Larne Swimming Club returned home with 23 titles from the Ulster Championships held in Lisburn last weekend.
In what was an incredible competition for the local team, they bagged no less than 10 gold, eight silver, seven bronze medals and 23 top-eight finishes. And if that wasn’t enough, squad members smashed eight Ulster junior records, four Ulster senior records and one Irish junior record.
Thirty-two swimmers aged from 12 to 31 competed at the three-day meet and the events started with solid swims in the heats, with the young swimmers producing personal best times.
Highlights of the opening morning session included Conor Ferguson (15) equalling his own Ulster junior record in the 200 backstroke with a time of 2:03.99.
Commonwealth Games competitor Danielle Hill eased into the finals of the 100 freestyle, 200 backstroke and 100 individual medley. The 15-year-old also claimed gold in the 800 freestyle in between those heat swims.
Other finalists included Mark Doherty (200 back), Ellen O’Neill, Kendra Kemp and Ryan Wray in the 100 breast stroke, Conor Brines (50 fly and 200 free), and Eorrann O’Neill in both the 50 fly and 100 freestyle.
The first finals session also included the 4 X 100 female FTR, and the male 4 X 100 MTR.
Some very impressive skills were displayed by Larne swimmers in the first day finals. Hill got the ball rolling with silver and a PB in the 100 freestyle.
Conor Ferguson followed that up by setting a new Ulster senior and junior record and an Irish junior record in the 200 back. He timed a very impressive 2:00.55. He was joined in the final by Mark Doherty who swam a three-second personal best.
Kendra Kemp, Ellen O’Neill and Ryan Wray all swam impressive PB times in their finals of the 100 breast.
Conor Brines lowered his heat time in the 50 fly final taking a credible fifth in a very tightly contested final.
The women’s 200 backstroke saw Hill take gold and set a new Ulster junior record in the process, breaking the mark set by double Olympian, Melanie Nocher.
Danielle then picked up her fourth medal of the evening with a fine swim in the 100 individual medley, before the relays began.
Laura Wylie, Georgia Lyttle, Sinead Gourley and Hill swam to a silver in the 4 x 100 FTR, while in the 4 X 100 MTR Conor Ferguson, Ryan Wray, Conor Brines and Rauiri Hurson came very close to taking the title. They fell just short a very impressive Ards team. Ferguson broke the Ulster senior and junior record in the 100 backstroke at the start of this event.
Day Two’s heats kicked off with eight girls making their Ulster Championships debut in the 200 individual medley. Five of the eight produced personal-best swims.
Meanwhile, Brines and Ferguson performed well, just missing the final in the 100 freestyle, - a bonus event for both swimmers.
Hill then produced arguably the best performances of the morning, qualifying for finals in the 50 freestyle and 100 backstroke as well as making it three Ulster senior titles (and five junior) with gold in the 400 freestyle.
The men’s 50 backstroke saw all three of Larne SC entries - Ferguson, Mark Doherty and Finn Purdy - making what promised to be a very competitive final.
Kendra Kemp and Ellen O’Neill made it a breaststroke double by qualifying for the 50 final.
The last event of the morning, the 1,500 freestyle, produced ‘PB’ swims for Scott, Jane and Lui Hurson and a very impressive fourth-place finish for Finn Purdy.
The Day Two finals saw Larne’s young team continue where they left off the night before.
In the women’s 50 freestyle, Hill continued her winning form with an Ulster junior record and a junior / senior title - a feat she almost duplicated in the 100 backstroke, picking up both titles but narrowly missing out on the junior record.
The men’s 50 backstroke was next and all three Larne boys produced lifetime bests with Ferguson winning the title in a new Ulster senior record time, followed home by Purdy who won bronze to pick up his first senior medal. Doherty finished in a very close fourth place.
Sinead Gourley, swimming in the first senior Ulster final, placed eighth in the 200 fly. Kendra Kemp won her first senior medal in the 50 breaststroke, taking third in a very close race, pipping team-mate Ellen O’Neill in fourth.
Proving that this team has strength in depth, the three relays of the evening - the men’s 4 X 100 FTR, womens 4 X 200 FTR and the mixed 4 X 50 FTR - saw Larne pick up silver medals.
The third and final heats session of the championships - the 200 and 400 medley for males and females respectively - were up next.
Larne swimmers again produced lifetime bests in the heats. Hill added the Ulster senior / junior titles to her growing collection. And she made it a clean sweep of finals qualification in the 200 free and the 50 back when she qualified fastest and was joined by Sinead Gourley.
Ferguson also made it a three for three, qaulifying for in the 100 backstroke along with Doherty.
In the 400 freestyle, Rauiri Hurson picked up his first individual medal with a bronze and a PB swim, with club captain Brines in fifth.
Past club captain Ryan Wray continued his comeback with a final placing in the 50 breaststroke.
The last finals session of the weekend kicked off in spectacular fashion with Ferguson setting a new Ulster senior record in the 100 backstroke, winning the senior and junior title in the process. It was a feat that would earn him the coveted Recorder’s Cup for breaking a record by the biggest margin.
Doherty continued his progression with a further PB in the same event.
Hill then showed just why she is Larne Swimming Club’s very own Iron Lady by winning the 50 backstroke in another Ulster junior record time, while Gourley made it a double for Larne with a very impressive third place.
In the last individual final of the evening, Hill once again stepped up on the podium with an overall third place and another Ulster junior title.
The excitement came to an end with three relays. The 4 X 200 FTR team earned silver, the 4 X 100 MTR and 4 X 50 MTR both won bronze.
All in all, it was atruly memorable weekend of racing for the Larne team.