Truro duo aims to cross Northumberland Strait to raise money

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Stubbert's grandparents are Peter and Theresa Melanson of Maccan

Jenna Stubbert, left, and Cali Bruce are gearing up to take in the Big Swim, a fundraising trek across the Northumberland Strait, in August. Both girls were putting in practice at Scotia Pool in Bible Hill on Thursday.

BIBLE HILL – Two kids gun down separate lanes of the Scotia Pool in Bible Hill as their coach looks on.

“I’ll pull them out once warm-up is over,” he says, checking a stopwatch in his hand.

Forty-five minutes into practice, yet the two young girls are still in warm-up mode. Then again, time runs a little quicker for Cali Bruce and Jenna Stubbert, 13 and 17 years old, respectively. The duo is used to long mornings in the water, followed by equally strenuous evenings. Swimming is a 24-hour passion for these kids.

Stubbert is the granddaughter of Peter and Theresa Melanson of Maccan.

All their efforts – over 160 kilometres of swimming each in the last three works, chimes in their coach Colin Bruce, who is also Cali’s father – are in preparation for the biggest swim of their lives. In August, both girls will attempt the Big Swim, a marathon swim across the Northumberland Strait between New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island.

“I think I’m most nervous that a shark’s going to get me,” Jenna chuckled. “You always have to worry about what’s underneath you and what’s around you. Are there dolphins, too?”

After getting the idea from their provincial swimming coaches in Dartmouth, the girls took off with the idea. Immediately, their regimen intensified to include marathon sessions, often twice a day.

Their motivation to push through all the swimming?

“The food at the end,” Cali joked.

At 13 years of age, Cali has a chance to be the youngest female swimmer to span the strait. While both Colin and his wife, Laura, are swimmers, neither swam competitively. Both marvel at the dedication put forth by the girls.

“Cali is very self-driven,” Colin said. “We were in Vegas when she called me up and said, ‘Dad, I’m going to swim the Northumberland Strait,’ and I just said, ‘OK.’ I knew she’d get right to it.”

While the strait is often measured by the fixed length of the Confederation Bridge, there isn’t a fixed length for the swim. Depending on current, it could range between 14 and 17 km long, which means between three and eight hours in the water.

“I’m used to swimming in the ocean,” Cali said. “It doesn’t bother me too much, but the currents do make me a little nervous.”

“We’re mostly used to swimming normal practices and normal distances, but this is a new challenge,” Jenna said.

Along with current, there are several other differences between indoor swimming and open-water swimming, the girls said. Among them is the problem of breathing through the waves and dealing with seasickness.

On top of being a daunting physical challenge, the Big Swim is also a fundraiser. Each participant must raise a minimum of $1,000. The money goes towards Brigadoon Village, a summer camp in Aylesford Lake for children with chronic illness or special needs.

Cali has an added motivation for the swim, having lost her cousin, Kevin, to cancer seven years ago.

Beyond the Big Swim, both girls have swimming in their sights for years to come. Cali has Olympic dreams, aiming for a spot in the 2016 or 2020 Games. Jenna hopes her talent will lead to an education by competing at the varsity level.

Motivating them along the way are their goals, along with a healthy dose of competition between the two.

“Sometimes we’ll push each other to try and beat each other,” Cali said.

“If you don’t want to be here, you’re not going to get anything out of it,” Jenna added. “You have to push yourself, too.”

Leaving from the New Brunswick side, the swim will go ahead on Aug. 17, a date both girls anxiously await.

“Hopefully it will feel good,” Cali said with a grin. “As long as I don’t get sick, and can make it to the end to get that food.”




Organizations: Scotia Pool

Geographic location: New Brunswick, Bible Hill, Prince Edward Island Dartmouth Vegas Brigadoon Village Aylesford Lake

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