Thirteen young athletes from Banbridge Swimming Club were amongst the 1,000 top swimmers competing in the Irish Age Group Championships and Summer Open meet 14-19 July in Dublin’s National Aquatic Centre.
This is the largest swim meet hosted by Swim Ireland, where the tough entry conditions ensure top competition from across the whole of Ireland; in addition were teams from mainland UK, Canada, Luxembourg and Dubai - all who were attracted to display their progress after a long and rewarding season of training.
The strong Banbridge swim squad included: Kate Allenby, Rachel Blemmings, Maeve Cleland, Alex Donnelly, Ross Johnston, Julia Knox, Emma McElderry, Kathryn McGrath, Ruby McNiff, Becki and William Pinkerton, Ellie Purdy and Jessica Robinson.
From the very first session of this five day event, the Banbridge team were seen to give their all and produced cascades of Personal Best (PB) performances.
Alex set the scene powering off the blocks in his 400m Freestyle, finishing in an epic racing touch.
Kate went on to excel in all her events, going on to compete in the fast and furious Girls 50m Freestyle and slicing 0.37secs from her PB.
She went on to secure her place in the finals in the 200m IM, smashing just under five seconds off her entry time, a final’s place in the 100m Butterfly.
Streamline, speed and a good ‘feel of the water’ are just some of the qualities displayed in the breastroke events; and the fast times gained by William, Rachel, Ruby and Jessica over the 100m and 200m events did not disappoint.
Jessica’s powerful breastroke kick drove her into a great position in the 200m finals with a time just outside of her PB.
With his strong underwater work seen in his racing start and rapid turn, William was placed as a reserve finalist in the 200m breastroke.
The stealth-like back crawl displayed by Emma was put to the test against 75 others in her 100m and again in the 200m events; despite fast turns and strong arm rotation she finished just outside her qualifying entry time.
Ross, clocked seconds off his personal best times in both back crawl and freestyle events maximising his strong and fast underwater catch.
Accelerating up from the ranks of the regional qualifying galas earlier in the season; both Kathryn and Rachel celebrated their positions at this top level competition in the extreme 800m Freestyle distance swim from Kathryn and in Rachel’s breastroke events.
Facing tight challenges from peers, these two swimmers did well to improve on their times.
The action didn’t let up throughout the five days of events, notably three of the Banbridge swimmers: Ruby, Rachel and Kate gained the tight qualifying times to join fellow team mates Julia, Jessica, Ellie and Maeve in the Ulster Regional Squad.
A commanding performance by Becki, Julia and Maeve through the tough 400m IM event saw all three demonstrate how their stroke technique could be held while smashing multiple seconds off their entry times.
Becki and Maeve added to their list of PBs throughout the IAG competition, especially on the final day where determination and quality stroke paid off in competing in the 400m IM.
Becki was also tasked with the gruelling 1500m freestyle where she was just within a hair’s breadth of an Ulster Squad time.
Banbridge’s girls freestyle relay quartet of Julia, Maeve, Ellie, and Kate were out in force gaining 9th position out of a strong 21 team competition.
Equally impressive were the two 14 years and Under girls IM relay teams made up with: Rachel, Jessica, Becki and Ruby; in addition to: Kate, Ellie, Julia and Maeve who managed to smash last year’s IM relay time.
As well as gaining personal best times over a number of races, Ellie was more than deserving of her gold medal in achieving 18:22.81 in the exigent 1500m freestyle event; just a whisker off the Irish National Squad qualifying time.
The fantastic 1500m distance swims from both Becki and Ellie book-ended what was a thrilling five days competition in front of a great crowd at the National Aquatic Centre.
Amidst the electric atmosphere provided by the many families, team-mates and coaches in attendance, the young swimmers duly had responded with some thrilling racing in the finals.
This was typified by Julia, who dominated the podium taking home not only a haul of medals from her 100m and 200m Butterfly, 200m IM, 100m breastroke, 200m freestyle events, but gained her a place amongst top swimmers in the Irish National Youth Squad. Coach Graham Knox commented on his team’s performance, “This has been an outstanding championship for the Banbridge swimmers.
“Great team results can only come from our club who surrounds itself with great people...swimmers, families and the coaching team.”
He went on to say, “The long hours of training put in by these young athletes has really paid off; taking our club to new levels and setting high standards for next year’s season.”