North Ayrshire swimmers dominated the club’s Junior Meet with dozens of them achieving double-digit PBs and collecting an astonishing 98 medals between them.
“It’s easily the busiest meet I’ve ever attended – the turnout was fantastic!” says a delighted Junior Coach, Alan Dickson.
”Overall, we had 64 swimmers competing from 8-year-olds in the Development Squad through to 14-year-old seniors, and that’s unprecedented in all my years at the club.
“Our quietest session had 49 swimmers, and those numbers are a real testament to the framework that’s in place and the hard work that the coaches are putting in, as well as the standing the club has in the community.”
Swimmer of the weekend – in terms of silverware – was Adam Currie, who finished either first or second in all of his seven races, including a silver medal in the 400m freestyle, which was an open category where only the three fastest swimmers across all ages were awarded prizes.
“Adam was flying and slightly disappointed not to get a clean sweep of his PBs, just missing out in the 100m fly,” says Alan. “But his technique was first class. We’d spoken about keeping his length in his stroke throughout and he executed that plan.”
The 12-year-old took nearly 8 seconds off his 200m free on his way to the gold medal, and also won the 100m backstroke, 200m breast, 200m IM and 100m fly.
Younger brother Sam also made the podium in each of his four swims, the 8-year-old winning gold medals in the 50m free and breaststroke, with a second in the fly and third in backstroke and lowering his PB in all of them.
Says Alan: “The standout swims of the weekend for me were from Erin Moore and Caelin Chan who were in adjacent lanes in the 200m breast.
“They used it to motivate each other and swam away from the field which included a couple of 12-year olds, and the last 25m was as exciting as any Olympic final.
They both posted 7 second PBs and Erin pipped Caelin by just point 2 of a second, and Caelin’s underwater skills were superb in that race.”
Caelin posted a huge 30 second PB in her 400m free, collected a second bronze in the 100m breast and too 11 seconds off her 200m free.
Younger sister Evie went home with six medals from the meet, winning the 100m IM, 50m back and 200m free all with new PBs, and silvers in the 50m and 200m breast and the 50m free.
Erin also picked up a bronze in the 100m fly while elder sister, Eilidh, won a gold, two silvers and a bronze over the weekend, as well as a massive 20 second improvement in her 400m IM.
Another swimmer to catch Alan’s eye was Matthew Shanks, who grabbed gold medals in the 200m free and backstroke, plus silvers in the 100m back and free and bronzes in 400m free and 100m fly.
“Matthew’s 200m free was slightly disappointing,” says Alan. “He’d been drawn against two of the seniors, and I tried to warn him that they would go out fast and I think he found that daunting and backed off a bit too much, and in his post-race briefing I think he knew he hadn’t done himself justice.
“But he came back the next day and swam an outstanding 400m freestyle, with a 5:01 and a 20 second PB and I’m sure he’ll break that barrier the next time. He also gave Adam Currie a real fright in the last 50m.”
His sister, Rebecca, collected an enormous PB in the 400m freestyle, completing the distance 54 seconds faster that her last time, and also knocked nearly 30 seconds off her 200m backstroke, among the 6 PBs she collected at Auchenharvie.
The most fiercely contested events of the weekend were those swum by the 10 to 12-year-old girls.
“There were some great head to heads. It was good to see swimmers who train together really going for it,” the coach recalls.
“The 400m IM set the tone for the weekend with 6 North Ayrshire girls taking part and every one of them PB’d, with three of them going under 6 minutes for the first time.”
Isla Waller grabbed the bronze medal in the open event, setting a 10 and a half second PB, and going fastest of the home swimmers with a 5:54.63. The 12-year-old PB’d in 7 events, winning the 100m fly and taking silvers in the 200m breast and 200m IM.
Heather Stuart took a gutsy gold medal in her first attempt at the 200m fly and also won the 200m IM with close to a 3 second PB and was second in the 100m fly, and went home with bronze medals for the 100m back and 200m free.
Sophie Steele made her mark at her first meet as a North Ayrshire swimmer, winning five medals, taking victories in the 200m IM, 200m breast and 100m fly for 11 -year-olds, and second places in the 100m and 200m backstroke.
