Haylie Burton looking for more at her fourth lifesaving worlds

Rob Massey, Guelph Sports Journal

GUELPH – Haylie Burton of Guelph will be looking for a little redemption at the Lifesaving World Championships in Adelaide, Australia, later this month.

Burton, a member of the Guelph Marlin Aquatic Club as a competitor and coach and a member of the University of Guelph’s varsity swim team, will be attending her fourth rescue world championships. The first two for the 22-year-old U of G political science student was as a member of Canada’s national youth squad and this will be her second as a member of the national senior team.

“My last one in the Netherlands in 2016 was actually pretty disappointing for me,” she said after a practice with the Gryphons. “I had taken some time off with a back injury and was getting back into it and I just didn’t get back into the shape that I wanted to. Preparation didn’t go as well as I wanted so I’m excited to have another shot at it.”

This time she’s heading to the meet, which runs from Nov. 16 to Dec. 2, in peak shape.

“Over the summer, I had a flexible job so August I almost just trained all the way through the month and I came into September starting with the (Gryphon) team in really good shape,” she said. “My base line is way better and I feel more confident going in.”

Burton got involved in the sport because of her father, former Marlins and Gryphons coach Don Burton, who is now the head coach of the Ontario Swimming Academy.

“My dad had swimmers on the team and they were on the national team so they asked him to help out and he ended up being the coach for Canada that year and that year he added a program into the Marlins,” Haylie said. “I must’ve been 7 or 8 so I just started in with the program and I’ve done it ever since.”

Unlike swimming where swimmers tend to specialize in one stroke, lifesaving competitors usually compete in all the disciplines.

“All the events you (swim) freestyle for, but pretty much the motto for lifesaving is ‘Everyone Does Everything,’” Haylie said. “If you’re going to go, you’re going to do everything. You’re going to be well-rounded.”

And it’s pretty simple reasoning for that because lifeguards don’t get a choice what problems they’re going to deal with. They have to deal with whatever emergency happens in front of them.

“You can’t pick what you’re doing. You have to be prepared for everything,” Haylie said.

While you don’t have to be employed as a lifeguard to be able to compete, it is a prerequisite that you have your bronze medallion. However, Haylie is a lifeguard at the U of G pool.

She also coaches competitive lifesaving and she feels competing and coaching actually helps both.

“I think I’m a better coach because I’m an athlete in it and I think I’m a better athlete because of my coaching and I have to kind of analyse everything a little bit more and apply what I’m saying to other swimmers to myself,” she said. “I think I hold myself more accountable because if I’m telling my athletes to do it, I should probably do it, too.”

The world championships are four days of competition with two days in a pool and two days in the ocean.

“I’m definitely stronger in the pool because of my swimming background, but I really enjoy the events in the ocean, as well,” Haylie said. “I have a really big respect for the people who are true surf athletes and I think it’s really underrated.”

Of course, practising for open-water (ocean) competition in Guelph can be a challenge.

“The hardest is trying to train for an ocean sport in the winter in Canada,” she said. “I’m not a mainly surf athlete, but I do need to be on the board a little bit because I will be doing some there. I’ll also be doing the open-water swims and stuff and open-water swimming is still not the same as pool swimming. We try to train (at Guelph Lake) as far into the fall as we can and it was looking good, but it dropped off and it’s been hard to get on a board or have any kind of running on the beach, running into the water, wading practise because it’s chilly.”

However, Haylie did manage to stretch her outdoor training into mid-October.

“I got on my board (about three) weeks ago and that was it,” she said. “I called it.”

Leaving for three weeks at this time of year can also be difficult for a university student.

“I’m taking a reduced course load this semester and I met with all my profs in August giving them the heads-up and they were pretty good about it,” Haylie said. “I’m getting most of my course work out of the way and then doing what I can when I’m away and then just studying when I get back for exams.

“I get back the day before exams start, but I don’t have an exam on the first day. That’s good.”

Haylie also figures a lot of the travel time to Australia will be spent on her studies.

“I’ve got two long flights to get as much out of the way as I can,” she said. “When I get there, I just want to focus on that.”

Being her fourth world championship meet, Haylie isn’t expecting to get too nervous as she has been there before.

“I definitely feel a little more comfortable knowing what I’m getting into a little bit more and the familiarity of it. I know a lot of the people on the team that have been on the team since I started in 2012,” she said. “I’m feeling more confident.”

And her goals?

“My goals are to come top 16 in at least three of my events,” she said. “I’d love to have a top-eight swim, as well. I just missed top 16 in 2016, but (based on) my time from before I was totally capable of doing it — just doing that, getting some points toward the team and seeing how well Canada can do.

“I think that our team looks really strong this year. Our youth team coming in and our national team both have a lot of promising athletes so I think we could do really well – better than the last year.”

The Canadian youth team includes a pair of Marlins, Sebastien Reimer and Haylie’s brother Russell, while former U of G varsity swimmer and lifeguard Jessey The Elf is also a member of the senior team.

As for Haylie, she intends to keep swimming and competing after this year’s world championships are history.

“I definitely want to train for another two years and aim for the next worlds for lifesaving, just working when I’m training for those two years,” she said. “Then I’ll see where that takes me. Two years is a long time from now.”