Records which have stood for more than a decade and a half were broken as the North Ayrshire team dominated our 200 Meet at the Portal.
They collected 54 medals out of 160 swims – a 1 in 3 conversation rate – in a field including the much larger City of Glasgow and Ren 96 clubs.
The majority also smashed their PBs with some taking up to 30 seconds off their previous best times in the distance events.
“I thought it was a terrific gala with a great turn out from the other clubs and it was great to see everyone getting stuck-in racing,” says Head Coach, Jess Wilkie.
“It was nice of the team from Lanark to take the mic at the end and make those comments on how much they enjoyed the meet."
Three long-standing meet records fell to Rory Dickson who set new benchmarks in the 200m Free, 200m Fly and 400m IM.
To put the achievements into perspective, his IM time beat the record set in 2012 by former North Ayrshire legend Jordan Hughes, who went on to swim internationally with the University of Stirling until his retirement from the sport last year.
“It just shows that this generation are really coming on. These records have stood for a long time and there’s lots more to come from Rory,” says Jess.
He also took 4 seconds off his 200m breaststroke PB to clinch his third gold medal of the meet and take home the Andrew McFadzean Cup for the overall winner for boys.
Fraser Kelly claimed a record in the same 200m Fly race, beating the time for 15/16-year-olds set by another North Ayrshire alumni, Mark Branch, set back in 2004, by over 2 seconds.
He collected the shield for best 15/16-year-old over the 200m races with another win in the 200m free, silver medals in the IM and backstroke and a bronze in breaststroke.
Para swimmer Abby Kane also set new Scottish records in the S13 class, setting a new PB of 2:34.80 in the 200m IM, winning a silver medal in a field of able-bodied athletes, and taking more than 2 seconds off her 200m breaststroke to claim a second record. She also won a bronze medal for her 200m backstroke.
“It’s great to see Abby is starting to get back to where she was in 2016 in her Paralympic year,” says Jess Wilkie. “With the selection period for Tokyo 2020 looming I’m hoping we’re going to see some good performances from her in the coming months.”
Jennifer Murray contributed six medals to the North Ayrshire haul, winning the 400m IM and 200m freestyle and breaststroke events. She had to settle for silver medals in the long distance 1500m, 800m and 400m races where she was up against City of Glasgow’s starlet, Katie Shannahan, but set new PBs in two of them.
It was her teammate, Rachael Grant, who won the 15/16-year-old shield, though, with a great display of all-round ability in the 200m events with gold medals in the IM and backstroke, and silver in the freestyle where she was 13 seconds faster than before.
“Rachael Grant’s 200m IM was really good. It’s nice to see her put in a good shift and really go for it,” says Jess.
Jacob Tarran collected the special shield for the best 14-year-old fly swimmer with a 1.6 second PB, which the coach describes as: “definitely one of the stand-out swims.”
Jacob also took nearly 4 seconds off his 400m freestyle and 2.5 from his 200m race. “There’s a lot more to come from him,” promises Jess.
10-year-old Fraser Cowie managed the double hattrick of winning every race he entered and setting a new PB each time, in the 200m IM, freestyle and backstroke.
Junior Coach, Alan Dickson, says it was the perfect way to bounce back from a disappointing swim in the IM at the recent West District meet.
“I don’t think he’ll mind me saying that the wheels came off big time in the breaststroke leg,” recalls his coach. “It was a classic case of ‘win or learn’ and he took it on the chin and he and I had a long chat about how he could improve, and I was really pleased to see him swim the race really well this time.”
Heather Stuart was ‘Queen of the PBs’ among the girls, slicing off huge amounts of time. She took 19 seconds off her 400m IM, 18 seconds from her 200m breaststroke and was 14 seconds faster in the 400m freestyle.
The 12-year-old girls age group was arguably the most fiercely contested at the meet, so she was delighted to win a silver medal in the 200m IM.
“The guys, like Heather, who have just transitioned from Gold squad into the new Youth squad did a really great job,” says Jess. “They’re having to adjust into the new training regime with extra sessions and covering many more metres a week.
“It’s a new challenge for them and I’m looking forward to seeing them stepping up over the next couple of galas and making improvements.”
Fellow Youth Squad girl Isla Waller won the 11-year-old girls shield with great performances across all four strokes in the 200m events, winning gold in the IM and freestyle. A 15 second PB won her a silver medal in the fly and there were bronzes in the backstroke and breaststroke as well as a 9 second PB in the gruelling 400m IM event.
Lewis Gibson won a gold medal in the 200m breaststroke and silvers in the IM and freestyle, as well as setting an 18 second PB in the 400m.
