While many of us have our eyes fixed on the Rio Olympics, some top young athletes recently competed at the Irish National Age Group Championships in Dublin’s National Aquatic Centre.
This gruelling multi-day event – hosted by Swim Ireland – is where the Olympians of the future can make their mark, and the 10- strong team from Banbridge Swimming Club were no exceptions.
Day One’s events kicked off with the men’s 400m Front Crawl where Adam Wilson’s strong pace-making saw him take 5 seconds off his personal best in a time of 5:03:64.
In the 50m women’s Front crawl, Maeve Cleland’s notorious fast kick brought her home in a personal best time of 28:71.
In the 200m Breast Stroke, William Pinkerton plus Wilson and Bingham were off the blocks again delivering strong and streamlined stroke. Pinkerton and Bingham narrowly missed their personal best time, while Wilson dropped 2:90 seconds which secured him a place in the final.
The 200m women’s Butterfly saw both Julia Knox and Cleland power through their heats and into the finals. Both Cleland and Knox dropped seconds off their entry times, Knox smashing an impressive 4:29 seconds off her time and took home a silver medal.
Day Two started with women’s 200m Individual Medley (IM) where Becki Pinketon’s strong butterfly and freestyle lengths saw her finish in a time just short of her personal best. Rachel Blemmings was placed 4th in both heat and finals position, dropping an impressive 4:56 seconds from her entry time; also making personal best times and finals, Kate Allenby and Cleland.
Taking over a further two seconds off her time, Knox again placed in silver position.
Wilson was out to mean business in 800m Freestyle, there was little doubt that his steady stroke-rate and disciplined underwater work from the walls at turns earned him both silver medal and the first male of the Bann club to achieve an Ulster Squad current qualifying time.
Day Three’s start with 100m Butterfly saw Allenby, Knox and Cleland all qualify from their morning heats to the finals.
Unfortunately Allenby’s usual fast reflex reaction time saw her just hundredths of a second ahead of others, disqualify from the blocks; regardless her incredible butterfly arm pull saw a strong finish.
Cleland took 1.22 seconds off her time and Knox, keen to complement her medal collection winning gold!
McMullan gained a personal best time in heats and went on to take a further 1:64 seconds off in her final. Blemmings also made an impression, taking 1:38 seconds off her time was awarded silver medal position.
In the 400m IM, possibly one of the hardest events, Wilson and Bingham achieved personal best times.
Allenby was the only contender for the 200m women’s back crawl, completing a very strong first 100m, however slower work off the walls in her turns cost her just 0.7 secs off her entry time.
Having already competed during the morning session, McNiff, Blemmings and Knox went on to swim the 800m Freestyle.
Day Four made a splash with women’s 200m Freestyle for Knox, Cleland, Pinkerton but it was McNiff who gained the greatest personal best time shaving over two seconds off her entry time.
The 200m ladies breast stroke saw excellent achievements all round for McMullen, McNiff, Blemmings, Cleland and Knox. Blemmings easily snatched the sub 3-minutes taking bronze,
Day Five commenced with the fast and furious 100m women’s freestyle where Pinkerton, Allenby and Cleland gave their all. Cleland placed first reserve in finals.
Finishing off the morning of the final day were the four 14years and under girls competing in the 200m medley relay; Cleland’s impressive 34.75 second back crawl got the team off to a strong start,
Blemmings fast 34.75 whip kick breast stroke followed with Knox doing a 31.15 butterfly and McNiff brought the team home in an overall 7th position with a powerful 30.22 freestyle.
The all-Ireland competition concluded with Wilson, Bingham and McNiff who rose to the challenge of the longest events -men’s and women’s 1500m freestyle. Both McNiff and Wilson were ranked 5th in Ireland in their age groups.