It was a West District meet never to be forgotten for the North Ayrshire team, not just for the 10 medals they won over two terrific days of competition, but for the chance to meet and compete against Scotland’s Olympic swimming stars.
The crack University of Stirling squad were entered for the second round of the long course championships at Tollcross giving our Rory Dickson the chance to go head-to-head against both Duncan Scott and Ross Murdoch.
“It was a really good weekend with a fantastic atmosphere which was no doubt due to the presence of the likes like Duncan, Ross, Aimee Wilmott and Craig Mclean,” says Junior Coach, Alan Dickson.
“They were mobbed every time they came onto poolside. Not only were they great role models in the pool, the way they handled all the attention from the younger swimmers was very impressive.”
More on Rory’s exploits later on, because first we’ll take a look back the achievements of the North Ayrshire team with some standout performances from many of the older members of the Gold squad.
Fraser Cowie and Lewis Gibson were responsible for 60% of the team’s medal haul over the two days.
Fraser began by posting a 13 second improvement on his entry time to collect a silver medal in the 200m freestyle for 11-year-olds.
He followed that up with bronzes in 50m fly and free. Fraser qualified for three 50m sprint finals and recorded seven top 5 finishes across the weekend.
Lewis Gibson collected a pair of silver medals on day one in the 50m and 200m breaststroke and then went one better on Sunday winning gold in the 200m IM, beating his entry time by more than 3 seconds.
He also qualified for the final of the 50m fly setting a time 2.5 seconds faster.
“Many of the team were racing the events in a long course pool for the first time,” says Alan, “and it can be very confusing judging how well you’ve done because estimating and converting times from short course isn’t a simple process”
“Quite often they’ve done a lot better than they realise.”
“What really impressed me was how the managed themselves over the whole day, doing their pre-pool, eating and drinking properly. Last time out at Round 1 a number of people were making finals and then swimming slower, so it was a big positive for me that this time that turned that around.
“Lewis, Fraser, Erin Moore and Rachel McGuire were all making multiple finals and managing to improve.
Rachel put in a brilliant display of sprinting speed to take the gold medal in the 50m freestyle, improving from her 5th place in the heats, going 1.4 seconds faster. She also took 6 seconds off her 200m IM and 2 secs off her 200m free.
Isla Waller completed a full set of West District medals winning her first gold in the 800m freestyle.
After setting a time just a few tenths away from her PB (set in a short course pool) she went straight from a cool down swim into the 50m fly final where she just missed out on a second medal, finishing in 4th place. She was also placed 4th in the 200m IM, going 2 seconds faster than her entry time.
Jennifer Murray swam a new fastest time of 9:21.25 in the 800m free to take the silver medal with a 3.7 second PB.
Sarah Short cruelly missed out on what would have been a stunning gold medal on her West District debut in the 11-year-old’s 50m breaststroke.
After qualifying as the third fastest in the heats she was first to the touch, only to be disqualified.
“It was a good swim and I’m sure she’ll learn from the experience,” comments the coach.
Alan also had words for Cameron Hammil who was getting his first taste of competing at Tollcross: “He did especially well in his first West District and managed to beat both his entry times in the 50m breaststroke and backstroke by 2.4 and 5.6 seconds respectively.”
Eilidh Moore so nearly got a medal in the 800m freestyle in the 13-year-old group, taking 23 seconds off her time with a 4th placed finish. She also PB’d her 200m free for a 7th place finish.
Younger sister Erin also took a 4th place in the 200m breast, a 5th in the 50m fly and 6th places in the 200m Free & IM for 11-year-olds.
Adam Currie achieved a trio of top ten results with a best of 5th in the 50m fly and beating his entry times in the 200m free & IM while Heather
Stuart took 5 seconds off her 200m IM.
Jasmine Baird was under her entry times for both sprinting and distance events in the 50m fly and the 800m free, where she was 7 seconds faster.
Daniel Convery was 4 seconds quicker in his 50m fly and Gavin Friels shaved a second off his 50m breaststroke. James Stuart PB’s in his 50m breaststroke and freestyle.
Among the seniors, Leah Stark posted a 4th place finish in the 800m with an 18 second PB and was 9th in both the 50m free and 200m IM.
Eve Mair was 5th in her 200m free while Rachael Grant took 2 seconds off her 50m breaststroke.
While the rest of the squad were excited to watch the elite swimmers from Stirling giving skills demonstrations and posing for selfies, Rory Dickson had the incredible prospect of competing against them in the pool in the 16 and over category.
He was shocked to find himself drawn in the lane next to breaststroke ace Ross Murdoch in the 50m final and described what an incredible experience it was: “It’s the first time I’ve seen Ross about 10m in front of me, eating the bubbles!”
“It was great to be up there on the starting blocks with him and I’ve taken a lot from watching their preparation and putting it into mine,” he enthuses.
“It’s a privilege and when you see them on TV in their GBR and Scotland caps you forget that they’re from just a few miles up the road.
“I was a bit taken aback to be right next to him and I felt his wave as I dived in, and I have to admit to getting some adrenaline from it.
“I didn’t really feel star-struck but apparently it looked that way.”
There was even better to come on the Sunday when he was drawn next to European champion, and ‘Swimmer of the Year’, Duncan Scott in the 200m IM, leading the rest of the field home to claim a silver medal.
“I was more than happy to achieve a 2:10 which is 2 seconds faster than I went in the Scottish Schools finals here a week ago,” he says. “I guess being next to Duncan gave me a boost.”
“I tried to chase him down in the breaststroke but I don’t think I’ve got the speed just yet to catch him, but it was a great experience having him in the neighbouring lane and I can learn a lot from the way he swam it.”
His Dad, Alan, agrees. “It would have been a daunting prospect for Rory, being in the lane right next to Ross and Duncan,” he says. “I know he’ll have learned a lot from that and from watching how these top swimmers conduct themselves.
“After such a positive weekend I’m already looking forward to West District round three as well as seeing how some of those long course times translate into new short course PBs and see if they can challenge those at our 200 Meet.”