North Ayrshire swimmers made a ‘flying’ start to their long course season at the first West District meet of 2020.
We sent a team of 25 to Tollcross who returned with 9 medals and scores of personal bests.
Head Coach, Jess Wilkie, says her highlight was seeing 7 of our girls qualify for the finals of the 100m fly with Lily Murray doing a silver medal double in the 100m and 200m events.
“Lily had a great weekend taking 4 seconds off her time in the 100m fly,” she comments. “Her kick’s looking really good and she’s keeping the hips nice and high.
“She took a lot of confidence into the 200m and went out strong in a very brave race to improve her time by 9 seconds (2:46.09). She held stroke really well and was working off the walls like we’ve been doing in training.
“It was also the first time she has done the 400m IM long course and she’s strong across all four strokes.”
Lewis Gibson was another double medallist taking silver in his first shot at a long course 400m IM, impressing Junior Coach, Alan Dickson: “Lewis has been swimming it very nicely short course but it’s almost like a different sport in a 50m pool, it really is a killer!”
Lewis also made the final of the 100m freestyle, getting his PB down by 7 and a half seconds to a 1:09.9 and made the top 10 in the 100m breaststroke and backstroke, collecting a clean sweep of PBs over the weekend.
“The 8 members of Gold squad had 20 swims between them,” says Alan, “and every one of them was a PB.
“They also made 11 finals, and 6 of them were faster times, which is very impressive when you consider that they’d already set a record to get into the race and an hour later they’re improving again.
“It was good to see Fraser Cowie joining them in the finals for so many of the 100m events which shows that they’re listening and paying attention to the detail and the process of what they’re doing. Hopefully that will pay off when they swim the races again at the Scottish Schools finals back at Tollcross.”
Fraser was our third silver medal winner, taking a massive 33 seconds off his time for the 400m freestyle, smashing the seedings where he was ranked 5th going into the race. He also PB’d in every event and was a finalist in all four of the 100m races.
As always for Alan, how they swam the race was more important that the time on the clock.
“There was a lot of talk about DRP times and SNAGS, but we need to remember this is only the first long course meet of the year and it’s really important we don’t get caught up in the excitement of chasing times for the national events because that becomes really disruptive.
“It’s important that the swimmers keep coming to training and doing all the right things and the performances they’re seeking will come, I have no doubt about that.”
Jess was delighted with the results from the younger swimmers: “Alan’s been doing a great job and it’s fantastic to see the young swimmers coming through the programme and I’m looking forward to working with them in the years ahead.”
Back with the seniors, Fraser Kelly opened the weekend with a visit to the podium, taking a bronze medal in the 400m freestyle.
“He was very consistent around the walls and working on the breathing which we’ve been concentrating on in training,” says Jess Wilkie. “Next time he swims it I reckon we’ll be looking at going under the 4:20 marker.”
Fraser was a finalist in the 100m fly and free and PB’d in every one of his races.
“It was good to see him staying under 1 minute with another PB in the fly and taking nearly a second and a half off his free is a massive drop for this distance at this age.”
Adam Currie went home with a bronze medal for the 400m IM and the kudos of the biggest PB of the weekend in another distance event.
“It was a busy weekend for Adam,” says Jess. “He began by dropping 2.5 seconds in his 100m backstroke and kept a fantastic head position.
“He’s not done the 400m free long course for a couple of years, so I was expecting a big PB which he certainly delivered (42 seconds!) almost breaking the 5 minute mark. He was concentrating on his underwater work off the walls and keeping a good breathing pattern throughout.
“He got a 20 second PB in the 400m IM but there’s definitely more work to be done on his breaststroke, although he was strong in the fly and the backstroke and raced the freestyle well at the end.
“He made the final of the 100m free with some fantastic racing. He managed to match the time he set short course just before Christmas so I’m expecting a lot more from him next time he does it.
“We’ve been working on trying to lengthen his breaststroke stroke and feeling the water, which he’s starting to get.”
Caelin Chan had one of the busiest programmes, swimming 9 times on account of qualifying for three finals. She PB’d in every event, taking around 15 seconds off her 100m and 200m fly times and a whopping 35 seconds in the 400m free, to go well under 6 minutes. (5:48.00) She had two fifth places in the 100m breaststroke and the 400m IM.
Daniel Convery set new records in both his races, taking 9 seconds off his 100m backstroke and more than 15 off the 100m fly.
Ella Bruce was having her first shot at the 400m free in a long course pool. “It was a very solid swim,” says Jess. “It was good to see her lengthening her stroke and she’s been working very hard in training and it’s good to see it paying off.
"Jasmine Baird smashed the 1:20 barrier in her 100m backstroke with a great PB of 1:18 and it's great to see her times falling again.”
