Fifteen swimmers, mostly from our senior squads, represented North Ayrshire at the West District Future Stars meet at Tollcross.
The long course event is an unusual one in the calendar, being more akin to a super-graded meet, with the fastest swimmers in their age groups excluded. However, it’s still tough for the younger swimmers to qualify for – all the more so because clubs from outside the district also take part.
Head Coach, Jess Wilkie has picked Nathan Hughes as her swimmer of the meet. Competing as a 14-year-old he qualified for five events, starting with a 10 second PB in the 200m breaststroke, coming in at 3:00.08 - good enough for a top ten finish.
“He’s been working hard recently and it’s good to see both his strokes and his fitness coming on,” says Jess.
“He’s definitely one of those boys who’s got it in him, we just need to find it. I reckon next time he’ll be under 3 minutes."
Nathan dropped another 4 and a half seconds in his 100m breaststroke, for eighth place, with Jess noting he was moving through really well in the last 50m into the wall.
On the Sunday he tackled the 400m IM for the first time, setting a 6:00.76.
“Nathan managed to keep his legs together and toes pointed in the fly,” says Jess. “He put in an amazing breaststroke stint to go from last to fourth place, and he’s definitely capable of ducking under 6 mins the next time he swims long course."
He also had his first attempt at the ‘swimming marathon’ 1500m, touching at 21:51.52.
“It was a great, even-paced swim and I’m really proud of him for swimming that. He swam his own race and didn’t get affected but what others were doing around him.”
Adam Currie had one of the busiest programmes with eight swims, which kicked off with the 100m backstroke.
“Adam set a PB time 1.17 with a really strong first length,” comments Jess.
“He’s looking really good in the water right now and always working hard.”
The 200m race brought a 5 second PB at 2.46.13, with the coach noting his even splits, and a hat trick of PBs was competed with the 50m event and a 1.8 second improvement at 37.43.
The second day began on a sour note with a DQ for moving on the blocks before the start of the 100m free, but Jess was pleased he touched the wall in a 1:07.
His 200m IM was a whisker off his PB. “The fly was strong but we could do a little bit more on the backstroke and the breaststroke. Something that a lot of people look for in medley events is that your fly and freestyle are as close as possible,” says the coach.
Eilidh Moore, Rachel McGuire and Heather Stuart began their weekend with the 400m free.
“All three girls managed to achieve pretty decent times,” notes Jess. “Their splits were even all through, which is exactly what we’re looking for in distance freestyle."
Heather posted a 20 second PB bringing her time down to 5:17.1. “It was very good swim and I’ll be looking to see more from her in the distance events.
“Eilidh already had a good PB at 5.11 and it was a strong swim, holding 39 averages which is absolutely fantastic.
“She also did the 800m and finished in 10:41, which was an unbelievable swim. She held 5.20 in the first 400m and 5.21 in the second. It just shows that she’s really switched-on and knows how to pace a race.
“For all three of them we’re looking to them to chip away at their times and bring their average split down by half a second, which would give them a big PB the next time they race it.
Eilidh went on to break the 1:10 barrier in her 100m free, with a 2.5 second PB, and also took a second and a half off her 200m breast.
“She just fell off a little in the 3rd 50m of her 200m free, which cost her a PB, but that’s something she can work on. She’s more than capable of holding pace.”
Heather dropped a second in her 100m breaststroke and Rachel matched her best, and Jess is confident both girls are capable of dipping under 1:30 the next time they race.
A 2.5 second PB in the 100m fly rounded off Heather’s weekend.
Robbie Gray was in action on the Saturday morning in the 100m backstroke, finishing in a 1.29.45.
“It was a great swim from him,” says Jess. “The first 50 he had really good posture and held his stroke well. The second 50 started to break down a little, and that’s something we’ll be looking at for the guys coming through from Juniors, to be able to hold the back end of a race.”
Matthew Shanks also qualified for that event, competing as a 14 -year-old, and posted a 1:22.27. “Matthew is definitely making big jumps and I’m looking forward to seeing him racing again soon and getting to work with him more at training.”
Isla Waller was delighted with 7 second PB in the 200m fly, lowering her time from a 3:11 to 3:04. “She was fighting all the way through,” comments Jess.
“Isla was struggling a little in the last 50m, but it was a great swim and a little more fly work in training will do the trick for her. She dropped her time massively."
Lily put in a spectacular swim to drop 14 seconds to a 2:55. “It was a great achievement to break the 3 minute barrier. It was a controlled swim,” notes Jess.
“Along with Heather they swam fantastically in the 100m fly. Some of them would have been SNAGS times had they done them earlier in the season. Their times are getting close together and they’re great training buddies. You need people around you who can push you on like that.”
Andrew Sutherland grabbed the bragging rights for the highest finishing position, coming in second in the 1500m.
“It’s a very tough race,” says Jess, “but in long course you do have more time to get into your stride.
“Andrew had a good battle with one of the boys from FIRST and it was good to see them pushing each other. We could do some more work on counting to avoid losing time on looking at lap cards, but it was a cracking swim.”
Scott Kean posted a 17 second PB in his 400m IM, dipping under 7 minutes for the first time. “Scott struggles with the fly and he’s been working hard on that in training. He survived and pushed himself in the breaststroke and finished strongly and it’s good to see he had something left in the tank.”
He also cut 3 seconds off his 100m breaststroke with a 1:41.48. “We’re working hard to try to get his elbows a little more tucked in so his drive is not going away from the back. That seems to be working for him. We’ve done a lot of work on his dive and breakout on Wednesday mornings,” observes Jess.
Jasmine Baird had three swims, and took nearly 4 seconds off her 100m fly, and shaved 2 seconds from her 50m backstroke.
“She went a 37 from a 39. It was a solid swim with great posture and definitely something to work on as we go through the season.”
Sophie Steele, who’s recently transferred to North Ayrshire from SAST, set a 1.23.54 in her 100m backstroke.
“Sophie was just off her best time,” says Jess. “Like Jasmine, she could have gone out a little bit faster. Her 50m fly came in at 36.03."
Jacob Tarran PB’d his 100m free and 200m IM, bringing the freestyle down to 1:06 from a 1:09.
“Ideally we’d like him to go out a little faster and see more fight in the first 50m,” says Jess. “He’s definitely capable of a 1:04 next season.
His IM time came down by nearly 3 seconds to a 2:56.97, but the coach thinks there’s more room for improvement. “I’d like to see more focus,” she says.
Harry Hume raced in eight events over the weekend, dropping 17 seconds in his 400m free, for a new PB of 5:00.57.
“He’s in a good place and we’re looking to get him to chip away at that,” says Jess.
“He’s started to focus more on his swimming again and we can see some changes and start to develop his strokes. I want to start pushing him a wee bit more and see what he can do.
“We need to do a bit more work on his starts and getting the reaction time down.”
Jess also found areas to focus on from the 200m IM where Harry set a 2.44.09. “I think that’s the first time he’s done this long course. There’s more work to do on his breaststroke to get rid of the screw kick.”