The Canyons Aquatic Club swimmers wear "Saugus Strong" swim caps during the Cranberry Classic swim meet held at the Santa Clarita Aquatic Center on Saturday, November 23, 2019. Dan Watson/The Signal

Canyons Aquatic pays tribute to Saugus

The Santa Clarita Valley is still dealing with the events that occurred at Saugus High School on Nov. 14, but Canyons Aquatic Club swimmers found solace in each others’ company just hours afterward.

Canyon Aquatics initially decided to cancel all practices being held that day, but after head coach Kevin Nielsen received a call from some of the Saugus High School swimmers, he offered his group an optional practice.

“Shortly after an email was sent out and was communicated to the families, I had some Saugus High School swimmers contact me to still have practice,” Nielsen said. “They wanted to take their minds off of the awful events that happened at the school so I talked to the other staff members and we wanted to make sure we could support the athletes in any capacity.”

Before the start of practice, Nielsen took some time to read a passage from “The Road Less Traveled” by Scott Peck, a book he has been reading the team all year long with the hopes of helping them cope in such a tough time.

“The passage had to deal with identity and the road map to one’s life and how does someone value that and how it’s constantly changing over time and how you have to make adjustments,” Nielsen said. “I felt in a time like that no one knows how to act or behave because it’s not a routine or normal incident, it’s upsetting and they can look at it as traumatizing.” 

Two days later at the Senior Race Series Championships on Saturday, Nov. 16th, a few of the Canyons Aquatics swimmers who attend Saugus High School asked if they could don Saugus swim apparel at the meet.

In full support of the idea, the Canyons Aquatics’ coaching staff and swim team decided to honor the Saugus community even further by breaking tradition and performing a Saugus High School cheer.

Furthermore, Saugus girls swim coach Krista Botton, a Canyons Aquatics swim parent, brought some old Saugus swim caps for some of the swimmers to wear.

“Again, a lot of these ideas came from the athletes that had asked if they could wear their Saugus High School caps at the Senior Race Series meet,” Nielsen said. “During these times, it’s not normal, it’s tragic and unfortunate and the best way to get over something like that is to come together as a community, come together as a team and just show support that we can overcome this and become stronger afterward.” 

Friday, Nov. 22 through Sunday, Nov. 24 Canyons Aquatics hosted the 2019 Cranberry Classic at the Santa Clarita Aquatics Center and continued to honor and support the Saugus community by dawning #saugusstrong swim caps. There was also a moment of silence to honor the fallen.

“We get a ton of swimmers from all over Southern California and even outside of California and we wanted to give, not only our senior swimmers the opportunity to show our support, but one of the age group swimmers to have that opportunity, as well,” Nielsen said. “We were fortunate that one of our parents came up with the design for the cap, get a rush order and get those out to the entire team.”

Canyons Aquatic girls swimmer Karina Hartounian had an eventful day, winning first place in the Girls Open 200-yard butterfly and the Girls Open 1,000-yard freestyle, second in the Girls Open 500-yard freestyle, three third-place finishes in the Girls 13 & Over 200-yard individual medley, 100-yard backstroke and the 200-yard freestyle. 

Viviana Raker, a senior at Saugus High School, finished runner-up to Hartounian in the Girls Open 1,000-yard freestyle and fifth in the Girls 13 & Over 100-yard backstroke.

Joy Lee won the Girls Open 200-yard breaststroke, second place in the 13 & over 100-yard breaststroke and finished outside the top three for fourth place in the 13 & Over 200-yard individual medley.

Jason Hawkins finished 10th in the Boys Open 200-yard backstroke and 13th in the Boys Open 200-yard breaststroke.

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