15 swimmers from Inverclyde Amateur Swimming Club recently competed in the Scottish National Age Group (SNAGS) championships – the biggest and most important competition in the junior swimming calendar.
Hopes were high for a successful meet, but few would have dared dream of the success that was to unfold across the five days of competition. Overall, the team finished 18th out of 102 teams – the first time in the club’s history that a top 20 placing has been achieved. There were six Scottish champions, 4 gold medals, 5 silver medals, 1 bronze, 12 additional finals qualifications and multiple PBs and improved national rankings.
One of the two busiest swimmers, Matthew Garrity swam in eight individual events in the 15 year old age group and had the competition of his life. Matthew won gold and was crowned Scottish champion in the 100m and 200m breaststroke with two new PB times. He won silver and was crowned Scottish champion (as the fastest Scot competing) in the 200m and 400m IM with another two great PBs. On top of this, he won silver in the 800m freestyle, and bronze in the 50m breaststroke (again with PBs) and came 4th in the 400m freestyle. Matthew qualified in 5th place for the 50m freestyle but withdrew to focus on his 100m breaststroke event the same evening.
Fellow 15 year old Aimee Watson was also competing every day in eight individual events and returned another superb set of results. Aimee won gold and was crowned Scottish champion in the 50m and 100m breaststroke and won silver in the 200m breaststroke and 200m IM. In addition to the medals, Aimee qualified for the final of the 50m butterfly, where she finished 7th and came 13th, 16th and 22nd in the 100m butterfly, 50m freestyle and 100m freestyle respectively.
Thomas Cannon showed his versatility by qualifying for seven individual events where he either matched or improved his ranking and set five new PBs. Swimming in the 17-18 year old age group, Thomas also made the finals of five events. His best results came in the breaststroke, where he finished 5th in the 200m, 6th in the 50m and 7th in the 100m events. He also achieved a 7th place finish in the 400m IM. In the 100m backstroke, Thomas qualified for the final in 10th place, but withdrew to focus in his 200m breaststroke the same night. An 11th place in the 50m backstroke and 13th in the 200m IM completed a very successful meet for Thomas.
Sister Molly was also busy, swimming in three individual events: the 50m, 100m and 200m breaststroke. It was another great result for the Cannon family, with Molly making all three finals in the 15 year old age group category. She swam new best times to finish 8th in both the 50m and 100m events, way ahead of her 16th and 21st place seedings. In the 200m event, Molly swam to a 6th place finish, just outside her PB but ahead of her 9th place seeding.
Jay Keith was competing in four events in the 14 year old age group and came away with a great set of new PBs and improved national rankings. He narrowly missed out on a spot in the finals for the 100m breaststroke when he finished 11th. A 14th place in the 200m butterfly, 17th in the 100m butterfly and 22nd in the 50m butterfly showed just how much he has improved in this stroke.
Aaron Gray was swimming in two individual events for the first time: the 16 year old 100m and 200m butterfly. Aaron came to the event after a great run of results, and his confidence showed. In the 200m event he finished as first reserve and was unlucky not to make the final. The 100m event came later, where he swam a superb new PB to finish 13th. Kian McNelis qualified individually for the 200m and 400m freestyle in the 16 year old category and put in strong performances in both events to secure top 20 finishes.
Oliver Patton and Lewis Gray were also competing in their first individual SNAGS events, both in the 13 year old age group. Oliver swam in the 100m and 200m backstroke and Lewis in the 50m breaststroke. Both boys put in a solid performance and gained invaluable experience for future national events.
In the relay events, the 14-16 boys team took on three relay events, setting new PB’s and finishing ahead of their seeding each time. The team of Matthew, Aaron, Kian, Adam Brooks and Cammi Kerr came 8th in the 4x100m medley and 12th in both the 4x100m and 4x200m freestyle.
The 14-16 girls team also performed well to score two out of three PBs and exceed their seedings. Ashleigh Blyth and Anna McClafferty made up the team with Aimee and Molly, exceeding expectations against much older and more experienced competition.
The 11-13 year old boys were determined to do their bit for the club, and swam new PBs to finish 11th in the 4x100m medley relay and 16th in the 4x100m freestyle event. Well done to Oliver, Lewis, Luke Garrity and Alistair Currie.
The club also had a mixed team competing in the 14-16 age group, which managed to grab a superb 6th place finish in the 4x100m medley with a new PB. Well done to Molly, Matthew, Aaron and Aimee and all the relay teams for some great teamwork.
Head coach Shirley Reford has just about settled down after all the celebrations and had this to say: “The preparation in the lead up to SNAGS was intense and the workload required from the swimmers was very tough. The performances overall were outstanding in both team and individual events. Finishing 18th out of 102 clubs was a magnificent achievement, considering we are a relatively small club. I’m extremely proud of how we performed at the top level.”
Indeed, Shirley’s words echo the feeling throughout the club. Everyone is immensely proud of the medals and the finals, but the PBs and improvement in seedings across a wide range of strokes and distances is causing just as much pride. They show what an exciting time it is for the club and how much the whole team is developing and improving. Team spirit is at an all-time high and the swimmers due to take part in upcoming competitions are desperate to play their part in keeping that going. I wouldn’t bet against them.