For many years the Michael Bowles gala has been a showcase for SWSC. Held in our “home” pool in Douglas, it demonstrates the best team performance by our swimmers, coaches, officials, administrators and membership in general. This year was particularly exciting, as it was held after two years of shutdown as a result of the Covid pandemic. A total of 329 swimmers from 18 clubs throughout Munster took part, with SWSC winning the overall trophy, as they have done in most years since its initiation.
The two-day competition consists of more than 100 individual events in four Age Groups-10 to 12, 13/14, 15/16 and 17 and over, with 4 x 50 Medley and Freestyle relays at 13 and under, 14/15 and 16 and over. Points are awarded to the first six in each event (6, 5, 4, 3, 2 and 1) with double points for relays. Four awards are given for the best senior woman and man, and the best Junior girl and boy. Swimmers can score in six events with the overall swimmer of the meet, in the event of a tie on points, being decided by the FINA point system
SWSC had a team of 65. Amazingly our team had 193 personal best (PB) swims. For younger swimmers this was a function of the long lockdown, since they have grown considerably and are now substantially faster, but the older swimmers also had many PBs. Full results are given elsewhere on this website but here are some summary statistics.
SWSC won 40 gold medals out of over 100 races. Andrew Feenan and Isabel Kidney each won six events, with Beth Nolan winning five and Rory Lee four (plus the Conor King trophy, as described below). Lauren Farr, Grace Lynch, Caolinn O’Connor, Michael O’Driscoll, David O’Leary, Sean Bugler and Vincent Kopczynski each won two events, whereas Antonina Sech, Ciara Gardiner, Carrie Harrington, Marc Galland and Dylan Gunn won one race each (see results for details).
SWSC won seven of 13 relays (being beaten in the 13 and under girls MR and FR by a great team from Dolphin SC). Andrew Feenan won the top male award, with top female and best swimmer of the meet award going to Hanna O’Shea of Dolphin SC, as it had in 2019. Isabel Kidney won the Junior girls top award, with the Junior boys award going to 11 year old Anton Nieuwoudt from Limerick SC. All of these swimmers won six events. Though winning less events, the fastest sprint freestyle of the meet was demonstrated by Noah Switzer of Dolphin SC. Rory Lee narrowly beat Noah in the special 50 butterfly race dedicated to the memory of Conor King, who died in an accident last year. Conor was a stalwart of SWSC and a great butterfly swimmer.
Special thanks must go to our more than 30 sponsors and particularly to our overall meet sponsor-Laya Healhcare (and to our sponsorship sub committee), and to Mary Haughney, Swim Ireland President and her team for their highly efficient officiating. This competition demonstrated some of the best of Munster swimming. The challenge will be much greater in the upcoming National competitions.
Liam Custer after his Irish Junior record breaking victory in the 800m Freestyle in the 2022 Nationals with (L-R) Richard Cassidy, Head Coach; Iryna Semchiy, Secretary and Tom Cross, Chair
We are delighted that Liam Custer, our outstanding overseas swimmer, has been selected for Irish Junior European (EJC) in Romania in early July and European Long Course (ELC) Championships in Italy in August, via his performances at the Spring Nationals in April. At that meet he won the 400 IM and 800 Freestyle, both in Irish Junior record times, and was second in the 200 Butterfly. (As reported earlier, he also won the 1500 freestyle at the Nationals.)
As club members know, Liam is based in Florida and swims with Sarasota Sharks under coach Brent Arckey. He is finishing High School and has been awarded a scholarship to Stanford University this autumn. His maternal grandfather comes from Carrigaline and his maternal grandmother is also from Cork, and he has opted to swim for Ireland Internationally. (Incidentally his gran uncle Jim Cogan was our water polo goalkeeper in UCC in the late 1960s.)
Liam joined SWSC several years ago and has travelled over to Irish National competitions in most of the intervening years, where he has performed very successfully. We wish him every success in these events. He is a great inspiration to all our swimmers.
Liam’s younger sister Clare has recently also joined SWSC and intends to compete in this summer’s Nationals, where she will specialise in the longer events. Their club in Sarasota has a 50m outdoor pool which I visited in 2019. This facility, together with an excellent training programme under coach Arckey, has enabled them to produce the silver medal winner in the Women’s 400 IM in the 2021 Tokyo Olympics.
Our most successful current female swimmer Sharon Semchiy flew to Florida on June 1 to train for three weeks with the Sarasota Sharks. This is a great opportunity for Sharon to improve in her events but will also serve as a prototype for future planned training exchanges between SWSC and Sarasota. We look forward to her talking to the rest of our swimmers on her return.
A large group of 17 SWSC swimmers qualified for this event though only 15 travelled, since two were involved in Leaving Cert preparation. As in previous years this 5-day event is the highlight of the Irish season, serving as trials for International meets like the European Senior and Junior Championships and Commonwealth Games later in the year. To optimise individual performances, relays are not included; the club relays in the McCullagh meet, where it will be recalled our women’s team excelled, serving that function. Nine top Irish swimmers had been pre-selected for this summer’s Internationals on the basis of qualifying for the 2021 Olympics, so most did not participate. This actually served to make the meet more competitive and it was great to see a new cohort of younger swimmers participating. It was also good to see spectators again after the protracted lockdown. Apart from the 800 and 1500 freestyle which were run as HDW, all events had morning heats leading to ten swimmer A, Junior and B finals in the evening so most of our competitors got to swim twice (see detailed results on Meet Mobile). Our swimmers participated in 53 events and there were 27 PBs, seven club records and two Irish Junior records.