Many of the younger swimmers in the club impressed Alan over the weekend: “It was also really positive to see so many 8- and 9-year olds taking on 200m events. These need a combination of speed and endurance and it’s a real focus of the silver and gold squad.”
Emily McGuire took a silver medal in her first attempt at the 200m freestyle and won gold medals in her 50m breast and freestyle, with 7 and 3 second PBs respectively. There was also a silver, and a 17 second PB, in the 100m IM and bronze for her 50m fly.
Another 8-year-old, Ruby McInnes, managed a clean sweep of podiums and PBs, with a gold in the 100m IM, silver in the 50m free and fly, and bronzes in the 50m backstroke and breast.
Among the other big medal winners was 13-year-old Rachel McGuire who won her 100m freestyle with a new PB and took silver in the 200m IM with close to a 6 second PB. There were also second places in the 100m and 200m breast and in the 100m fly, as well as bronze for 100m backstroke.
Jacob Tarran pulled off a hat trick of wins in the 100m and 200m fly and the 200m free, plus silvers for 100m and 200m breast and a bronze for 200m IM. The swim which will have pleased him most, no doubt, was a 13 second PB for the 100m backstroke.
Beth Hill was back on form, collecting a silver medal in her 200m IM and taking more than 9 seconds off the 400m IM.
“She swam well all weekend,” says Alan. “She hasn’t raced for a long time and has been changing her training focus with more gym work and that paid dividends with her fly looking very strong.”
As in previous years the Junior Meet was run as a Level 2 event, and a great turn out of officials from our own parents and visiting clubs meant all sessions were accredited.
It was tough work for them, too, with the gremlins striking the electronic timing system all through the weekend meaning a reliance on stopwatches, pens and paper slips, and non-stop action at the recorders desk to enter ever single result into the laptops by hand.
While it means that the swimmers times can be used to qualify for higher level meets, and the DRP programme, the downside is the inevitability of DQs, especially among the younger swimmers – and there was no shortage of them over the two days!
Alan Dickson, however, is encouraging swimmers and parents to look at it another way: “My message to people is not to be disappointed – I’m not.
“It’s great that they were there taking part and the whole idea is that it’s a learning experience. It’s not about where they are now it’s about where they take their swimming to, and they’ve got to learn as they go on. It’s not a case of being DQ’s and forgetting about it.
“I tried to speak to everyone who got a DQ but there’s anyone who was missed out I hope they’ll come and talk to me or one of the other coaches about it.
“Backstroke was an issue and we’ll continue to work on that in training, and we’ll use it to inform how we go forward.”
One of the best things about the weekend was seeing the smiles on the faces of kids winning their first swimming medals.
9-year-old Madison Gourlay bounced back from disappointment in her 50m freestyle with win in the 200m backstroke, to go with a 16 second PB in the 50m breast.
9-year-old Cameron Gibson collected a silver medal for his 50m breast, and his 13 second PB in the 100m IM was part of a clean sweep of new best times.
Older brother, Lewis, took a silver and a bronze in the 100m breast and the 100m fly.
Gavin and Jude Friels won five medals between then with Gavin taking a gold in the 100m breast and second in the 200m event, both with 3 second PBs. Jude won his 200m breast and was third in the 50m fly and 200m free.
Robbie Gray took 12 seconds off his 200m backstroke on the way to a silver medal and was 5 seconds faster in the 100m race, which won him a bronze, and was 13 seconds quicker in his 200m free.
Erin Finlayson set four new PBs, with her best being nearly 6 seconds off her 100m breast time.
8-year-old Mairead Anderson was into double figures, too, slicing 14 seconds off her 100m IM, while Jasmine Baird took 18 seconds off her 400m freestyle best and won two silver medals in the 100m and 200m backstroke, plus a bronze for the 100m breast.
Dean Binnie achieved a clean sweep of PBs in his three events while twin sister Emma, who had to sit out the first day due to illness, took 10 seconds off her 400m free on the Sunday.
