This weekend will be a bit of a different experience for Ethan Mercer.
Not because he’s in the pool competing as a member of the Corner Brook Rapids — that’s not unusual for the 17-year-old.
The events he’s taking part in, however, are a little off the beaten lane.
This weekend’s meet in Corner Brook is a provincial invitational event as clubs prepare themselves for the Swim NL provincial championships in St. John’s from March 21-24.
Instead of going overboard on the events he already excels at, it was suggested to Mercer he take another approach.
The breaststroke is his weapon of choice, he says, and he’ll certainly compete in that category at the provincials, so this weekend he’ll do the backstroke and maybe a little butterfly.
“Just to try something I don’t usually do at other meets,” he said.
The son of Ed Mercer and Brenda Duffy, Mercer is a Grade 12 student at Corner Brook Regional High and is in his final year of competition with the Rapids, a club he’s been a part of for “eight or nine years.”
It began simply as swimming lessons, never a bad idea for anyone who lives in a place surrounded by water, and he never thought much more of it than that.
Until suddenly, he did.
“I always liked swimming and then one day I said, ‘I didn’t know about this, but apparently you can do it competitively,’” he recalled. “I’ve loved it ever since.”
He admits he was never a fan of dryland sports. He always felt much more comfortable in the water.
He raves about his Rapids clubmates and the supportive coaching staff, and even the early morning practices — three a week — that might make some people cringe.
“It’s a great way to start the day,” he said.
“You’re not only getting this amazing sport that’s great for your health, but meeting so many awesome people, making so many good memories,” he adds of the plentiful perks.
This meet will be his seventh of the season and he’s been impressed with his performances in those previous competitions so far. Surprised, even, he says.
He said competitive swimmers often have a peak year, typically during a growth spurt, and that year for him came when he was 14 or 15. After that, he said, it’s a real struggle to hit those best times again.
Except that’s not the case for him this season — he’s hitting best times most of the time. Even this weekend, participating in unfamiliar events, his focus is to knock those times down.
“Even if just by a few milliseconds,” he said. “It’s always great to take that little bit off.”
Originally scheduled for today and Sunday, this weekend’s meet actually began instead on Friday evening and will continue today from 9 a.m. to 12 noon, and 4-8 p.m. at the Arts and Culture Centre pool. A pre-competitive meet is slated for 9 a.m. to 12 noon on Sunday.