Eilidh Moore took bronze medals in the 12-year-olds 200m freestyle and backstroke but it was the long-distance events where she really shone with a 23 second PB in the 800m and 18 seconds off in the 400m.
Younger sister Erin won gold in the 200m IM for 10-year-olds, but it was another race which drew praise from Alan Dickson.
“Erin lost her goggles in the dive at one point and swam the whole of a race with them full of water and still finished just a couple of seconds off her PB which was a remarkable result,” he says.
“There are no easy events in the 200 Meet so it was great to see the vast majority of Gold Squad members stepping up and taking on some of the most gruelling events in our sport.
“The 200’s are really important for a young swimmer because it requires a combination of speed and stamina, and it’s not easy to balance the two when you don’t have a lot of experience.
“My race briefing was that I wanted to see them attack it and treat it as a race and not to hang back – in other words consider it an extended sprint.
“I’ve got to make a special mention of Molly Sutherland and Matthew Shanks. Recent squad moves have made them the most senior members of the group and they’ve had to take on that mantle at training and it’s been great to see them leading the lanes and already I can see them starting to flourish.”
Matthew took 23 seconds off his 400m free, was 10 seconds faster in his 200m backstroke and also PB’d in the 200m freestyle and IM.
Molly had a strong 200m backstroke with a 15 second improvement. She improved her times in all four swims which included the 200m and 400m freestyle and the 200m IM.
“I also want to give a pat on the back to Charlize Wears,” continues Alan. “She was taking part in school PE last week and tripped and suffered what was initially a suspected broken ankle.
“It was eventually confirmed as a ligament injury and she bravely decided to swim at the weekend, and she won my respect. I could see how painful it was for her, but she was determined to be there and performed really well.”
Rachel McGuire made three trips to the podium in the 200m events with a gold medal in the fly, a silver in the freestyle, with a 10 second PB, and third in the breaststroke. The 12-year-old also made a huge dent in her 800m time which she lowered by 24 seconds.
James Stuart won a silver medal in the 200m backstroke and bronzes in the breaststroke and IM, with PBs each time while his younger sister Kate, took 11 seconds off her 400m freestyle time and was also faster in her 200m IM and breaststroke.
10-year-old Jude Friels claimed a gold in the 200m breaststroke and was 15 seconds faster than he’s been before in the 400m free.
Andrew Sutherland won a bronze in the 200m backstroke in the highly competitive 15/16-year-old boys group and just missed out in the 200m free, where he was fourth, and was placed fifth in the breaststroke and IM.
Daniel Convery won two bronze medals for his 200m backstroke and breaststroke and set a 10 second PB in his 400m free and took 14 seconds off his 200m IM.
Erin Finlayson raced the 200m backstroke and breaststroke for the first time, while Emma Binnie set a 4 second PB in the 200m IM.
Evan Clark matched the achievement of his best mate, Rory Dickson, winning the 200m breaststroke in the 15/16 age group, and took a bronze in the 200m IM.
As swimmers get older PBs are harder to come by and Evan was delighted to take a second off his 400m IM time, while 16-year-old Callum Reid shaved 0.8 second off his 200m backstroke best.
Nathan Hughes claimed a silver medal in the 200m breaststroke and PB’d his 400m IM, while Scott Kean set four new PBs with his best being 10 seconds off his 400m freestyle.
Ella Bruce took a massive 25 seconds off her 400m free as well as 2 seconds in her 200m IM. The 11-year-old also took on the 400m IM for the first time.
Adam Currie won a gold medal in the 200m fly and a bronze in breaststroke and took big chunks off his 400m times with 13 seconds off his freestyle and 14 seconds in the IM.
“That was an impressive swim,” says Jess Wilkie. "To keep it going at that intensity in the last event of the meet was a great performance.”
Eve Mair had a massive 27 second PB in her 800m freestyle and collected a silver medal for her 200m fly and a bronze in freestyle. Leah Stark won a bronze for her 200m fly in the same 14-year-old group and set new PBs in her 200m and 400m freestyle.
Jasmine Baird took 14 seconds off her 200m breaststroke PB and was 8 seconds faster in her 200m IM.
Robbie Gray posted a 10 second improvement on his 200m backstroke time and 5 seconds off his 400m freestyle, while Erin Patten took on the 200m freestyle and IM for the first time.
A final word of appreciation from Jess Wilkie to everyone who helped to make the meet possible.
“A big thanks to the volunteers and all the coaches on poolside – we couldn’t do it without them.”