Swimmers from the Largs district are celebrating a stunning weekend of success at the North Ayrshire Junior Meet with the home team claiming an astonishing 105 medals, writes Rob Waller.
The team, who train at the Vikingar pool, saw 27 swimmers getting onto the podium during the two days of competition at Auchenharvie against clubs from across the west of Scotland, with even more achieving top six placings and posting new personal bests.
The breakdown of the medals shows just how well they did with 46 of them being gold, 29 silver and 31 bronze.
“It was a smashing weekend,” reflects Junior Coach, Alan Dickson.
“We had a lot of younger swimmers who were having to compete at a higher standard than they’ve been used to, stepping up and taking on bigger events – things like 200m Backstroke and 200m IM – and doing really well. A lot of them have stretched themselves and learned a lot.”
Nine year old Angus Wark from West Kilbride was among those gold medallists, winning in the 50m Breaststroke and the 200m Backstroke and earned a silver medal with his 50m Fly.
Emma Binnie, who’s also 9 and from Skelmorlie, was delighted with her silver for the 100m IM and a trio of bronze medals for the 200m Free and 50m Free and Fly.
Some of the most intense and competitive racing over the weekend was in the middle age groups, with sometimes as many as 18 swimmers in each category.
Isla Waller was stepping up an age group, having just turned 11, and managed to win medals in all the age-grouped races she entered, her most impressive moment coming when she took on the fearsome 200m Fly for the first time bringing home a silver medal as a reward for it.
Her gold medal came in her favourite event, the 200m IM, where she stopped the clock with a new personal best and an identical time to Lilly Murray from Kilmarnock who’d swam in the previous heat.
Isla lost out on another gold in the 100m Fly by the tiniest of margins (0.03 of a second) after a nip and tuck race, and collected bronze medals for her 100m Back, 200m Breast, 100m Breast and 200m Free races.
Another of the Largs medal winners was 10 year old Daniel Convery, who claimed third places in his 50m Back and 200m Free.
Alan Dickson was delighted to see so many swimmers stepping on the podium: “It’s good to see us well represented in all age groups, I think nearly everyone was getting placed or medals with some really impressive swims and big PBs, and one or two of them who’ve threatened to post some big times for a while stepped up this weekend and brought their racing mindset along.
“There’s been a really positive attitude towards racing as well as just making it look good.”
There was little surprise that the teenagers who were recently representing North Ayrshire at the Scottish National Age Group Championships were in imperious form.
14 year old Fraser Kelly from Fairlie brought home six gold medals over the weekend in the 100m Free, Back and Breast, and also in the 200m Breast, Fly and Back.
Andrew Sutherland, who’s also 14 and lives in the village, claimed 4 medals including a win in the 400m IM and second places in the 100m Free and Breast and also the 200m Back.
Rounding off the Fairlie trio, 13 year old Jacob Tarran had a strong weekend with wins in the 100m and 200m Fly events and 3rd places in the 100m Free and 200m IM.
For Head Coach, Ross Douglas, the weekend wasn’t so much about the race results but how the races were swum.
“For the younger end of the seniors, those who are starting to compete at national level, who were in action this weekend, it was about using it for race practice,” he explains.
“We’ve got the Glasgow International coming at the end of the month which is our big focus at the moment, so for me it was about seeing where we are positioned.
“It was about giving them points to think about. There were a few things they did well and others that we need to work on. I made them aware that for some of them the only competition this weekend was themselves and the more you can learn to set the tone of your own race the better because you won’t always have people pushing you, sometimes you have to do that yourself.”
Ross was also delighted to see such strong support from the swimmers’ families.
“The levels of voluntary support from parents, and those who come along as officials, is amazing,” he says, “we’re seeing new faces, parents who have never helped before, and it adds to the spirit.
“We’ve got a good thing going here and it’s reflected in the kids’ swimming. There are more of them entering and there are more of them wanting to race and it’s all positive and a testament to the environment we’re creating at North Ayrshire.”