When University of Lethbridge Pronghorns swimmer Apollo Hess returned from the Canadian Olympic trials in June, he did so with a reignited love for his sport.
As the Canada West season got underway this fall, it began to clearly translate to his work in the pool and the U of L record books.
“I’ve found a new inspiration or drive, and I’m just really eager to compete,” Hess said.
“I started off the season by breaking the 200 individual medley record, and then the weekend after, I broke the 100 breaststroke record and the 200 breaststroke record, and then the weekend following that, I broke the 50 breaststroke record.”
The streak of record-breaking follows a performance at Olympic trials that surprised even Hess himself when he finished fourth in the 200-metre breaststroke final and was just four seconds away from the Olympic A time standard.
That meet left the 19-year-old with some big goals, including the 2024 Olympics in Paris.
“There are moments in athletes’ careers where they get a bit of an increased belief in themselves, and he went through one of those moments,” said Pronghorns head coach Peter Schori.
Hess will first shift his focus to the short term, with the team set to travel to Edmonton this weekend for the 2021 Canada West Swimming Championships.
Despite being a member of the Pronghorns last school year, Hess is technically in his rookie season after Canada West waived eligibility requirements with no competition due to COVID-19 last season.
“The rookies are almost like super rookies this year,” Schori said.
“With that extra year, yes, he’s a first year but kind of a second year, and he’s really on the track that we thought he would be on at this point… We would like to see him on the podium and maybe winning a couple of events.”
Hess will race individually in the 50-, 100-, and 200-metre breaststrokes and 50-metre freestyle as well as with teammates in the 4×200-metre freestyle relay, 4×100-metre freestyle relay, and 4×100-metre medley relay.
“For the breaststrokes, I would definitely like to win. That would be the goal,” Hess said.
A dominant breaststroker, Hess has the ability to take the Pronghorns’ relay teams to the next level, Schori says.
“It seems in swimming, that’s the stroke where there’s a little bit more variance,” Schori said.
“Most of the freestylers for every team are going to be within a second, but in breaststroke, a really good breaststroker might be four seconds ahead of another team’s breaststroker, so it’s elevated our relays by a lot this year.”
Beyond this weekend, the goal is for Hess to have a massive year in 2022 — hopefully, on the international stage.
“I think he’s going to compete for a spot on the world championships team in April,” Schori said.
“I think I have a good shot at making the team this year,” said Hess. “So that’s definitely the goal, and that’s what I’m working towards every day.”
The 2021 Canada West Swimming Championships are set to begin on Friday in Edmonton.