Story by Jeff Gard/jgsportsmedia.com
Best friends Abby Teno and Olivia Harvey are back together and they’re going to keep it that way.
Teno, of Port Hope, and Harvey, now back in Cobourg after living the past five years out west, will head to Saskatchewan together this fall on swimming scholarships with the University of Regina Cougars team.
The now 17-year-olds met when they began swimming with the Port Hope-based Northumberland Aquatic Club (NORAC) about 10 years ago.
“I remember one of my first days of swimming, going and first meeting everyone and Olivia was super hyperactive and I was like oh my gosh, she would be an awesome friend and we’ve been best friends since,” Teno said.
Harvey recalls “Abby being this tiny little girl who had to wear a wetsuit because she would get so cold in the water, but she’s always been super spunky and she just works super hard so she’s a great best friend to have. She pushes me.”
When Harvey moved away to Alberta and then Saskatchewan, it was challenging for the pair, even if distance was the only thing that truly separated them. They kept in touch, almost daily, through video calls over the years.
Teno said “it was really exciting” when Harvey returned last year. “She pushes me a lot in practice, that’s for sure, but she’s great to have around. She’s a big motivator.”
Harvey echoed the sentiment.
“It was really nice coming back because NORAC has always been like a family to me,” she said,” and having Abby there is awesome. She’s also a good motivator.”
Both girls are national-level swimmers. Harvey considers the 50-metre freestyle to be her best and has swam an Olympic Trial qualifying time in that event. She was also close to achieving the same feat in the 100-metre butterfly, 100-metre backstroke, 200-metre butterfly and 200-metre backstroke.
Harvey, who competed at the Canada Summer Games in 2017, won’t have the opportunity this time around to compete at the Olympic Trials due to a limited number of participants. When she gets back in the pool, she’ll train hard to meet the next time standards that she’ll aim to achieve.
“I haven’t really been training much lately, but when I do I train mostly like 50s and volume sets so that I can push the back-half of my race,” Harvey remarked. “I’ve found that’s the most important because you get tired at the back of your race so you really have to work on your endurance so that you can end off strong.”
Teno noted that when NORAC swimmers have been able to train in the pool, there has been a big emphasis on “sprint workouts and pace workouts to make sure we can hold our pace through 50s and 100s.”
Her best races are the 50-metre freestyle, 50-metre butterfly, 100-metre freestyle and 100-metre butterfly. She competed at the Canadian senior championships in 2018 and narrowly missed out on achieving the Olympic Trial time standard by a couple of seconds.
Last year, representing Port Hope High School, she captured a couple bronze medals in the 50-metre freestyle and 100-metre butterfly at the Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations (OFSAA) championships. In addition to the medals, she was excited to set new personal-best times for those events at that provincial high school meet.
Teno also qualified for the Eastern Canadian championships in 2020, but that event was cancelled. She’s enjoyed being back in the pool, though, at the Jack Burger Sports Complex when it’s open and certainly looking forward to university swimming as well.
“I’m really excited to experience the team atmosphere there and experience a different type of training style,” said Teno, who will study kinesiology and major in human kinetics at the University of Regina. “I definitely think I’ll be able to go far with that university.”
Harvey is catching up on schooling after having jaw surgery this past summer, but she is hoping to study nursing at the university when she’s not in the pool.
“I’m really excited to go back because I know the coaches there,” she said. “They’re so nice and they make such a good team atmosphere. I’m just so excited to swim with everybody.”
Swimming has been important in their lives and will continue to be. They know the benefits it can have for any young person who wants to be challenged in a sport.
“I just think that it’s a really good sport for even learning about yourself,” Harvey said. “Swimming…you have to put everything into it in order to do well and then at one point you can’t go anywhere from just trying hard, you have to be mentally strong to be able to push past a plateau. I learned so much about myself and how to be confident.”
Teno agrees and is grateful to NORAC coach Trish MacNeil for creating a great environment for swimmers to thrive.
“It’s a great physical and mental challenge, but also it boosts your confidence level 100 per cent every time you get a best time,” she said. “It’s a great feeling and having those around you that support you makes that experience 10-times better. I can really thank Trish for that.”
Click the play button to listen to the full interview posted at the top of this page.