North Ayrshire’s swimmers more than quadrupled their medal count at their first big test of the year, the West District Junior Age Group championships at Tollcross.
The team in Glasgow mixed the fastest members of the Gold squad with members of the Youth training group (the youngest of the seniors).
“I was over the moon with how my Gold squad swimmers performed,” reports Junior Coach, Alan Dickson.
“Last year we had 14 swimmers at the meet and came back with 3 medals. This year we had 20 and came back with 14. Those numbers speak for themselves. We’ve had a really good block of training and that’s been borne out in the way they performed.
“I’m really looking forward to the rest of the short course season running up to Christmas.”
“Erin Moore and Lewis Gibson really smashed it all weekend,” he enthuses. “Lewis came home with a clean sweep of PBs and 6 medals.”
West District events are categorised using you ‘swimming age’, which is set by how old you are at the turn of the year. Lewis was swimming in the 11-year-old group and started off his weekend with a 6 second PB in the 400m IM, which was good enough for a silver medal.
He went one better in the 100m backstroke qualifying fastest for the final with a 4 and a half second PB in the heat and improving a little more again to claim his gold medal.
Two more silvers followed in the 400m free (20 second PB) and the 200m back with bronze medals in the 200m IM and 200m free.
Both Lewis and Erin were among the five swimmers who PB’d every event over the weekend. Erin was making another of her flying visits home from Ireland and set off the airport metal detectors on the return trip with 3 silver medals!
“She swam well all weekend with a really good final session qualifying for the 200m IM and the 100m fly,” recalls Alan. “She went faster in the IM final and then after a brief swim down was back for the fly and PB’d yet again. It’s a testament to her focus and the way she prepared herself. She didn’t appear in the least bit daunted and just got on with it.
Swimming as an 11-year-old she took second places in the 100m backstroke and freestyle and was never out of the top six all weekend.
Fraser Cowie also pulled of a clean sweep including a 23 second PB in the 400m free, bringing it down to 5:40.59. He was in the top 10 in all his races and just missed out on a medal with 4th place in the 100m fly.
“He had a couple of weeks out with an injury made all the finals for the 100’s. He’s been working really hard and that’s great to see,” says Alan.
Rachel McGuire posted an 11 second improvement on her 800m time to start the weekend with a bronze medal, and then took 14 off her 400m freestyle to just miss out on a second. She PB’d every event by at least 3 seconds over the two days.
Sophie Steele stunned the field in the 12-year-old girls 100m fly, finding close on a 3 second improvement from the heats to take a silver medal in a really tight finish. She also found close to 5 seconds in her 200m backstroke and made the final of the 100m race.
Heather Stuart claimed a bronze medal on both days with an 8 second improvement in her 200m IM and pulling out 19 seconds in the 400m free. There was also a 12 second PB in her 400m IM.
Isla Waller rounded off the medals with a gusty 4 second PB in the punishing 200m fly having started the weekend with a 7 second PB in the 800m free and being beaten to a medal by just a tenth of a second in the 100m fly.
Caelin Chan PB’d in almost every race taking nearly 5 seconds off her 200m backstroke and freestyle and almost six seconds off her 400m free. She was just off the podium in the 100m breaststroke.
Adam Currie made 3 finals in a very busy schedule of 8 events with numerous PBs and top 10 finished. He sliced 8 seconds off his 200m breaststroke, and improvements of around 5 seconds in his 400m free, 100m breaststroke, 200m backstroke and 200m IM.
For Alan the JAGS meet is a very important early season marker, as he explains: “It’s the first meet where we can see how the plan I put together in the summer is playing out. It’s a marker that lets me see how swimmers are progressing after a reasonable spell of training.
“It gives them a chance to work on ‘process’ and having heats and finals for the 100m events and the 200m IM means we’re asking them to get their heads around needing to swim fast to get into the top ten. They need to plan for that and get used to repeating their pre-pool warm ups and maintain their focus.
“Some swimmers find that a bit daunting but it’s the reality for age group swimmers and excellent preparation if you get to go to SNAGS in the future.”
Ella Bruce set PBs of around 3 seconds in her 200m backstroke and 400m free, while Daniel Convery found nearly 9 seconds in the 200m IM to dip under 3 minutes for the first time.
Gavin Friels recorded a hat trick of PBs with a 4 and a half second improvement in the 200m breaststroke and over 2 seconds in the 100m free and breaststroke.
Niamh Hamilton recorded the biggest PB of the weekend with a full 45 seconds hacked off her 800m time and took around 5 seconds off her 200m IM and breaststroke bests.
Scott Kean sprinted to new benchmarks in the 100m free, breaststroke and fly and Stewart Reid improved in the 100m breaststroke as did Jamie Saunderson in the freestyle.
Lily Murray was back in a North Ayrshire cap and took 15 seconds off her 400m IM for a top 10 finish and just missed the podium with 4th place in the 200m fly off a 7 second PB. She took 6th in the 100m event and sliced 6 seconds off her 200m IM.
Charlize Wears improved in her 100m fly while James Stuart took 2.5 seconds off his 400m free time and also PB’d the 100m freestyle and backstroke.