This July several of our Senior swimmers were finally able to get back to competition after more than 15 months of covid lockdowns. Nine SWSC swimmers travelled to the modified Summer National Long Course meet in Bangor, County Down. Unlike previous years there were no age groups and qualifying times were tighter, with morning heats leading to A and B Open finals spread over three days. Health restrictions meant only swimmers, coaches and officials could enter the actual pool, with parents being reduced to intermittent observation from the pool restaurant. I was lucky to be allowed to attend as a coach assisting Richard Cassidy, and was delighted to be back at an actual competition. Our swimmers swam 22 events and to our delight, 14 were in personal best (PB) times. This indicated a faster than expected return to pre-pandemic form, and may have been aided by the four-times a week online exercise sessions during the lockdowns.
Andrew Feenan, training at NAC Limerick where he is enrolled in the University, was our only swimmer not to have long periods out of the water during the lockdowns because of membership of one of the Swim Ireland Elite squads. In his best events, the 50, 100 and 200 breast strokes, he finished 4th, 3rd and 2nd. These are probably the most competitive events for Irish swimmers Internationally, with Darragh Greene being part of the nine strong team at the Tokyo Olympics. Andrew’s 200 is now consistently at 2:15 (WR 2:06) down from races of 2:20+ a year ago.
Sharon Semchiy, now a second year UCC student, achieved the best result with a win in the 50m Fly and 2nd in the 100 Fly A finals. Both swims were PBs and the 50 time of 28.76 broke Emma Cassidy’s long standing club record.
Andrew’s younger brother Mike finished 6th in the 200 breast stroke A final in a best time. Marc Galland had a PB by almost two seconds in a highly competitive 100 free, while James Ryan was 3rd in the 100 back A final, again with a best time.
The other four female swimmers all performed excellently. Two of these, Anna Feenan and Beth Nolan were fresh from the stressful Leaving Cert year. Anna was narrowly second in the B final of the 200 free (like the Men’s 100 and 200 freestyles, these were by far the most competitive events), whereas Beth was 3rd in the 200 back A final in an almost one second PB.
Our younger competitors Lauren Farr and Isabel Kidney, both born in 2007, swam five and four events respectively and each had four PBs. Laurens best placing was 4th in the 200 back A final, whereas Isabel was 5th in the 50 breast stroke A final.
Overall these are excellent long course times after a two year hiatus and bode well for the upcoming season. The major events in the autumn will be the SC Munster and National Championships.
As noted in early April, Liam Custer, Andrew Feenan and Sean O’Riordan were selected to compete in the Olympic and Paralympic trials, which many of you watched on TV. Liam travelled over from Florida especially for this meet, observing all of the required health regulations. He finished second in the 800 and 1500 free events in times very close to his PBs. Because of continuing travel difficulties he then elected to stay in the USA. He subsequently swam in the US Olympic trials (often regarded as a more competitive competition than the Olympics themselves), where he improved his ranking in the 1500 from 34th to 25th. In the trials, Andrew swam to a SWSC record of 1:02.99 in the 100 breast stroke and a good PB of 2:15+ in the 200 breast stroke. Neither reached the very difficult Olympic QTs but both are on upward trajectories that look good for the future.
Sean improved his pre-pandemic 400 free PB by a second but failed to reach the tough Tokyo Paralympic QT of 4:34. Unlike Andrew he had not been able to train consistently through the latter nine months of 2020 and this longer event, which requires large amounts of consistent training, obviously suffered. All three are to be congratulated on their achievements in being selected to participating in the trials. We hope to have many more swimmers doing so in future!