North Ayrshire’s swimming champions have been crowned at the club’s annual awards night celebrating a remarkable year of success in the pool, writes Rob Waller.

During 2018 the team doubled their medal haul at the Scottish National Championships, with athletes reaching 28 age group finals.

The club was represented at the prestigious Glasgow International and had five swimmers qualify for races at the British Summer Championships in Sheffield, including Largs teenagers Abby Kane and Fraser Kelly.

The event held at Saltcoats Town Hall saw the awarding of the trophies for the age group winners at the club championships as well as the individual awards for swimmers selected by the team of coaches.

Head Coach Jess Wilkie commented: “I thoroughly enjoyed my first awards evening with North Ayrshire. It was a fantastic evening and I couldn't believe how great the turnout was - over 200 people! I hope over the next few years the club can really build on that community feel.”

Six young athletes from the Largs area were among with winners including brother and sister Dean and Emma Binnie, from Skelmorlie, who were nominated by their coach, Alan Dickson, for the awards for the Development and Junior squads, respectively.

“Dean’s had an amazing upturn in his performance across the year,” comments Alan. “He’s worked so hard on his focus and concentration, so I was delighted to pick him out of all the boys in our Development squad for this award.”

His elder sister, who was runner-up among the 9 year old girls, was picked to receive the coaches’ award for the Juniors.

“I’ve been coaching with the club for 11 years and was the hardest decision I’ve ever had to make,” says Alan.

“Emma’s been nothing short of a revelation coming out of our development and synchro squads. She trains hard and always listens to the coaches, and I’m really looking forward to coaching her in the future.”

2018 saw a record number of North Ayrshire swimmers getting talent-spotted by the governing body, Scottish Swimming, for a place on their national development programmes.

Among them was Isla Waller, who was part of the team who reached the A final of the super-competitive Clyde Coast Mini League and later in the year claimed the 50m fly title at the Ayrshire Primary Schools Championships.

Isla dominated the 11-year old category with almost double the number of points of her nearest rival.

“Isla put in fantastic performances in both the sprint and distance elements to put the award beyond doubt,” says Alan. “She’s one of the hardest working girls in the club and has been so committed in her training and it’s really starting to show in her results.”

Another Largs swimmer, Matthew Shanks, who’s 13, was picked by Alan to receive the boys’ Junior Coaches’ Award.

“I always knew Matthew had the ability to be a swimmer – he’s certainly got all the physical attributes – and in the last year he’s really found his backstroke and his crawl, going from strength to strength, and I think the coming year could be a good one for him,” says the coach.

Fraser Kelly collected the 15/16 year-old shield. “He’s had a fantastic season of racing representing the club on the national stage and was a very popular winner,” comments Head Coach, Jess Wilkie.

The awards night also honoured the champions in the North Ayrshire Synchro team with 11 year old Ailidh Brobyn from Largs being named as club champion by Lead Coach, Emma Miller.

“Ailidh’s worked so hard in the last year. She started off as a Grade 1 and passed her 2 and 3 meaning she was able to compete at her first national championships, and even got to swim a solo!”

The success of all the swimmers during the year, and the increased profile of the club, has seen membership levels reach a new high, with a boom in the entry-level Development Squad which leads on from the end of the KA Leisure learn to swim programme, as well as the Masters sessions for adult swimmers.

To find out more about the club and details how to get involved see the new website:

Pictures: Pictures 11 Girl Isla Waller (with coach Alan Dickson), 15/16 Boy Fraser Kelly (with coach Jess Wilkie), Development Coach Dean Binnie (with coach Alan Dickson), Junior Coach Emma Binnie (with coach Alan Dickson), Junior Coach Matthew Shanks (with coach Alan Dickson), Largs Winners (group shot), Synchro Ailidh Brobyn (with coach Lynne Harper).