The North Ayrshire team punched above their weight winning medals and making finals across the age groups at the West District short course JAGS meet.
Isla Waller and Rachel McGuire collected silver medals for their swims on the first day while Adam Currie and Nathan Hughes led the way for the boys with top ten finishes across the weekend.
“Although it’s still early in the season there was some hard racing and it was good to see many of the kids getting into finals and even winning medals,” says Junior Coach, Alan Dickson who had the cream of his Gold squad in action at Tollcross.
“I was really pleased with how many of those finalists managed to improve their times again which is down to the process: making sure they’re in the frame of mind to swim a final, that they swim down after finishing their heat and warm up again before the race.
Isla Waller got the meet off to a great start winning a silver medal in the opening event, the 800m freestyle, beating her entry time by 35 seconds. The 11-year-old from Largs showed great resilience all weekend by competing despite returning from a school outward bound trip with a hacking cough and a very croaky voice.
“It was really pleasing to see all the girls in the 800m free getting PBs, especially Isla and Eilidh Moore, who I coach,” commented Alan. “I’ve been working towards this distance at JAGS with them and they way they paced their races couldn’t have gone any better.”
“The highlight of the first day was the afternoon with Isla making the 200m IM final, which was a little bit unexpected. She swam on her time and came out of the race straight into a 500m swim down and then into the 100m fly final and I was really pleased to see her improve on her time from the heat with a really gutsy swim to take her second silver medal of the day.”
Isla also made the final of the 100m breaststroke, claiming another PB, and just missed out on two medals on the Sunday when she defied the seedings with 4th places in the 200m breaststroke and in the 400m freestyle, where she was 18 seconds ahead of her entry time.
Rachel McGuire collected North Ayrshire’s third silver medal in the 100m fly for 12-year-olds, drawing praise from Alan: “Rachel took on board the pre-race briefing nailed it in terms of executing her skills,” he says.
Rachel also took 10 seconds off her 400m freestyle on the Sunday for a 6th place finish and made the finals of the 100m breaststroke, going faster in both swims.
Head Coach, Jess Wilkie, was on poolside for the Sunday. “It was good to spend some time with the swimmers and talk through their race strategies and see if they could execute them,” she enthuses.
“My swimmer of the meet has got to be Adam Currie, who managed execute a lot of the skills we’ve been practising in training such as underwaters and breathing. It was good to see him doing it under pressure. Even when he knew he was tired he still managed to do it to the best of his ability and that was picked up by a lot of the other coaches who were there at the weekend.
“We tried to give the swimmers constructive feedback based on what they thought about their races and how they felt during their swims - identifying the aspects they thought they’d done well or not - and trying to get them to come up with solutions and how to fix it.
“It’s about facilitating their thought processes, rather than just giving them all the information, and getting them thinking a little bit more.”
Adam made the final of the 100m backstroke on Saturday, beating his entry time in the heat, and then going faster again, and finishing just outside the medals with 4th place in the 200m fly.
It was his 400m IM which caught the eye of Alan Dickson, though. “It was really good performance,” says our Junior Coach.
“The race plan was to keep the fly nice and skilful. Adam’s got a few stroke traits when he gets tired and we spoke about that before the race, but he kept it all in check. I was really pleased that he ended up with a 10 second PB.”
The 12-year-old put in more impressive performances on the Sunday, lowering his times to make the finals of the 100m breaststroke and 200m IM and beating his entry marks in the 200m backstroke and 200m free.
One of the eldest swimmers on the team at the weekend, Nathan Hughes, made his mark on the Sunday winning a place in the final of the 13-year-olds 100m breaststroke, taking three and a half seconds off his entry time and shaving off even more in the final.
“Nathan has come on in leaps and bounds these last few months,” says Alan. “We’d talked about his turns ahead of the final and he executed that plan, keeping them much tighter.”
Among the other stand-out performances highlighted by our coaches were those of Gold squad swimmer, Jasmine Baird.
“Jasmine’s 200m Backstroke was good but the 100m was exceptional for someone who was swimming in our Development Squad 18 months ago!” says Alan. “She just missed getting in the final as 1st reserve and that shows you just how far Jasmine has come.
He also had praise for 11-year-old Ella Bruce who’s in her first season competing at West District level.
“Ella swam really well,” he says, “and even though she was disqualified in the 200m IM it was a really nice swim with lots of aspects which pleased me.
“It’s a reminder to everyone that at West Districts you can expect to be picked up on the things that you might get away with at a graded meet, and I’m sure Ella won’t make that mistake again. I take it as a positive and a valuable learning opportunity.”
Heather Stuart sliced 12 seconds off her entry time in the 400m freestyle on the Sunday having PB’d the 200m backstroke by 6 seconds on the first day. Beth Hill beat her entry in the 100m fly while Scott Kean’s freestyle was on form, beating his times in the 100m and 400m, as well as going under his 200m backstroke on Sunday.
11-year-old Daniel Convery took 6 seconds off his 100m backstroke and Cameron McDonald was 5 seconds under his 200m breaststroke mark and took 3 seconds off his 100m time.
Ahead of the meet Alan and Jess were keen to stress that they’d be concentrating on how the swimmers performed technically more than the times they set, and Alan says he was pleased to see how Eilidh Moore responded to that challenge,
“Eilidh and I discussed how she could maintain the integrity of her fly stroke ahead of her 400m IM and she did that really well,” he says. “She needed a bit more attack in the back and the breast but she still managed to PB the race. Eilidh swam well all weekend with a lovely PB in the 100m Free which was really pleasing to show there’s a bit of speed there as well as the ability to pace an 800m.”
The focus of the training in the next few weeks will be on preparing the swimmers to peak for the pre-Christmas meet at Warrender, in Glenrothes. Then in the early weeks of 2019 we’ll be heading back to Tollcross for the West District Long Course Championships, where Jess Wilkie is expecting our swimmers to build on their success this weekend.
“It was reassuring to see that on points we’re competitive within the West District even though we only had a small number of swimmers compared to many of the other teams,” she says.