When Taylor Smith looks back on the 2015 to 2016 season, she will consider it her coronation year.
Last weekend, Smith, 13, competed in her first Age Group National Championships, held at Calgary’s Talisman Centre.
The five-day swim meet featured the best Canadian athletes between 12 and 18.
At the beginning of the season Smith had not made a provincial Top 8 final, nor had she made a national final.
On the weekend, she qualified for five finals in the 13-year-old category.
The first of the meet saw Smith finishing fifth in the 50-metre breaststroke. A splash and dash sprint, Smith just missed the bronze medal by 0.8 seconds but earned herself a personal best and Orca club record.
With the swim meet in Calgary, the athletes found the thinner mountain air made it more difficult to compete in the longer distances.
On the second day, Smith was still able to better her 400-metre I.M. time by several seconds and was one of only two top eight swimmers able to accomplish a personal best time in the preliminary heats.
“It was a lot harder to swim than I thought, but you just try your best and get through it — tell yourself it’s almost over,” she said.
On the third day, going into one of her best events, Smith qualified in fifth spot, but stumbled in the final and finished eighth. She was able to bounce back the next day and qualify for two more finals in the 100m backstroke and 200m breaststroke.
“You just have to be positive,” Smith said.
In the Team Scores category (Top 8 placings are awarded points in the finals) the lone competitor from the Summerland Orca Swim Club, Smith’s one-woman team finished 48th out of 84 women teams, many of the other swim teams four or more swimmers deep.
“Taylor has developed into a racer,” Orca Coach Delano Ducheck said. “Her greatest asset is her mental strength. On the biggest stage of her young career she keeps stepping up and performing. She keeps setting higher and higher goals and reaching them. She’s been a pleasure to coach this year.”
In the beginning of July, Smith won five medals at the BC AAA Provincials in Victoria, with two silvers and three bronzes.
This is the most medals at the highest provincial meet any Orca swimmer has achieved in the past 10 years.