By Jordan Ercit
Kitchener Post staff
It was a hard choice to make, but Andrew Cardy had to put his long-term health ahead of his favourite sport.
So it was with a heavy heart the 18-year-old longtime KW Water Polo Club member retired his team cap and stopped competing when scoliosis twisted his back in not one, but two, places.
“There was just so much twisting and torqueing that I had to stop, but it was tough,” said Cardy, who developed a curvature in his lower back and a compensating one further up his spine and dropped water polo after 11 seasons in the pool.
“I miss it a lot. I still get to coach, and I love that too, but it isn’t the same.”
The consolation, however, was that Cardy was still able to stay in the pool as a competitive swimmer. It was therapeutic and, evident by the St. Mary’s coaches holding out hope he would join the Eagles’ swim team, he was pretty darn good at the high school level, too.
How good? Apparently, one of the best senior boys swimmers in the District 8 Athletic Association.
Cardy capped off his high school athletics career last Thursday — he graduates this week — at Wilfrid Laurier University’s Athletic Centre, taking home the top overall honours in his age group thanks to first-place finishes in the 200-metre freestyle and 100-metre backstroke.
His effort helped the Eagles claim their first overall team title as well, as St. Mary’s knocked off the five-time-defending champion Resurrection by a 23-point margin. Last year, the Eagles came within a dozen points of knocking off the Phoenix in one of the closest finishes in recent memory, coach Tracey Hewerdine said.
“We lost by 12 points and it was very upsetting,” she said. “It was a heartbreaking finish for us.
“But this year, the kids worked hard. They were dedicated and they didn’t scratch many events (two compared to eight or nine in 2011-12). That made the difference.”
So did the fact that St. Mary’s had three athletes finish first overall in their gender and age group. All three of them did it coming from differing aquatic backgrounds, too.
Gillian Frezell, a Grade 10 student who won the 50-metre freestyle, 50-metre butterfly and 100-metre freestyle high school finals, was drawn to racing after spending a few years with the KW Synchronized Swim Club. She was looking for a sport that provided a more linear timeline.
“You have your start and your finish, and you try to do the best you can,” she said.
Her mom, a former racer, and beating her sister Allison, a year younger who finished second to Frezell in the 50-metre freestyle, provided the inspiration.
“She’s tough competition and has a fairly similar level of skill,” Frezell said of her sister. “But I’m older, so I couldn’t let her beat me.”
Family ties were what pushed Scott Fraser toward his overall high school junior men’s title as well. His dad, Paul, helped Forest Heights Collegiate Institute win a high school title in swimming.
However, Fraser wasn’t expecting individual success after a lacklustre 2011-12.
“I did poorly at all my events. I wasn’t very good at all,” said Fraser, who joined a leader-in-training program over the summer, which included bronze cross training.
“I definitely wasn’t expecting this.”
Other male swimmers winning multiple events included Resurrection’s Kurtis Grey, who won three events. Tyler Henry, Devon Hinsperger (Resurrection), Joseph Scarfone (St. David) and Andrew Gerncser (St. Mary’s) won two each.
Female swimmers with multiple wins included Resurrection’s Truc Tran-Dwyer, Shannon Eby, Blanaid McNally and St. David’s McKayla Meyer and Holly Gojmerac.
As for what comes next, only Cardy knows what the future holds in the pool, with the CWOSSA championships on hold due to postponement of the WCSSAA season until at least Dec. 31.
Cardy got clearance from his chiropractor recently to continue playing water polo at his discretion. But if the CWOSSA championships are back on, he may accompany the Eagles as an interested alumnus.
“I have a few buddies on the team, so if I’m not working maybe I’ll join the team and hopefully cheer them on to another win,” he said.