North Ayrshire’s junior swimmers started our 2019 Clyde Coast Mini League campaign with a series of impressive swims in a home tie at the Portal against City of Glasgow and Renfrew Baths.
The team won almost a quarter of their races, taking eleven victories – and missing out on a number of others in finger-tip finishes – to secure a strong second place finish with 153 points.
City of Glasgow took the win with 196 and Renfrew Baths ended up with 97.
“It was great to see so many kids enjoying themselves and new faces getting involved in the Mini League,” says a delighted Alan Dickson.
“It almost makes my job tougher picking the team for the next round when we’re unlikely to have a dedicated spare lane.”
Head Coach, Jess Wilkie, came along to watch on poolside and was impressed with what she saw: “We were up there competing and winning some of those races against the second biggest team in Scotland,” she enthuses.
“It was great to see we can field two teams and we’ve got a good depth of swimmers.
“There were some really strong performances across the board, and it was nice to hear great support from the stands.”
The Mini League is a round robin competition for swimmers 11 years and under, with races divided up by age groups over distances of 25m for 8- and 9-year olds, 50m for 10’s and 100m for 11-year olds, plus IM and freestyle relays.
The swimmers score points for their clubs in each race and at the end of each round the teams are awarded league points based on the finishing order. After 3 rounds the top 6 clubs take part in ‘A Final’ shoot out at the Citadel in Ayr, with the teams in 7th to 12th places contesting the ‘B Final’.
Sam Currie, swimming in the 8 and under group, claimed a hattrick with wins in the 25m sprints in freestyle, breaststroke and fly.
“Sam, and Lewis Brae, did particularly well,” says Junior Coach, Alan. “It’s great to see the younger boys coming through. The most experienced swimmers, Fraser Cowie, Lewis Gibson and Erin Moore did well too. But it was a great team effort, especially some of the younger ones.”
Lewis Brae took the 25m fly for 9-year olds while Ruby McInnes claimed maximum points for the team in the 8 and under breaststroke and Evie Chan did the same for the 9-year-old girls.
Kouper Sloss added 5 points to the North Ayrshire total with a win in the 2m backstroke.
In the longer events, Jude Friels took the 50m fly for 10-year-old boys while Lewis Gibson did the double for 11-year-old boys in the 100m backstroke and breaststroke.
“The 11-year-old girls swam really well with 3 out of 4 PBs,” says Alan. “The fact that only resulted in one win [from Sarah Short in the 100m breaststroke] is down to the strength of Glasgow’s team, but Erin and Caelin really went for it in the fly and the free.”
With enthusiasm of so many of the club’s younger swimmers to get involved in the Mini League, North Ayrshire were able to take full advantage of our position as the home team to field a ‘spare lane’ swimmer in nearly every event. They can’t claim points for the team it’s a brilliant opportunity to get in some race practice.
Angus Waller got his first taste of competition, being invited by the coaches to fill the vacant slot for an 8-years and under boy and ended up swimming in 3 solo races and 2 relays. Although he only turned 6 a couple of weeks previously, he took it in his strike, finishing each length with a beaming smile on his face.
“I have to say a well done to young Angus for stepping in at the last minute giving us almost a full B team and that’s him on the Mini League conveyor belt,” says Alan.
The second round will see the team heading across the water to Dunoon, with the last round being potentially the closest-fought against Inverclyde and West Dunbartonshire.
“I’m confident and I’m happy that the kids are swimming as well as they can,” says Alan,
“We’ll keep working on things like not breathing in the last 5 metres and the breakouts, all the things that are so important in this fast, crash, bang, wallop racing. You need to get those things spot-on under pressure.”
“For me it’s all about the kids enjoying themselves and competing as hard as they can, and I know if they train well and focus on their skills then that’s going to happen. Along with the enjoyment comes the desire to win and do better and there was no shortage of that on show.”