAA Charlie Sullivan will lead young Greyhounds into his 23rd provincial meet

Charlie Sullivan's name is synonymous with the Roarin' Game - curling, that is.

And it's Charlie Jr., that is.

As a member of what many consider New Brunswick's"First Family of Curling,"the Saint John High School teacher has a resumé from the pebbled ice that's nothing to sneeze about. To wit:

He served as vice-skip with his cousin, the late Jim Sullivan, as the tandem teamed with the front end of Dan Alderman and Craig Burgess to win the Canadian junior title in 1987 and the world championship in Fussen, Germany in 1988. The foursome would later be inducted into the New Brunswick Sports Hall of Fame, circa 1994.

He again threw third rocks for his cousin as New Brunswick mined silver medals by reaching the 1990 Brier final in Sault Ste. Marie, losing to Ed Werenich of Ontario.

He also earned a bronze medal at the 1997 Brier in Calgary as third stone for James Grattan - one of his five Brier appearances.

But for 23 years, and almost in anonymity outside high school pools, this quiet, unassuming national-calibre athlete who has spent classroom days teaching history, geography, drafting and film studies also excelled at another passion - that as a swim coach.

Without fanfare, Sullivan's navy of Greyhounds have earned Saint John High 13 New Brunswick Interscholastic Athletic Association banners as overall champions, 16 overall boys' crowns and 11 overall girls' titles.

SJHS will enter the 2013 provincial high school championships at the Canada Games Aquatic Centre as reigning senior boys' and girls' champions. Despite past successes, Sullivan is pragmatic about the school's title hopes for 2013 when the swimmers hit their
lanes beginning at 10 a.m. On Saturday for the one-day meet.

"We're a longshot … for sure," said Sullivan, hinting that Fredericton High School, which won the 2012 junior boys' and girls' divisions, will be meet favourites. "We have a lot of kids swimming for the first time. It is a young team. Normally, we do well in the senior division because I have had kids for four years. But we lost pretty much all the senior squad from last year - that was a lot of our strength.
SJHS will enter the 2013 provincial high school championships at the Canada Games Aquatic Centre as reigning senior boys' and girls' champions. Despite past successes, Sullivan is pragmatic about the school's title hopes for 2013 when the swimmers hit their lanes beginning at 10 a.m. On Saturday for the one-day meet.

"We're a longshot … for sure," said Sullivan, hinting that Fredericton High School, which won the 2012 junior boys' and girls' divisions, will be meet favourites. "We have a lot of kids swimming for the first time. It is a young team. Normally, we do well in the senior division because I have had kids for four years. But we lost pretty much all the senior squad from last year - that
"We're always looking for some big performances, but we had a meet two weeks ago (Southwest Conference)
and the swimmers turned in a lot of personal-best times, so it will be hard to top that. We lost by 13 points overall to Fredericton High. They'll be favoured going into the meet. I expect we'll be in the hunt, as will Nepisiguit. Leo Hayes won't be too far behind, either." Individually, Sullivan expects the Greyhounds to be led by a trio of juniors - Emilee Hoellwarth, Janelle Holt and Isabelle Nickerson.

"Emilee is a backstroker, Isabelle is a breaststroker and Janelle is strong in the individual medley," said the coach, who has 40 athletes on the team.
"They all should be challenging for a gold medal in at least one event." As is the case with many high school sports teams in the Saint John region, Sullivan faces the challenge of attracting elite athletes to a secondary sport, while understanding that there are only so many athletes to go around Greater Saint John's eight high schools.

"With the Saint John region being such a spread-out area in terms of the number of high schools compared to other centres, we don't get a lot of draw in terms of athletes who would be training at the Aquatic Centre - we
might get one or two kids who are members of the local swim team. So we have to produce a lot of our own athletes, and that means training 10 times a week - or twice a day - at our pool. With all the other sports like hockey and basketball going on, I ask the kids to show up three times per week. Swimming is a secondary sport for most of them, so I make it available to them. That's how we keep our numbers up." Sullivan has always brought a quiet intensity to the curling rink. And while his team will be focused on the task at hand Saturday, the coach may be excused if he's a little distracted - not only is he meet manager, but sons Matthew (senior), Gregor and Davis (junior) will be swimming for the Greyhounds. Charlie and his wife, Alexandra, a massage therapist at the Human Performance Centre in Grand Bay-Westfield, also have a fourth son, Kiefer, a Grade 6 student.

The obvious question begs to be asked: do the boys curl?

"They never gravitated to curling - it was their choice," said Sullivan. "They'll throw rocks with their grandfather but nothing competitive. They swim and play basketball and do a lot of other stuff, but curling was never appealing to them."

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