Triathletes lead Saanich to Western Games

Trio of Saanich teens – Holly and Hannah Henry as well as Brennen Smith – are on Team B.C.

Sisters Holly (left) and Hannah Henry

Sisters Holly (left) and Hannah Henry

Traditionally Team B.C. is a powerhouse in the triathlon, and this year will be no different as Saanich’s Henry sisters, Holly and Hannah, will join Brennen Smith to represent at the 2015 Western Canada Summer Games in Wood Buffalo, Alta., from Aug. 7 to 16.

While Holly, 17, is expected to leave the water with the lead group, she also expects to be caught by her younger sister Hannah, 16, in the run.

Hannah recently finished third overall in the U19 category of the Canadian national triathlon championships, while Holly was 10th.

The under-19 triathlon is a sprint distance, 750-metre swim, 20-kilometre bike and 5km run.

“I like the technical sections of the bike course, not too many hills and lots of turns would suit me,” said Holly, gold medal winner in the 2012 B.C. Summer Games triathlon. “If it’s hilly, Hannah will do well.”

Holly expects to do better than 10th in Wood Buffalo, not just because the competitive field won’t be as deep as at nationals, but also because she was suffering from an illness there. It was likely an airborne virus she picked up on the airplane ride back from Europe where she spent most of July training in Spain, the Netherlands and France, including a couple of days with some of Canada’s senior elites, such as Ellen Pennock (Victoria), which was an eye-opener for Holly.

She was still feeling the effects of the bug days after nationals when she first connected with her youth team at Saanich Commonwealth Place under coach Kelly Guest, who joins Team B.C. at the Games.

For Hannah, the door is just as wide open, as the bronze-medal-winning 16-year-old was among the youngest at nationals.

“I don’t know anything about Wood Buffalo or much about the route but I really liked the run at nationals, which was a flat course out and back,” said Hannah, whose 5km run split could be as low as 17:47 in the right conditions.

The triathlon events at the Western Canada Summer Games begin Aug. 13 with the individual triathlon event followed by the men’s and women’s relay events on Aug. 15, before ending with the mixed team relay on Aug. 16.

The Team B.C. athletes enter the Western Summer Games on a remarkable run of success, with four of the six selected male and female athletes finishing in the top five, together with an outright win in the relay event at the opening round of Triathlon Canada’s Junior National Series.

Meanwhile, Saanich’s Brennen Smith is a coup for the men’s team. Smith relocated to Royal Oak near Saanich Commonwealth Place from Saskatchewan last year so he could focus on triathlon.

He trains as the youngest member in a group of Saanich-based LifeSport coaching under Caroline Murray. Last month he won the sprint distance of the new Westshore Triathlon at Langford Lake, and in 204 he won the Lifesport-run Western High School Triathlon Championship at Shawnigan Lake.

“It’s amazing here, you can’t help but get immersed in the [triathlon] culture. Some of the world’s best swimmers are here at the pool, and there’s tons of cyclists. It rubs off,” Smith said.

Before moving here Smith spent his winters on the treadmill and with his bike affixed to stationary rollers.

This fall he commences studying through Thompson Rivers University online, from here in Saanich, but will likely represent them at the B.C. cross-country championships and Canadian Inter-university Sport cross-country championships, and possibly more.

For more on the Team B.C. athletes and Western Canada Summer Games visit