Last weekend, Sliabh Beagh ASC travelled to Bangor Aurora Leisure Centre, to take on the best in Ulster in events ranging in distance from 50m to 800m. This competition has been modified this year, as a result of the arrival of a new High Performance Director of Swimming by Swim Ireland.

This year the qualifying standards were significantly raised (you had to be a fast swimmer to get in). Also, you had to have achieved your qualifying times between January and April this year, in 50m pool galas.  However this regulation was relaxed a bit due to the impact of the storm and the snow falls which saw a few qualifying galas cancelled. This allowed 25m pool times, converted to 50m times being accepted.

This gala only had swimmers who are 15 and above for males and 14 and above for females. The consequence of this change meant, that the amount of rest and recovery between swims was greatly reduced, because the younger swimmers (13 / 14 and younger) were not present.

The club swimmers who attended, performed exceptionally well, both in individual events and relay events. We will focus this week on the relay events.

While swimming is seen by many as an individual event when compared to team games. However it is far from being an individual event, when you consider the input by coaches, club officers, officials, parents and of course swimmers.

This year we entered relay teams in male, female and mixed events. This has a magical impact on the swimmer. Performances here can exceed the individual performance. Who does what stroke in the Medley events is very important. Who goes first and last can also be very important. Some might be fast, but do not like the pressure of bringing the race home.

Sliabh Beagh, competing against the big clubs of Ulster such as, Bangor, Ards, Lisburn, Larne, City of Belfast and Leander, as well as more normal size clubs such as Newry, Swilly Seals, Ballymoney etc., really got stuck in and battled. We entered the 4 x 100 Free and Medley for male and female in the Open category. We also entered the 4 x 100 Mixed Medley Relay (2 male and 2 female swimmers). Maximising your swimmers skills and allowing for the difference between muscle dominated events and skill events is important when selecting who swims what strokes.

The results for the club, from these relay events was thrilling, surprising, exciting, overjoying and the realisation post race, that we were matching up to the powerhouses of Ulster swimming and taking medals from them, was unbelievable.

We completed the gala with 3 Bronze medals and 2 fourth place finishes. Indeed we missed out on a possible silver or bronze in the Male 4 x 200 Freestyle, because we withdrew the team, for fear of exhaustion and the possible impact the race might have on following individual events.

The collage below has the pictorial record of the teams and the swimmers.
Relay teams were composed of the following swimmers: Leon Campbell, John Donnolly,  Matthew Skeath, Faolan Campbell, Enrique Rosada Lara, Claragh McGahon, Katie Bowden, Allison Gorman,  Rebecca Prim.

A huge congratulations to all the swimmers on their team achievements and next week we will detail their outstanding success in their individual events. Of course a big congratulations must also go to our coaching team of Noel, Marcin,  Ian, Dana, Linda and Eamon. Also the team behind the swimmers and coaches (club officers, Coral Leisure, gala timekeepers and turn judges, Parents), deserve recognition. All these inputs make the machine function smoothly.

Finally,  the role of gala Team Manager last weekend must be highlighted. Ann Donnolly ran the operation efficiently, effectively, compassionately, looking after all swimmers and coaches and liaising brilliantly with all club and Gala people superbly. As an aside, Ann dipped into babysitting  on occasions, during her very busy two days.

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