Locals to swim for top U.S. university

It will be quite the thrill for Scarborough swimmers Veronica Lee and Julie Harrison, both 17, when they take the plunge to the university level at Pittsburgh University, where they’ll join the school’s team and begin classes in January.

The girls train out of the Scarborough Swim Club, where they swim an average of two hours about 10 times a week.

“They swim their girls’ heinies off,” said swim club president Chris Pendergast, who praises the girls for their strong work ethic.

“It would have to take a catastrophic car crash for them to miss a practice. And when they come, it’s all business.”

The girls are also no strangers to representing Canada in competition. Lee is considered one of the top breaststrokers in Canada, placing as a finalist at the 2008 Canadian Olympic trials and in the 2009 Canadian World Championship trials. Harrison, who specializes in freestyle, currently has the sixth fastest 1,500- metre free finish in Canada at 17:04.74.

Heading to Pittsburgh will be a huge upgrade from a swimming perspective as the school’s pool was the recipient of a $700,000 renovation. It’s a far cry from their normal facilities in Scarborough, which are long overdue for an overhaul.

“It’s hard when you see other clubs training in 50 -metre pools and have no air quality problems,” said Harrison when discussing previous meets with the club.

Help will come by 2015 when the new aquatics centre at University of Toronto Scarborough is built and will become the club’s new home.

But Lee and Harrison hope to feel right at home in Pittsburgh, where besides facility differences, the school’s atmosphere is familiar to Scarborough.

“It’s not just a swim team, it’s a family,” said Harrsion of the feeling she got of the Pittsburgh team when deciding where to apply.

The girls also noted that swimming doesn’t give them much time to do anything else and Pittsburgh offered a ton of needed academic support.

“They’re both very calm before competition,” said Sylvain Pineau, who’s been coaching the girls for about five years at the club.

“They know how to prepare for the competition and be in the right state of mind.”

Observer TV News reporter Tevy Pilc visits the swimming pool at RH King Academy in Scarborough to meet up with Veronica Lee and Julie Harrison – the newest members of the Pittsburgh University swim team.