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The North Ayrshire team showed plenty of fighting spirit as they took on the fastest swimmers in Scotland winning 8 medals at this year’s national Age Group Championships. 
 
3 SNAGS Medalists 
In addition to the silverware the 20-strong squad posted dozens of big PBs and pulled off some shocks in the relay races.
 
Head Coach, Jess Wilkie, had no hesitation in naming Jen Murray, as her swimmer of the meet for a series of feisty races that saw her crowned a double Scottish champion.
 
Swimming this year in the 16-year-old category she collected her first podium with a third place in the 1500m, posting a 7 second improvement on her PB.
 
SNAGS Jen Medals 2“That’s a significant drop and I’m really pleased with how Jen’s swimming,” says Jess.  “It was a really consistent race. We’ll definitely be looking to swim that at the summer meet if her ranking holds up.”
 
Friday saw her reach the final of the 400m IM, finishing just out of the medals in fourth, but posting a 2 second PB.
 
“Jen put in a really impressive freestyle leg showing that she’s a real fighter and I really enjoyed watching it.”
 
She was standing on the other side of the podium on Saturday night finishing second in the 400m freestyle and dropping her time by 8 seconds. She had two medals hung around her neck because she also took the honours as ‘Top Scot’, with the gold medal winner being registered with a governing body outside Scotland.
 
Her third medal – and second Scottish title - came on the fourth night of the competition in the 800m freestyle. Another hard-fought race saw her hold off Ellie Reilly all the way, eventually beating her by just over 2 seconds, which was also Jen’s margin of improvement over her previous best.
 
More finals in the 200m freestyle and the 100m breaststroke on Sunday delivered a 6th and 9th place, collecting more valuable points for North Ayrshire in the team standings.
 

Jen told us: “The highlight for me was the 400m freestyle because that was my biggest PB - 6 seconds – and I ended up Scottish Champion, too.

“I was happy with the 1500m as well, because I’d been focussing on that in training.

“I also really enjoyed the sprints. I felt a lot more adrenaline this year and all the races were a lot faster. Hopefully I can keep this form going for the meets in the summer.“

”It was a very impressive weekend from Jen,” reflects Jess. “I really enjoyed watching her race and get all those PBs on the board. She went above and beyond the whole week, especially in her distance events.  She’s so gutsy and deserved every PB she got.”

 
SNAGS Rory Bruce WhiteRory Dickson came into SNAGS knowing that his real target is the British Championships at Tollcross at the end of the month, so hadn’t ‘tapered’ to be in peak condition for the meet.
 
His competitive spirit soon took over, however, and he ended the week with three silver medals from the tough 17/18 age group.
 
The opening days of the meet proved to be as tough as he’d feared, but a 2 second PB in the 200m breaststroke final was some consolation.
 
“In those opening races we were pleasantly surprised with where he was placing,” insists Jess. “We’ll look to drop that time again in a couple of weeks when he’s back at Tollcross.
 
Rory also dropped a new PB in the 50m breaststroke final on the Thursday, but he smashed a psychological barrier with a stunning silver medal in the 50m freestyle final on Friday.
 
“I definitely needed that,” he says, ruefully. “As soon as I came out I said to Jess: ‘I needed that silver medal’.
 
SNAGS Rory Bruce White 2“I know I shouldn’t just focus on outcome - it should be about the process - but I needed something for my three days work, and I did get a PB as well, so I was proud of that.”
 
“My body wasn’t ready to race because I’d not had the same amount of recovery I usually would. It was a bit of a rocky start, but I got stronger as I went through the week which is why you saw the three silvers come in the last three days.
 
“Even though the second day was a rough one I used it as motivation. I told myself ‘This is what I signed up for’. I knew it was going to be tough coming in with no rest, but I wasn’t there to swim the fastest I’ve ever gone, I was there to see how well I could go.
 
“With the British Championships in a few weeks I wanted to use it to build my confidence. I turned it around in my head and used the bad day as a confidence booster.”
 
Jess also revealed how a technical tweak helped Rory step up his performance.
 
We lengthened his stroke between the heat and the final,” she explains. “I’m not normally one for doing that in the middle of a competition but this was an easy fix and we got half a second off his PB, down 0.5 sec to a 24.3, which for a 17-year-old boy is a big drop.
 
With the monkey off his back, Rory returned on Saturday night to take another silver in the 400m IM, setting a time of 4:37.92 and then rounded off the meet on Sunday with a 0.6 sec PB for his silver medal hattrick in the 200m IM.
 
According to Jess, though, his 4th place in the 100m was the more impressive performance: “It was a great last 15 metres moving into the wall. We’ve been doing a lot of work on getting the touch and that really showed over the weekend."
 
SNAGS 2019 Fraser silverFraser Kelly was North Ayrshire’s third silver medallist, underlining his potential as one of Scotland’s most promising fly swimmers.
 