Our outstanding male swimmer was 18 year old Liam Custer who is based in Florida, where he trains with Sarasota Sharks. Liam is finishing High School and has been awarded a scholarship to Stanford University to begin this autumn. He won the 400IM and 800, and 1500 freestyle (the former two events in Irish Junior record times- a first for a SWSC swimmer in recent times). He was also second in the 200 fly and sixth in the 200 free-all in club records. He has achieved consideration times for several European Junior championship events (team to be announced soon), and is the first SWSC male swimmer to do so; Issey Hayes and Ally Cunningham achieving this distinction some years ago.
Our best female performances came from Sharon Semchiy in the 100 and 200 fly events. She was second in both, timing her finish to perfection in the 100 and hanging on courageously in the 200. She also beat her own club record in the 50 fly, where she finished sixth in a fast field led by Danielle Hill (Danielle had a great meet setting an ISR of 54.87 in the 100 freestyle).
Other SWSC personal best swims came from Rory Lee in the 50 and 100 back; Sean Bugler in the 50 back; Beth Nolan in the 50 fly, 200 IM and 50 Breast stroke (the latter a club record-meaning she now holds all three club LCM records); Anna Feenan in the 50 and 100 fly; Lauren Farr in the 100 and 200 back; Isabel Kidney in the 50, 100 and 200 Breast stroke and 200 IM; Amy Lynch in the 50 Breast stroke, and Antonina Sech in the 200 back.
Well done all. Looking forward to the summer but competition is intensifying!
The McCullagh Invitational meet held in the 50m pool in Bangor, County Down from February 23 to 25 was extremely competitive, with a large number of fast swimmers from England, Scotland and Wales, including several Olympic medalists. With no restriction on the number of non-Irish swimmers getting into A and B finals, it was difficult for native competitors but none-the-less several, including swimmers from SWSC made finals. Because tapering loses effect if used too many times during the season (and causes loss of training), most swimmers competed untapered. This meant slower times for many swimmers but to highly competitive racing.
Against this backdrop, it was great that our team of 12 swimmers between them achieved 24 personal bests (Sean Buglar two; Laoise Deasy three; Lauren Farr six; Michael Feenan one; Marc Galland three; Isabel Kidney three; Beth Nolan two; Sharon Semchiy four). In addition, some excellent times were recorded in the relays but these (apart from the first leg) cannot be used for individual PBs because of flying starts. All of this means that fitness is returning rapidly after the lockdown, and is a testament to most swimmers attending all training sessions, and to the efforts of Head Coach Richard Cassidy and his team for increasing training intensity. All club swims were recorded using the new iPad Pro, allowing for rapid post-race analysis. In addition, some of these swims are club records, but work is underway on this part of the website, so confirmation will be delayed.
It was in the women’s relays that the most exceptional results were recorded, as those of you who were following the action will be aware! At the start of the Thursday session our 4 x 200 freestyle relay of Sharon, Lauren, Beth and Anna Feenan won gold. At the end of the same morning session our 4 x 100 Medley relay, with Isabel Kidney replacing Anna, was second. Finally, on the Friday morning, the 4 x100 free relay, with the same composition as the 4 x 200 were third. This group of medals adds to the two bronze medals that our team achieved in the Short Course Championships last December. Very well done girls!
Swim Ireland’s messages regarding spectators at the McCullagh International:
As we step up preparations for the return to Bangor for the exciting McCullagh International, Swim Ireland & Swim Ulster are pleased to announce that every session of the 2022 McCullagh International will be livestreamed via Swim Ireland’s YouTube.
Like all our clubs, athletes, and supporters we have been excited to get back to competition this season. Keeping our athletes and volunteers safe, whilst providing a fun environment are of the upmost importance to us. With the large number of entries and with the health and safety of all attending the competition a priority, we have taken the difficult decision to not allow spectators at this event.
The capacity limit in Bangor Aurora spectator area is 960. With 600+ swimmers entered, their support teams, our officials and staff all set to be at the venue, which will total 800+, it would not be possible to ensure the health and safety for everyone in attendance.
At all times when organising events during the COVID-19 pandemic, our priority has been ensuring we offer the safest possible environment. We also try and implement social distancing wherever possible, and will have designated areas for each club. And so, on this occasion we feel that due to space pressures in the Bangor Aurora gallery it would be an unnecessary risk to allow spectators.
We hope all who wished to intend as a spectator can understand the steps we have taken and will instead enjoy the McCullagh International from the comfort of their homes.
McCullagh International Officials Rota:
A big congratulations to Lauren Farr on receiving her Cork City and County Youth Sports Star Award 2022, for her performance at the Irish Short course Championships and also for her selection on to the National squad.
Everyone at SWSC would like to wish Lauren continued success for the rest of the season.