Heather Stuart racked up 5 new PBs over the weekend and set long course benchmarks in another 3 events. “She had a strong swim in the 100m fly, finding time in the final, with a great back end and reaching forward to lengthen her stroke. It was the first time she’s done the 100m back and the 200m fly long course. She started very strong and didn’t let the stroke get shorter as the race went on.
“I’d like to see her doing more work on breathing patterns in the 400m free and maintaining her skills off the walls.
“She made the final of the 100m free and it was great to see her working off the wall and making improvements on her skills from the heat. Her starts have been looking good and that was a massive advantage where she managed to come up first after 15m.
“It was her first long course 400m IM and I’d like to see her doing more work on lengthening out the breaststroke and getting a feel for the water,” says her coach.
Her cousin, Kate, impressed Alan with her four swims in Glasgow. “Kate put in a fantastic 100m backstroke to make the final,” he notes. She set a new PB which was 16 seconds faster and took 2.5 off her 100m free.
Sophie Steele returned home with a clean sweep of PBs.
“She was faster heat to final in the 100m fly and smashed her PB with a 1.17,” says Jess. “I’d like to see her work her leg kick at little more and keep the hips a little higher in the second half of the race. Her 100m backstroke was a great effort and very technically strong for another PB.
“It was the first time she’s gone under 1:10 in the 100m free with a great 4 second PB and she found 26 seconds in the 400m IM with a really strong fly to open, and she had a really strong stroke rate in the backstroke. There’s more work to be done on the hip position in the breaststroke and I’d like to see her race a bit more in the freestyle. She needs to be a bit braver at the start of races and try to attack a bit more.”
Isla Waller was in the top 10 in all her events across the four sessions. “She made the final of the 100m fly and improved her time, which is something we’re always aiming for. She maintained her stroke and rhythm in the 200m and looked a lot better. I’d like to see her attack the first half of the race a little more.
“The first 200m of her 400m free was fantastic. We’ve done a lot of work on catch and feeling the water and it will be great to see her continuing to work on that. The 400m IM looked good over the four strokes but there’s more we can do around head position in the breaststroke and keeping the high hips all the way through.”
The highlight for Nathan Hughes was his 400m IM on Saturday afternoon.
“Nathan’s been unwell recently, but he showed much better consistency in his fly,” says Jess.
“We’ve been working on his technique a lot, but the fitness falls off when you spend so long out of the water, so this meet was more skill-focussed and he definitely delivered there. His fly was a lot better in the 400m IM and he showed his strength in the breaststroke with a very solid technique. We’ll work to get him back racing properly again.”
Niamh Hamilton set a 12 second PB in her 100m breaststroke in her only race of the weekend.
Scott Kean PB’d in all four of his events. “Scott has been a lot more focused recently and consistent in training, working on his skills,” comments Jess. “Taking 10 seconds off the 100m backstroke is a massive PB. His arms are coming out of the water a lot straighter and he’s pulling better with a good head position.
“His technique’s improving all the time in the fly and it was great to see him get a PB. His 100m free was a fab race and his first time under 1:10. We need to work on holding the technique over the back end of the race. We’ve worked hard on the timing of his breaststroke and there’s more time to find there.
Rachael McGuire was one of the fly finalists, improving her time by more than half a second for a new PB of 1:14.5.
Cameron McDonald had just one race in the 100m breaststroke but made it count with an 8 second PB and Jamie Saunderson had his first crack at the backstroke in a long course pool, setting a benchmark of 1:27.86.
Callum Reid had three races, in the 100m backstroke, fly and free. “It’s great to have Callum racing. It’s difficult to balance a full-time job and training and he’s been doing really well and always works hard and improve his skills,” says Jess.
Andrew Sutherland recorded a small PB in the 100m freestyle and had his best finish in the 400m, coming in 13th place. “It was as a solid time (4:33.1) and we’ve been focussing on trying to improve his speed and consistency around the walls.
Matthew Shanks set PBs of 4.4 and 5.6 seconds in his 100m backstroke and freestyle.
“He had a much better head position and kick rate in the backstroke. It was his first 400m freestyle long course and he kept consistent pace throughout but we’re going to work on how he handles the walls and his breathing patterns. He stepped up in the 100m free and there’s definitely more to come from him,” says Jess.
Eilidh and Erin Moore were on another of their flying visits from Ireland, with Erin packing excess baggage for the return trip courtesy of a silver medal in the 100m fly and a bronze in the freestyle.
“It was great to have them back with us for the weekend,” says Alan. “It sounds like they’re in some heavy training with Athlone, so their swims were very impressive.
“Eilidh had a nice PB in her 100m free and swam a fantastic opening half of her 400m free.”
“Erin absolutely smashed it in her four swims, making four finals. Whatever they’re doing with her over there is certainly working!”