Evanetz's world-class swimming career blossomed while at UBC, 1993-99. She led UBC to five national championships while winning 24 gold medals. An All-Canadian and CIS Swimmer of the Year she set CIS and Canadian records. A 1996 Olympian, she won gold at PanAm and World Championships plus won a record-tying three UBC Female Athlete of the Year Awards. Coach Tom Johnson once stated, "Sarah is probably the best female swimmer I've coached at UBC."
Sarah Evanetz arrived at UBC for the 1993/94 session as one of Canada’s better young sprint swimmers but her full potential had yet to be realized. As a Magee (Vancouver ) high school student she had won medals in the butterfly sprint at the World Championships plus had been crowned Canadian champion in this event. However it was upon Evanetz’s arrival at UBC her career blossomed under the tutelage of coach Tom Johnson.
Heading into the university championships in 1994 the 18-year-old first year Arts student had become the major medal threat on Johnson’s UBC team, especially in the fly events as she was Canadian record holder in the 100 m butterfly. The prognostications proved correct as she led UBC to both the 1994 Canada West and National championships winning 5 gold at the Canada West and 5 more at the Nationals, setting two CIAU records in the process.
Sarah continued to show her athleticism as she finished first in UBC’s Iron woman competition held on campus in March 1994. After just one year at UBC, Evanetz was named by Sport BC as the Outstanding Female University Athlete of the Year.
1995 saw Evanetz again lead UBC to both the Canada West and Canadian university National championships. She won 5 gold and one silver at the Canada West meet and 5 more gold, the most of any of the female swimmers, at the National meet. This performance earned the butterfly, freestyle and medley specialist CIAU Athlete of the Week honours and a spot on the 1995 All-Canadian swimming team.
In March of 1995 Evanetz was selected out of five outstanding UBC female athletes as the winner of the Marilyn Pomfret Trophy as UBC’s Outstanding Female Athlete of the Year.
At the World Short Course Championships in late 1995 Evanetz finished fifth in the 200 m butterfly and won a gold while establishing a new Canadian record with the Canadian 4 x 200 m freestyle relay team. The 5’ 6” owner of two CIAU records and 10 national championship medals was now preparing for the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. After four times bettering the Olympic qualifying standard in the 100 m butterfly, coach Johnson explained, “At 15 she did a good swim. Now she’s a great swimmer and that’s a huge difference…”
With 5 more gold, Evanetz again led UBC to the CIAU national title in 1996, UBC’s third straight Canadian crown. At the Big Block banquet at the completion of the school year Sarah was presented with her second successive Marilyn Pomfret Award as UBC’s outstanding female athlete.
After competing at the Olympics where she placed fifth in the 4 x 100 m medley relay, Evanetz did not swim for UBC during the 1996/97 season and it showed as UBC finished a relatively low 7th in the nation, after easily winning the national title the previous three years. Sarah did win gold however with Canada’s 800 m freestyle relay team at the 1996 World Championships and also gold in the 100 m butterfly at the Canadian Championships.
In 1997/98 it was back to usual for UBC as the ‘Birds won their fourth Canadian university title in five years. Again team captain Evanetz led the way with 5 gold and one silver – giving her a total of 20 gold at the national level in four years. She also established two new Canadian university records with a 101.09 in the 100 m butterfly (short course) and a 3:46.21 in the 4 x 100 m freestyle relay. As of 2000 she was the holder of one individual and three relay records at the CIAU, now CIS level, more records than any other female swimmer.
For her outstanding accomplishments this year, Sarah was selected the 1997/98 CIS Swimmer of the Year. She was also named to Canada’s team for the 1998 Commonwealth Games and 1999 Pan Am Games at which she won gold. And in 1998 she was for the third time recipient of UBC’s Marilyn Pomfret Award. Only Evanetz and UBC Hall of Famer Patti Sakaki have won this award three times.
In 1999, Sarah’s fifth and final year, she scored 4 more gold medals and set three Canada West records in leading UBC to another Canada West crown. “Sarah was absolutely dominant” stated coach Johnson. At the Nationals in Guelph Ontario, Evanetz again led UBC to the Canadian title, its fifth in six years. Her one individual and three relay gold gave her a total of 24 gold medals in 30 events at the national championship level, establishing a new UBC swimming record.
“Sarah was probably the best female swimmer I’ve coached at UBC” said Johnson. “And that’s saying something!” Johnson went on to say Sarah was “…indicative of what a student athlete can achieve when staying in Canada and combining studies with athletic excellence!” With her CIAU/CIS national awards, records and medals, her Canada West and National Championships with UBC, the eight years on Canada’s National team including the 1996 Olympics, it is safe to say Sarah Evanetz was the dominant UBC swimmer of the very successful 1990’s.
Researched and written by Fred Hume, UBC Athletics Historian