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North Ayrshire swimmers grabbed eight podium places in a weekend raid on the East District at the Warrander Baths meet in Glenrothes.

Although it’s only the second year we’ve competed there it was very familiar territory for Head Coach, Jess Wilkie, who has previously coached with the Edinburgh club.

“It was good to be back and see some of the Warrender kids and catch up with old colleagues,” she says, reflecting on the performances put in by our swimmers.

“What was great was to see the juniors and the seniors racing alongside each other. I think it gives the younger ones a really good idea of what’s expected in terms of race plans, feedback and what sort of effort you need to put in when you’re in the water as well as what my expectations are.”

The star swimmer from the club, according to Jess, was Leah Stark, who won four medals taking second places in the 200m fly & freestyle and the 100m free, as well as a bronze for the 100m backstroke.

Leah finished in the top 6 in all 8 of swims and her coach points to the 200m free as her best race over the two days.

“She had consistent split times all the way through and a really good attempt at race skills. Her breathing and underwaters are coming on and it was an ideal meet to practice them.”

Eve Mair climbed onto the top step as she took a gold medal in her 100m fly and silver in the 200m IM.

“Eve had a fabulous swim in the fly,” says Jess. “She dropped 2 seconds on her entry time and going with two medals from two swims is pretty good in anyone’s books.”

Andrew Sutherland was another consistent top six performer who impressed her over the weekend.

“It’s nice to finally see Andrew relax and enjoy his racing a little bit.”

“He was 3rd in the 100m breast in his age group and he swam it exactly as we’d been practising. 

“We’re looking for a long, efficient stroke which is powerful rather than rushing and trying to get a faster rate. That also helped him swim some best times in his 200m and 200m IM.

“I really enjoyed watching him race and seeing him coming out with a smile. He’s really starting to think about how he’s swimming and take on some productive comments.”

The youngest of our medallists, and the only Junior to make it to the podium, was 11-year-old Isla Waller who was delighted to claim a bronze - and a 4 second improvement on her entry time – in the 200m IM.

“It was great to see Isla swimming all four strokes well,” observes Jess. “She managed to do all of her turns as best as she could, and she’s got the advantage of being pretty good at fly so she made the most of that to take the race out really well.”

With the Junior swimmers split between the Cumbernauld Sprints and this meet in Fife it was an ideal opportunity for many of them to show the Head Coach what they were capable of, and they grabbed it, putting in a number of impressive performances.

“Heather Stuart had a great weekend,” says Jess. “She puts absolutely everything into her racing. She made improvements on the majority of her entry times, but the standout was the 100m backstroke where she made a 9.28 sec improvement which is absolutely massive over that distance, and I still think she’s got a bit more in there.”

Heather was faster in five more swims, taking 6 seconds off her 200m free and 5 secs from her 100m breast.

Gold squad team mate Eilidh Moore was swimming in seven events and narrowly missed out on a podium with a 4th place in the 100m free.

“Eilidh and I have been working on her freestyle trying to get the line from fingertip to elbow and be as efficient as possible.  She managed to make improvements and I enjoyed her 200m freestyle, dropping her entry time by 3.53 seconds with almost race perfect skills,” says Jess, who was also delighted with her younger sister’s approach to the meet.

“Erin just one of those kids who’s a great listener and she’s got an ability to carry out a race plan. I don’t know how much thought she puts into it but she seems to do it every time. She’s continuing to shave seconds of her best times and I hope she continues to chip away and make improvements.”

Jess watched Jasmine Baird beat her times in five events over three strokes. “I thought her 100m back was my favourite of her swims at the weekend. The first 50 was less than a second slower than her 50 best time and she managed to improve by 2.58 seconds on her entry. What we want to see from swimmers is swimming the opening part of longer races as fast as a sprint.

“Rachel McGuire’s 100m breast was her best swim for me, with a 2 second improvement on her entry time. Something we’ve been working on is using the hips and it was good to see her trying to execute that in the race.

The Stuart siblings were on form in Fife as well. “Kate dropped a huge 5.98 secs on her 100m free and what was really good to see – which I’d like to see from more swimmers – is reducing the time difference between her first and second 50s.

“James had a 2.5 sec improvement on his 200m IM showing some good skills, and the dive work we’ve been doing is beginning to pay off. It’s nice to see that all of them are looking better and rather than coming up behind we’re more competitive when we’re breaking out.”

The Chan sisters also impressed Jess with a show of their skills. “Caelin’s best race was the 50m breast.  She’s got lovely underwater work and a great rate. I hope that she can start to watch the seniors in action and get the hips involved as well and take a couple more seconds off.

“Evie only had the one swim but it was a tough one – the 100m fly.  She was very brave in swimming it. She went out from the start really strong and I look forward to seeing her have another go at it soon.

12-year-old Molly Sutherland continued her upward trajectory with a series of improved times. “Her best swim was the 100m back where she dropped 4.26 sec on her entry time. Her start was great and she’s beginning to improve her underwater skills.

Ella Bruce also showed that she’s been listening to her coaches as she posted a time 3 seconds faster in the 100m free.

“It’s good that she’s managing not to take a breath off the walls and take race skills like streamlining and underwater work on board,” says Jess.

Also picked out for praise was Scott Kean who beat the clock in six of his events. “Scott is a great little racer,” she says. “He was ill but he still managed to give it 110%. He puts his heart on his sleeve every time he gets in the water and he never gives up. He’s brilliant for the team bringing that extra bit of fire and it keeps everyone enjoying being at the gala.“

Turning the focus back to the Seniors, the Head Coach was pleased to see Lucy Glencorse putting in strong swims, including the 200m free where she finished a second faster than the time on the start sheet.

“I don’t think Lucy’s quite realised her potential yet,” confides Jess. “She’s a tough swimmer but she’s got so much more to give and I’m looking forward to working with her over the next couple of years. She’s beginning to take on board race plans, but she’s so powerful I know she’s got so much more to give.

“It was also good to see Beth Hill start to get back on track with her racing. She’s a very determined young lady. She knows she wants to go fast and I’m going to try my best to help her get there. I’m looking forward to seeing what she can so in 2019 and beyond.  If we put in a little tougher work and try to be more consistent in training we’ll start to see the race results come through.”

One the swimmers with the busiest schedule was Jacob Tarran who was competing in eight events. He took off massive chunks of time and was rewarded with a 4th place medal for the 100m and a 6th place prize in the 200m fly.

“His stand-out swim had to be that 200m IM,” says Jess. “A 7.82 improvement is a lot of time for a guy in a senior section and its good see him starting to get faster and take those big slices off his PBs.

“He was great with the younger boys in the team, doing their land warm ups and helping them out.

“His mum, Jacqui, who’s one of our hardest working volunteer coaches, was a huge help on poolside as well.

“It was great to have her there to give feedback to the kids and supervise their swim downs and preparing them for their next races.”

After a short (but well-deserved) rest between Christmas and New Year the focus will be on training hard for the first of the long course West District meets.

See you in 2019!