“His stroke’s been looking really good recently,” enthuses Jess. “He took 4th place in the 50m final, dropping half a second, which is pretty good in a 50m race at his age, and we’ll be looking to lower that again and go sub-27 this season.
 
On day 2 he took on the longest fly race, the 200m, qualifying third fastest for the final with a new PB, and then took off 2 seconds to claim the silver medal.
 
“It was a really strong swim,” says Jess.  “I had a couple of coaches coming over and asking about him. I’m excited to see what the rest of the season has in store for him.
 
He came close to another medal in the 400m IM on Friday. His fastest qualifying time for the final was deceptive, as some of his rivals had swum tactically in the heats, but he fought hard for a fourth-place finish.
 
Fraser’s second medal came on Saturday night in the 100m fly where he dropped his time down to a 59.6 to take the bronze with what Jess described as   another really good swim.
 

“I learned a lot from that competition,” says Fraser, reflecting on his week.

“I got big PBs in my two fly races and what pleased me most was going 2:09 in the 200m. 

“The toughest part was the night I had the finals of the  100m fly and the 400m IM, and I managed to PB both of them.

“I need to work on the back end of my fly, the last 50m. And I think next year I’ll not enter so many events because I really felt it by the end of the five days, it was tough.”

Eve Mair returned to SNAGS swimming as a 15-year-old in the morning heats, with four individual races and involvement in three relay teams.
 
The DRP swimmer began with a PB of half a second in the 100m Girls 100 free, but Jess reckons her best race was the 100m fly on Saturday where she equalled her best ever time. 
 
“There’s still a lot of work to do there and she’s still young,” says her coach.
 
Rachel McGuire was making her debut as an individual racer after achieving the fast consideration times required for four events.
 
SNAGS girls 11 13 free relay 1520 x 1232Although Tollcross is a familiar venue to our swimmers from West District meets and long course training sessions, competing at a National championship is taking it to a whole new level.
 
“I think she was feeling a bit of first-time nerves,” says Jess. “We’ll look at how we can support the younger swimmers better next year so that they can give their best performances when it comes to SNAGS.
 
“I think it took her a couple of days to get into her rhythm, but when she did her fly races were strong, particularly the 200m where she went under three minutes, and there was also a PB in the 100m.”
 
Rachel saved her best for the final day where she got the girls 11-13 relay team off to a storming start in the 4 x 100m freestyle, setting up her team mates - Eilidh Moore, Isla Waller and Heather Stuart - with a lead they never lost as they won their heat against City of Glasgow’s ‘B’ team and Ren 96.
 
“It was the best relay of the week. They were solid swims and PBs from all the girls and a great team effort to finish in 7th place,” says Jess.
 
Jasmine Baird joined Rachel, Isla and Eilidh for the 4x100m medley on the Thursday, where they beat their entry time by three and a half seconds. “It was It was great to see girls push each other on.”
 
Adam Currie was the backbone of the younger boys’ relay squads as he made his first ever appearance at SNAGs with four individual swims including the gruelling 200m fly and 400m IM, impressing Jess with his performances.
 
SNAGS 11 13 Boys IM Relay“He put in a really good PB in his 50m fly,” she says. “He was strong off the start with a good underwater and into his stroke really quickly, which is just what we’re looking for.
 
“His 200m fly on Thursday was only the second time he’s done it and took off around 8 seconds, coming under the 3-minute barrier.  I hope we can get that below 2:30 in the next couple of seasons. 
 
“Adam set a 2 second PB in the 100m fly and in the 400m IM broke the 6-minute barrier with a 10 second PB, really strong on all four strokes which is exactly how you need to swim it.”
 
He teamed up with Gavin Friels, Lewis Gibson and Fraser Cowie for the 11-13-year-old 4x100m freestyle relay where they beat their entry time to finish 20th with some gutsy racing.
 
On the Sunday, Adam swam the fly stretch of the 4x100 medley with Scott Kean joining Lewis and Gavin.
 
SNAGS Mixed 14 16 Mixed IM relay“I was really impressed with the 14-16 mixed medley team,” says Jess. “Each of them, Abby Kane, Jen, Fraser Kelly and Andrew Sutherland, really stepped up and raced hard for their 11th place finish, and you can’t ask more than that. 
 
“There’s a lot of potential for improvement in the all-girl squad – which included Leah Stark and Lucy Glencorse - and we just need to get a bit of fire in their bellies.
 
“I definitely picked the right order to swim the girls 800m relay with Leah posting a PB on the opening stint and Eve was back on her PB as well.
 
“The 14-16-year-old boys – who were joined by Harry Hume and Jacob Tarran - were unfortunate to pick up our only DQ of the meet in the medley relay, but when they came to the freestyle race their takeovers were much better with some strong swims, especially Andrew Sutherland on the lead leg.  The time he swam would have put him into the individual races so that’s our target for next year.”