North Ayrshire swimmers got their season off to a flying start at the West District Sprints and Relay meet.
An impressive team of 38 athletes collected 5 medals over the two days at Tollcross, posting scores of new personal bests, and with 15 of our swimmers beating their entry times every time they raced.
“I thought all-round we had a pretty good meet,” says Head Coach, Jess Wilkie. “The majority of swimmers met their skills targets – such as coming off the walls strong and not breathing out of the turns – and sprints are good way to get things started.
“It’s still early in the season, only four weeks into our training block, but we still had some unexpected PBs among the seniors, which means whatever we’re doing is working!”
“It’s impressive at this time of year when we don’t usually do a lot of speed work,” agrees Junior Coach, Alan Dickson, who had 17 members of the Gold squad competing at the short course event.
“The focus is on getting the metres in and building capacity for the rest of the season. We haven’t even done any hard training; it’s been low intensity. It makes the 72% conversion rate [for the Juniors] all the more impressive.
“What I would say to the swimmers is don’t compare your times with how you swam at the tail end of last season. Go right back to the sprints a year ago and you’ll really see how you’ve improved over the year.
“Make sure you also know if you were entered on a short course time or a long course conversion because that makes a difference as well.”
Fraser Kelly underlined his dominance in fly with a win in the 50m race, going more than half a second faster than his entry time, and improving again slightly in the final.
He was beaten into second place, by just a quarter of a second, in the 100m IM for 16-year-olds and then claimed a bronze medal in the 50m free on Sunday.
“Fraser did really well with some amazing times, especially in the freestyle (24.86),” says Jess.
“Andrew Sutherland going 25-zero for sixth place wasn’t something I was expecting at this point in the season either.”He was among those achieving a clean sweep of improvements on his way to a second final in the backstroke.
Callum Reid, the eldest swimmer on the team, made three finals appearances, in backstroke, fly and free, setting new benchmarks in all four stokes, while Leah Stark took a second and a half off her previous time to reach the shoot-out in the 100m IM and also racing in the 50m freestyle final with an 8th place finish.
Rachel McGuire improved her times in every event and qualified for the 13-year-old 50m fly final, as did Heather Stuart, who took two seconds off her entry time to set a new mark at 31.83 on her way to 7th place.
It was great to see Rachael Grant back at the sharp end, after a bruising end to the previous season with illness, taking the bronze medal place in the 16-year-old girls 50 fly, also improving her time by more than half a second.
Rachael was in the top 10 in all her events, also making finals in the other three strokes, and just missing a second medal with fourth place in the breaststroke.
“Heather’s swims were very impressive, and she does a great job managing her swimming and diabetes, which I don’t think I could do!” says the coach.
Sophie Steele made the backstroke final with a 1.5 second improvement and was the lead swimmer for the girls 11-12 relay squad as they collected our fifth medal, with a bronze in the medley race, alongside Caelin Chan, Isla Waller and Ella Bruce.
“They swam fantastically well all weekend. In the freestyle relay they were just pipped into 4th place but came storming back in the Medley,” says Alan.
“Caelin also made it into the breaststroke final with swimmers a year older, which was a great achievement, improving on a fantastic time in the club championships.” In the IM she took nearly 12 seconds off her previous time.
“Erin and Eilidh Moore had 10 swims and 9 PBs between them on their first trip back from Ireland where they’re now swimming with Athlone ASC.”
Others who went faster in every race included Jasmine Baird, who took 3.7 seconds off her breaststroke sprint time, and posted a 2.5 second improvement in her IM.
Adam Currie took more than 5 seconds off his IM as he chipped away at all four strokes over the weekend, while Gavin and Jude Friels improved in all seven of their events.
Holly Hopkins carved nearly 4 and a half seconds off her 100m IM and beat her breaststroke time by more than3 seconds, while Charlize Wears improved her 100m IM time by more than 2 seconds and took just as much off her 50m breaststroke as she set four new benchmarks.
“Holly and Charlize raced really well on Sunday,” says Jess, “and Daniel Convery came out of the woodwork with an an 11 second improvement to get down to a 1:26.7 in the 100m IM.”
He wasn’t the only 11-year-old boy were posting big improvements in that event with Fraser Cowie recording his biggest of his drop of the weekend, shedding 5 seconds, and Lewis Gibson taking 9.5 seconds off his time.
Nathan Hughes recorded some of the biggest updates with almost 13 seconds coming off his 100m IM time and 7.5 in the backstroke. Harry Hume improved in all five of his races, with the best being 4 seconds better in the IM.
13-year-old Stewart Reid took 3 seconds off his 50m breaststroke and Jamie Saunderson was nearly 2 seconds quicker in backstroke.
For the 14-year-olds, Matthew Shanks beat his times in freestyle and backstroke, Robbie Gray was a second faster on his back and Rhys Hanlonbole took three quarters of a second off his fly time.
Niamh Hamilton was faster in all four races, the biggest drop coming in the 50m free, and Molly Sutherland chipped away at her backstroke, breaking the 39 second barrier.
Scott Kean took nearly 3 seconds off his IM and was faster in breaststroke and free, while James Stuart improved his 50 free by nearly 2 and a half seconds and made a small gain in his backstroke.
Cameron Hamill went home with three improved times, including over a second off his freestyle and backstroke.
“It was great to see our swimmers making finals and we’ll be aiming for even more next year with a lot of younger swimmers coming up through the club,” says Jess.
“Also, I must give thanks for the support we had from the parents doing judging and timekeeping really made a difference to the meet, and we couldn’t do it without them.”