Sydney Kovar commits to Northern Colorado
By Mike Pearson, News staff
With multiple top-10 rankings for her age group, Sydney Kovar is among the fastest female distance swimmers in Ontario.
The 17-year-old Saltfleet District High School student glides through the pool with a relaxed form and deceiving stroke rate.
In her younger years, Kovar’s seemingly effortless style fooled even her most ardent fans, including her mother, Michelle.
The year was 2008 and Kovar was inspired to compete by U.S. Olympian Michael Phelps. As an 89-pound 12-year-old, she posted strong times in the 50-metre sprint, including a fifth place finish at the provincial championships.
She was fast, but she didn’t look fast.
“If you saw her in the pool, I think it was obvious to all of us who were watching her in the stands. I would say, ‘faster, Sydney, faster,’” said Michelle.
With fewer strokes, Kovar could outswim her opponents while making it all look easy.
Today she still swims in the 50 and 100-metre events. But Kovar has shifted her focus to mid-distance and distance races, including the 400, 800 and 1,500-metre freestyle.
Now five-foot 10, Kovar’s lean, lanky frame and natural athletic ability make her well-suited for mid and long distance events.
Last month, Kovar signed her letter of intent to compete for the University of Northern Colorado this fall. Despite accepting a lucrative scholarship offer, Kovar is taking nothing for granted as she prepares for her time in the scenic Rocky Mountain region community of Greeley.
After discovering the sport six seasons ago, Kovar has found her niche in long course freestyle events. Along with qualifying for the Canadian trials, she now hopes to make an NCAA championship appearance by the time she reaches her senior year.
“Everone would always tell me that I had a nice, natural stroke,” said Kovar. “And when I got into the competitive program, I was told right away that if I want to go anywhere, I need to practice six times a week. All of the other kids were older than me and had already been swimming since they were 10 or six or whatever.”
Kovar swam with the Saltfleet high school team for two years, but has since focused on her training with the Hamilton Aquatic Club.
The HAC’s elite swimmers train at the McMaster University pool, Hamilton’s only regulation-sized long course facility.
Despite launching her competitive swimming career at a later age than most of her opponents, Kovar is one of a select few HAC athletes who have qualified for a Canadian trials event.
Last month, she competed at the Canadian Pan Pacific trials. She now trains nine times a week in the pool, plus three times a week in the weight room. As if that wasn’t enough, sometimes she goes on runs.
More recently, Kovar joined her Hamilton Aquatic Club teammates at The East Side Mario’s Invitational Long Course Swim Meet at Laurentian University in Sudbury, with outstanding results. Kovar won five medals, including gold in the 50-metre freestyle, and silvers in the 200-metre freestyle, 800-metre freestyle and the 4×50-metre freestyle. She also placed third in the 100-metre freestyle and fourth in the 400-metre freestyle.
Kovar’s results earned her the female 15-and-over high point award.
Looking ahead to the fall, Kovar will not only look to improve on her times, but also adjust to American pool dimensions.
Unlike the international standard long course metres, NCAA events are staged in yards. For Kovar, that means her 400-metre freestyle specialty will become a 500-yard event.
“You have to be a lot more powerful in your turns and off the wall and stuff. It’s a different sport, almost,” Kovar said.
After posting her swimming credentials on berecruited.com, Kovar received interest from several universities. But Northern Colorado impressed her the most. After just one visit to the campus, she was hooked.
“When I went down there, the environment is so beautiful. It just felt right. The coaches were really welcoming and nice and so were the freshmen that welcomed me.”
With four seniors set to graduate from the Northern Colorado women’s swim team, Kovar hopes to make a splash in the 500-yard freestyle event.