This was my third consecutive year at this meet and my most enjoyable so far. Described by Head Coach Richard Cassidy as his “favourite meet of the year”, Lisburn is a great venue! The racing pool is the 25m eight-lane format with a separate warm up/warm down pool. All events are Senior, with A and B finals in all individual events, except the 800 and 1500 freestyle which are HDW and the six 4 x 50 relays (two Women’s, two Men’s and two Mixed), which only have an A final. Spectator accommodation, though restricted, gives a very good view of the races.
At 21, we had the biggest SWSC team in recent years-nine female and 12 male qualifiers. Their performances were really impressive with 77 personal best swims, and six club records- three for Liam Custer (400 IM, 400 & 1500 freestyle), two for Beth Nolan (100 & 200 breast stroke) and one for Luke O’Sullivan (200 freestyle). Good morning heat swims meant many swimmers made A or B finals.
Despite all of this we didn’t win any medals since, as stated above, this is a Senior meet and our team is relatively young. Also, Irish swimming is rapidly improving with eight National records broken. One of the best of these was by Mona McSharry in the 100 freestyle, where she broke Michele Smith’s record from 1995 (which I was present for at the Nationals in the Grove pool in Belfast). The National Centres in Dublin and Limerick and UCD, with great access to facilities and full time coaches, are particularly successful.
Having said that, SWSC swimmers had great representation in A and B finals. In A finals, Liam Custer featured in three (two 4ths, 8th), Andrew Feenan in one (5th), Luc Galland in two (5th, 7th) and Sharon Semchiy in four (5th, 6th, 7th, 8th). Many made B finals-Liam (9th, 10th, 11th), Andrew (9th, 12th, 15th), Luc (13th), Paul Higgins (13th), Ellen Lee (11th), Rory Lee (14th), Beth (two 10ths, 12th, 13th, 16th), Luke (13th) and Sharon (two 9ths, 10th, 11th). In addition we featured in four of six relay finals, finishing with two 6th places and two 8th places.
For me, our best swims were Liam in middle distance events (great strokes and turns), Andrew and Beth at 200 breast stroke (true grit), Sharon at 100 and 200 freestyle, and 100 butterfly (doing everything right), but also from others like Lauren Farr at 50 back stroke, Ilann Wall at 100 freestyle and Ellen at 50 and 100 Butterfly, and many many more!
So what do we need to improve faster than the rest of Ireland? The “secrets” are more time (already Richard has instituted 06.45 starts in the mornings), consistency and constant attention to technique. Ards swim 16 hours each week! Why don’t we? Does everyone turn up for all sessions? We’re doing very well, but let’s try harder!
(Details of swims are on the SWSC website and John Rudd’s comments of top performers on the Swim Ireland website.)