© Star photo by Geraldine Brophy
Nicholas Sparkes of Corner Brook is getting settled into his rookie season with the Memorial University of Newfoundland Sea-Hawks varsity men’s swim team. The 18-year-old former star with the Corner Brook Rapids is shown here competing in the Corner Brook Rapids Performance Meet held Sunday at the Corner Brook Arts and Culture Pool.
ST. JOHN’S Becoming a student-athlete at Memorial University of Newfoundland was a pretty easy decision for Nicholas Sparkes.
Sparkes, an 18-year-old Corner Brook native, is in his rookie season with the Memorial University Sea-Hawks varsity men’s swim team.
A dominant force for the Corner Brook Rapids swim club for years, Sparkes opted to head to MUN because he felt the university offered him what he was looking for at this time in his life.
He wanted to continue swimming while pursuing an engineering degree so with MUN boasting both, he was bound for the capital city. He has no regrets about his decision as the Sea-Hawks prepare for its first travel meet, which takes place Nov. 18 in Halifax, N.S.
“I love to swim and I like what I am doing in my engineering program, so it’s not that bad doing all the work,” Sparkes, son of Corner Brook’s Wendell and Sandra Sparkes, said Tuesday afternoon.
Sparkes was among the elite with the Corner Brook Rapids before embarking on his college swimming career. He has been hitting the pool for 11 years or so now and his hard work as a young swimmer culminated last year when he was chosen to wear Newfoundland and Labrador’s colours at the 2013 Canada Summer Games in Sherbrooke, Que.
“That was probably the biggest achievement throughout my high school career. It was an ongoing thing working towards something I wanted,” he said.
All the hard work he punched along the journey was well worth it, he was quick to point out when asked about the experience of competing against the top swimmers in the country.
“Oh yeah, it definitely was,” Sparkes said. “It was definitely one, if not the best, sports experiences I ever had.”
Just getting his feet wet with the Sea-Hawks, Sparkes has a heavy workload with his studies and a busy training schedule in the pool that consists of nine practices per week. Along with thecrazy weekends competing and travelling to various meets in Atlantic Canada. But Spakres doesn’t mind all the hard work because he’s doing what he wants and swimming has been his passion for a long time because it is an individual sport where he has some say in his destiny.
“All the work I put into it comes back out towards what I get out of it ... so that’s the big thing for me,” he said.
Sparkes is following in the footsteps of his dad. Wendell Sparkes, a Corner Brook teacher, played for the Sea-Hawks varsity men’s basketball team from 1986-1991.
“I think it’s kind of cool,” he said. “I think maybe somebody down the road will realize hey your dad played here,” he said.
As an elite athlete, Sparkes knows the importance of goal setting because every athlete needs to guage his development. He knows what he wants to do in his rookie year.
“I just want to establish myself out here on the east coast and show them I can swim fast,” he said, noting his goal is to compete in the age-group nationals this year with this being his last year of eligibility.
When he was swimming with the Rapids the past couple of years, Sparkes was considered a seasoned veteran with most of the elite swimmers around him several years younger. He seems to be more content being around swimmers in his own age group with common goals shared.
“There’s a lot more guys my age now and my speed, so I have more of a push to do better,” he said.