North Ayrshire’s seven fastest seniors put in some impressive performances representing the club at the second Glasgow International Swim Meet.
The team made multiple finals, and every swimmer set new PBs, as they faced a top-class field including British swimming star Ross Murdoch.
Head Coach, Jess Wilkie, was delighted with their achievements: “All these guys are still in pretty tough training so it’s fantastic to see the times they’re posting.”
Each day of the meet was run with three sessions, with A, B and C finals in the evening for each event, with the 20 fastest overall going in the A and B races, and the C final for Juniors – which was 17 and under for boys and 16 and under for girls.
Rory Dickson recorded a top six finish in the 400m IM, qualifying for the A final race.
“He was just over his PB in the heat,” explains Jess, “but he stuck to the plan to take it easy because we knew there wasn’t any pressure to make the final. It’s not something we normally recommend but when you’ve got a busy programme it makes sense.
“We tried something different by pushing in the back end of the race with the breaststroke and the freestyle. It’s good that he’s got the understanding and the ability to do that.”
Come the final he dropped his time by more than 6 seconds to match his PB with a 4:37.97.
“That’s pretty impressive at this point in the season,” says Jess. “It was a really good backstroke leg, although ideally we’d be looking to go a wee bit faster in the breaststroke.”
Rory also qualified for the finals of the 100m fly, dipping under the minute barrier for the first time.
“That was absolutely fantastic, but there’s still room for improvement in his reaction time off the blocks,” says the coach.
In the 200m freestyle he was sub-2 minutes in both the heat and the final, and he was also back in the evening sessions in the200m breaststroke and the 100m freestyle.
“It was a really great swim in the breaststroke,” recalls Jess. “He took it out much faster, which was the plan. He looked really strong and it was exciting to watch. In the freestyle the plan was to really go for it from the start but that PB of 53.1 came out of nowhere.”
Rachael Grant showed she’s bouncing back from a spell of ill-health with a series of swims close to her PBs, and a new best time in the 200m IM.
“It was a really good race from Rachael,” says Jess, “but we can find more speed in the backstroke and breaststroke.”
Jess noticed an improvement in her breaststroke in the 400m IM the following day: “It was a really good leg which benefitted from all the work we’ve been doing to improve her catch.
“She probably went out a little too slow in her 100m fly and we’ll be doing more work on her back end ahead of the summer meets, but she held a great rate all the way through in her backstroke events and was really fast off the blocks.
Fraser Kelly started his meet with a new PB in the 100m fly (59.55) and went sub-60 again in the final. “It’s nice to seem him being consistently under a minute, especially as we’re in full training,” says Jess.
“He had a great reaction of the blocks, too, which is something we’ve been keeping an eye on across the weekend.”
Fraser also qualified for the 400m IM final on the Saturday but opted to sit it out to save himself for his swims on Sunday.
The 50m fly didn’t produce the time he’d been hoping for, according to Jess,
“He was really slow off the block and that’s definitely an area to work on. If his reaction time had been faster he’d have been right on target.
“In his 100m freestyle (56.7) he was much better, which shows he’s taking the feedback on board.”
Fraser grabbed a huge PB in the 50m free, down from 29 seconds to 26.3. “He’s not done the race in a while, but even so it’s not often at his age you get a big one like that,” says Jess.
Andrew Sutherland was also collecting PBs, with his first in the 200m IM, and then taking 11 seconds from his 200m backstroke, down from 2:40 to 2:29.
He sliced 2 seconds from his 100m breaststroke, but Jess was most impressed with his 200m freestyle.
“Andrew really showed some showed some class with a nice rate all the way through to drop from a 2.07 to 2.06. It was a really impressive first 100m from him.”
On the Sunday he dropped his 400m freestyle time by 3 seconds with a 4:30. “His freestyle’s been looking really good recently. We’re trying to get him more consistent in his pacing.”
Leah Stark set the first of her PBs by dropping 2 seconds in the 100m fly down to 1:12. “She had a really strong back end which is always something we’re looking for,” says Jess.
“She posted a 0.6 second PB in her 200m free with really good splits all the way through. If we can work on the back end more she’ll be going under 2:15 next season.
“Her 400m free again showed there’s definitely more to come from Leah. It was a fantastic first 200m and we’ll be looking to go down to a 4.40 next season.”
Evan Clark impressed with his 50m fly, going under the 30 sec barrier for the first time.
“He only took two breaths in the whole 50 which is something I’d like all the guys to consider,” says Jess. “It showed great execution of the skills and he had a good reaction time off the block, too.”
There was a 0.2 second improvement in his 50m freestyle and a 3 second drop in the 200m free, which Jess describes as “pretty decent”.
In the 100m he posted a 56.79.
Jen Murray took a big chunk off her 100m fly, lowering her best by two seconds from 1:09 to 1:07, and was just under her PB in the 50m freestyle, too.
“Overall it was a great weekend,” says Jess. “I really enjoyed spending time with a small group of swimmers and it’s given us lots of pointers to work on in the coming weeks. Once we find out who’s qualified for the summer meets which can step up our preparations.
“It’s like to make a special mention of the guys who came down to help with timekeeping and judging. We really appreciate the support for the meet, and it means a lot of the swimmers to make sure that the times are accredited.”