Stephen Blane also sliced 10 seconds from his 100m IM and won a bronze for the 200m breast, while Lewis Bray saw a 21 second improvement in his 100m IM at the end of a weekend where he won silver medals for the 200m breaststroke and freestyle as well as a bronze for the 50m fly with a 7 second PB
Ella Bruce posted a massive 27 second PB in her 400m IM, the most impressive in a clean sweep of 8 improvements which included 13 seconds off her 400m freestyle.
Daniel Convery was in the medals with a silver in the 100m backstroke and a bronze for breaststroke over the same distance, while Fraser Cowie earned a bronze for his 200m fly.
Niamh Hamilton was another swimmer celebrating huge PBs, taking 42 seconds off her 200m IM and 37 seconds off the 200m breast, while 10-year-old Cameron Hamill shaved 6 seconds from his 50m fly.
His Dad, Kenny, worked had all weekend helping Billy Binnie in the team manager role, sorting out an unprecedented number of swimmers.
“I’ve got to say a big thanks to both of them for doing the crowd control, and to Catriona Steele who stepped in to marshal almost every session,” comments Alan.
Also among the improvers over the weekend were Scott Kean, Cerys MacKellar and Hannah Matchett. Scott took 12 seconds off his 400m IM to finish just outside the top six, while Cerys took 7 seconds off her 50m fly and breaststroke, and Hannah was 12 seconds faster in her 50m fly and around five seconds quicker in the 100m IM and 50m backstroke.
Her sister, Zoe, who’s 11, saw her 400m freestyle time lowered by 33 seconds, and took 24 seconds off her best for 200m breast.
Fraser Mathie was 28 seconds faster on his way to a silver medal in the 200m breaststroke for 13-year-olds, while younger sister, Kirsty, took 12 seconds off her 200m free and was in the top ten for her 50m backstroke and 200m breast.
Cameron McDonald PB’d in all of his six races with a win in the 200m breast and a silver for the 100m race. He was also 12 seconds faster in the 200m IM, while his sibling, Rachel, took 16 seconds off her 200m breast for an eighth place finish.
11-year-old Erin McGrath was nearly 40 seconds faster in her 200m free, and took 13 seconds off her 200m breaststroke time, while Lucy McLaughlin won a bronze medal for her 200m freestyle for 9-year-olds and set PBs in the 100m IM, and the 50m breaststroke and freestyle races.
Lily Murray was unlucky not to medal in the tough 12-year-old group but set a 16 second PB in her 400m free and took six and a half seconds off her 200m IM on the way to 4th place.
Boyd Naughton achieved 7th places in his first races over 200m in breaststroke and freestyle while Chloe and Lauren Peckover had PB’s to celebrate, with Chloe improving in her 50m backstroke and Lauren taking 38 seconds off her 200m breaststroke and 22 seconds off her 200m IM.
Lacey Rodgers was 17 seconds faster in her 50m fly and almost into double figures in the 50m breaststroke, and Stewart Reid took eight and a half seconds off his 100m freestyle record.
Jamie Saunderson was in the top 7 in all his races with a 19 second improvement in his 100m backstroke for a 4th place and 10 seconds faster in the breaststroke, while younger brother Kyle PB’d in his 50m backstroke.
Mirren Stewart took 7 seconds off her 50m freestyle and Alistair and Adele Street were competing for the first time at the meet. Hannah Adair was also taking on two 200m races for the first time, as was Boyd Naughton.
Kate Stuart was delighted with a silver medal for the 200m backstroke, with a new 2.7 second PB, while elder brother, James, won a bronze of 200m backstroke and took 11 seconds off his 400m freestyle, and Molly Sutherland sliced 22 seconds off her 100m fly time.
Angus Wark collected three bronze medals for 50m breast, 50m free and 200m backstroke, and in the top 5 for all the races where he placed.
Charlize Wears collected four new PBs, her best being an 8 second improvement in her 100m freestyle while Hannah Wilson took 15 seconds off her time for the 100m breaststroke.
Summing up the meet, Alan tells us: “It was a really good weekend with lots of skills on display but also things that we need to work on, but that’s always an ongoing process and I look forward to getting down to that in training.”