Swim Ulster’s recent Valentine’s Qualifying Meet attracted competitors from all over Ulster to Larne Leisure Centre at the weekend for the First Open event of the year.
As the home club, Larne was represented by 53 swimmers aged 10 – 20, taking part in 203 individual events: easily the biggest participation from any club at the event.
The distance events were first up on Friday with the 1500m and 800m freestyle. Sixteen Larne members raced hard and 14 achieved personal best times. Stand-out performances came from Conor Ferguson (14) in the 1,500m (16:56), Danielle Hill (14) and Katie Baird (13) in the 800m freestyle in times 9:25 and 9:45, respectively.
Larne’s new Head Coach, Peter Hill, insisted that training not be interrupted so these young athletes arrived at the pool in Larne at 6:45 am to put in two hours’ work before a day of racing on both Saturday and Sunday.
The highlight on Saturday morning was from Conor Ferguson in the 200m back crawl, which he won in a time of 2:07 - just missing out on the Ulster Junior Record held by Conor Shelvin at 2:06.7.
Ferguson was not alone in showing good early season form. Jonathan Agnew recorded personal bests in every swim, as did Ryan Lewis, Sinead Gourley and Oonagh O’Neill.
Louise Hill (18), recorded her second-fastest time ever in 100m breast stroke, and is now looking forward to swimming faster at the Irish and Ulster Championships later this year.
Chelsey Wilson (22) clocked 63.1 and 2:15.6 in the 100m and 200m back crawl, claiming her Ulster Squad time at the first time of asking.
Coach Hill said:“The group of swimmers in Larne are incredibly talented and I have no doubt that this is just the beginning of a prolonged period of success at both regional and national level.
“The swimmers are young, but not afraid of hard work and when hard work meets talent there is no limit on what can be achieved.”