North Ayrshire swimmers braved winter conditions inside the pool as well as out (!) to claim 19 medals at the East Kilbride Graded and Age Group Meets.
In a sport where the challenge for swimmers is usually to stay hydrated and not to overheat on poolside, an apparent technical fault with the heating at the Larkhall leisure centre saw the team shivering, and donning woolly hats when they weren’t racing.
(Fortunately, the water temperature was fine.)
Junior Coach, Alan Dickson took a team of 25 swimmers from the Development, Silver and Gold squads to compete in the graded meet on the Saturday, where they PB’d in more than half of their 96 races.
14-year-old Molly Tulloch, from Saltcoats, collected one of two gold medals for the team in the 50m freestyle with the other coming from 10-year-old Kouper Sloss, from Largs.
“Both of them swam sizable PBs,” says Alan. “Molly’s been training really well and had a clean sweep of PBs – one of a handful on the team to manage that.
She was in the top ten in all her races and posted the biggest improvement in her breaststroke, finding nearly three and a half seconds.
Kouper was also a top ten finisher in his five swims and found nearly three seconds in his breaststroke.
“Stewart Reid improved in all the swims he’d done before and took on the 100m fly for the first time,” says Alan. The 10-year-old just missed out on a bronze medal with 4th place in the 100m breaststroke and was in the top six every time.
Lucy McLaughlin recorded one of the biggest PBs, taking nearly 10 seconds off her 100m IM and over 5 seconds off her 50m fly, and Kerr Hill found an improvement of nearly 9 seconds in his 100m breaststroke and close on 6 seconds in the freestyle.
There was praise from Alan for 10-year-old Madison Gourlay. “She did really well in the 100m IM. She raced it hard, posting a 7.7 second PB and it was a lightbulb moment,” he enthuses.
“Rebecca Shanks also put in a really nice 200m IM, which was 16 seconds faster than her previous best. All the strokes looked sound and I hope she can push on from that.”
Archie Cameron was close on 5 seconds faster in the 100m breaststroke and Ciara Convery improved by just over 4 seconds in the same event.
Both the Camerons posted PBs. Cameron Hamill finding 3 seconds in his 100m breaststroke, and a faster backstroke as well, while Cameron Gibson was a second and a half faster in his 50m backstroke.
Mairead Anderson’s biggest drop has the 50m breaststroke where she knocked off 1.2 seconds.
There were three PBs for Cerys McKellar who found nearly 2 seconds in her 50m free and also improved in 100m IM, and 50m breast and fly. Emily McGuire took just over half a second off her 100m IM.
It was a quiet day for Ruby McInnes after some impressive performances recently, but she still posted an improved time in the medley. Aaynaan Patankar found improvements in her 50m backstroke and free.
Carly Porteous took a solid 5 seconds off her 100m backstroke in her only race, while Lacey Rodgers improved by over 6 seconds in that event, as well as taking time off in free and breast.
Lauren Peckover reached the wall almost 2 seconds quicker in the 100m free.
Kyle Saunderson recorded three improvements with his best being 2.6 seconds off the 100m IM, and also PBs in the 50m backstroke and breaststroke.
Adam Saunderson found just over a second in his 50m backstroke.
There were three PBs for Rose Smith, with around 2 second improvements in 100m IM and 50m breast, and more than a second off 50m fly.
Hannah Wilson was faster in her 100m breaststroke and freestyle while Samuel Young found more than 2 and a half seconds in his 50m backstroke and three quarters of a second in the breaststroke.
Hannah Adair was close to her best in the 100m fly, missing out on a PB by less than a second.
Alan says the weekend demonstrated that what you do out of the water is a big factor in how swimmers perform at a meet.
“We spent a of time over the last few months on Sunday evenings with Sheena working on the pre-pool programme to help the kids make sure they’re ready to race and that was really important in an event where there were lots of high-tempo races over 50m and 100m. In some cases, the kids were sitting shivering, because the issues with the temperature, and it was important to get the warmed up and ready to race.”
The medal-count rose on the Sunday, even if the mercury didn’t!
Head Coach, Jess Wilkie, led a dozen swimmers, mostly from the senior squads, at the Age Group meet.
“The kids did really well with a few solid swims in not the best conditions,” she says.
“It was one of those meets where you go in to concentrate on process, rather than the result, so for a lot of the swimmers it was practice and preparation for meets later this year
“The diving blocks were a bit of an obstacle but once we learned how to cope with them we had some good starts.
“We really excelled on our underwaters skills coming off the walls, but we still need to work on optimising coming into a turn.”
Nathan Hughes had the busiest programme on the team, racing in nine events.
The 15-year-old claimed a hat trick of breaststroke medals with a bronze in the 50m which he turned into silver in the 100m and 200m events.
Andrew Sutherland dominated among the 17 and over boys, winning three gold medals for 50m, 100, and 200m freestyle and taking silver in the 50m backstroke.
Rachel McGuire took bronzes in the 50m fly and freestyle while Matthew Shanks took over 3 seconds off his 200m fly for a bronze medal. There was also a PB of close to 4 seconds in the 200m IM.
Lily Murray shaved half a second off her 50 fly time to win the bronze medal for 14-year-olds and Isla Waller grabbed the gold for the 13-year-olds in the 100m race, followed home by Sophie Steele in silver medal position. Sophie also took home bronze for the 200m free.
Heather Stuart finished 3rd in her 200m IM for 14-year-olds and just missed another in the 100m fly.
Adam Currie posted a huge 13 second PB to win the gold in the 200m fly for 14-year-olds and there was another victory later in the 200m IM.
Lewis Gibson posted three PBs, including a 5 second improvement in the 100m free, but intense competition among 12-year-old boys meant he just missed the podium with 4th place in the standings.
In the same age group Fraser Cowie peaked with a 4th place in the 100m fly but could be content with time drops in every swim, including 3.7 seconds off the 100m free.
Holly Hopkins was close to PB’ing her 50m free while Scott Kean found a 4 second improvement in his 100m backstroke.
“It was good to see a few swimmers improving their times and us being up there with the medals which is always very motivating for the kids,” says Jess.
“I enjoyed spending some time with the swimmers that I don’t always get to see much.
“In the pool there were quite a few head-to-heads and that really spurred them on to get the best out of each race. That sense of competitiveness is something we’re very lucky to have which makes training that bit more exciting.
“It’s the final meet for me as Head Coach at pre-SNAGS at Tollcross this weekend and I’m looking forward it and hoping we finish on a high.”