Paul Armstrong

Paul Armstrong, head coach of the Saskatoon Goldfins, remembers the first time Swimming Canada's Senior Nationals meet was held in Saskatchewan, 24 years ago. (Kathy Fitzpatrick/CBC)

For the first time in 24 years Swimming Canada's Senior Nationals competition is being held in this province. It opened Wednesday at the Shaw Centre in Saskatoon.

The event brings together Canada's top swimmers from across the country. 

It's the first time they're swimming the long course in Saskatchewan. That's fifty metres, the standard length for all the international meets.

'it was inspiring for me' - Paul Armstrong, Head Coach, Saskatoon Goldfins

"In terms of the Olympic games, or the upcoming Commonwealth games or Pan-Pacific championships, they're all swum in the 50-metre pool," said Paul Armstrong, head coach of the Saskatoon Goldfins.  "So having the 50-metre championship meet here is really exciting for us."

Armstrong remembers the first time the national meet was held in Saskatchewan, in the 25-metre lanes at Saskatoon's Harry Bailey Aquatic Centre. He was 10 years old then.

"I was around helping out, and watching from start to finish," Armstrong recounted. "And to this day I remember that meet, and watching those senior swimmers and how fast they were. And it was inspiring for me at the time."

More than 400 swimmers from nine provinces will be competing, with national titles on the line in 40 events. The top Canadian swimmers not selected for this month's Commonwealth Games will be in action, while several up-and-coming young swimmers will be looking for their first shot at a national championship. Visiting swimmers from the U.S. and as far away as Costa Rica and Ireland will also give the meet some international flavour.

The competition runs until Saturday. Preliminary heats begin at 10 a.m. daily. Finals start at 6 p.m. nightly.

Names to watch for:

Among the big names in action will be butterflyer Noemie Thomas of Richmond, B.C., a finalist at the 2013 FINA World Championships in Barcelona. Thomas swims for the UBC Dolphins, one of 85 clubs represented at the meet.

A handful of Olympians will be swimming, including Savannah King and Heather MacLean of UBC Dolphins, as well as Barbara Jardin and Charles Francis of Montreal's PPO Club and David Sharpe of Halifax Trojan Aquatic Club.

Dominique Bouchard, of Oakville, Ont., who will represent Canada at next month's Pan Pacific Championships, is the top seed in the women's 100-metre and 200-metre backstroke. 

Meanwhile Ashton Baumann of Edmonton's Keyano Club will be looking to bounce back from injury as the top seed in the men's 200-metre breaststroke. Baumann, the son of Canadian swimming legend Alex Baumann, made his national team debut at last year's world championships.