The Castlebar swimmers who competed at Irish Age Groups Division 2 with their coach:
Front (left to right): Una Togher, Aaron Doherty, Saoirse Hoban, coach Joe Moran, Ronan Dervan, Fiona Conway and Heather Fadden. Back (left to right): Hazel Coen, Caoimhe Hennigan, Aoibheann Hennigan, Siofra McHale and Meaghan Coen.
After months of training and preparing, eleven athletes from Castlebar Swimming Club travelled to Limerick at the end of June for the Irish Age Groups Division 2 competition, and there were medals and personal bests (PBs) galore for the swimmers who competed over three days at the University Arena in Limerick. The girls' medley relay team of Aoibheann Hennigan, Una Togher, Heather Fadden and Siofra McHale were also thrilled to bag the gold medal in their closely-fought event - with just .45 of a second separating them from the Limerick in second place.
Caoimhe Hennigan enjoyed three glorious days of competition, and won the overall prize for best performance in her age group. She took her first gold of the weekend in her first race with a PB in the 200m IM (2:40.16), her second in the 800m freestyle and achieved the hat-trick in the 100m breast stroke with another PB of 1:26.50. More golds followed in the 200m freestyle (2:19.78) and the 400m freestyle (4:56.43), while Caoimhe also took bronze in the 200m breaststroke (3:06.53). All without breaking a sweat, or so it looked from the spectator arena!
For the boys, Aaron Doherty recorded consistently good improvements in his times and secured Division 1 times in three events, the first of four Castlebar swimmers to achieve their Division 1 times at the Division 2 competition. A five-second PB in the 400m freestyle (5:26.63) was followed by a six-second PB in the 200 individual medley (IM) of 2:55.95, and an impressive eight-second PB in the 200m freestyle final (2:26.85) which saw him come fifth in his age group. Doherty secured gold in the 200m breast stroke with a nine-second PB of 3:12.82, and silver in the gruelling 1500m freestyle when he recorded an excellent 67-second PB to record a brilliant time of 20:44.37.
Ronan Dervan also had a good competition, coming third in the 200m fly with a PB of 3:29.65, and recording a second PB in the 100m breast stroke (1:34.02). An almost five-second PB in the 200m breaststroke final (3:16.99) saw him achieve a Division 1 time.
For the girls, 10-year-old Fiona Conway had a very impressive three days of competition, swooping a bronze medal in the 200m freestyle for her almost 11-second PB of 2:40.80, and just narrowly missing out on another podium finish in the 100m freestyle final, with another PB of 1:14.27. Saoirse Hoban also recorded some wonderful PBs over the course of the competition: 1:25.40 in the 100m backstroke, 11:41.53 in the 800m freestyle, 3:00.24 in the 200m backstroke, 5:42.85 in the 400m freestyle, 6:27.96 in the 400 IM, and an excellent 16-second PB in the 200m freestyle.
Heather Fadden had an incredible competition - achieving PB times in the 100m backstroke (1:27.73) and the 200 IM (2:58.03). But it was breast stroke which proved the real winner for Heather - she cruised home in first place with a six-second PB of 1:28.89 in the 100m, ensuring her entry to the Division 1 competition. The 200m breast stroke saw her achieve a remarkable 25-second PB of 3:15.46.
Another Division 1 qualifying swim came from Siofra McHale in the 100m backstroke (1:15.54), and she also recorded a PB in the 200 IM (2:49.23). An 11-second PB in the 400 IM (6:00.43) saw her take bronze, and she recorded further PBs in the 200m freestyle (2:29.59), 400m free (5:18.10) and 200m backstroke (2:47.68). There were PBs all around also for Aoibheann Hennigan, who packed a lot of swims into her three days of competition. She recorded a whopping 32-second PB of 10:36.58 in the 800m freestyle, and improved her times in the 100m backstroke (1:19.10), the 100m breaststroke (1:28.79), the 200m freestyle (2:27.06), the 400m freestyle (5:16.96), the 200m breaststroke (3:17.08), and the 100m freestyle (1:09.70).
Una Togher also performed well, gaining a PB of 2:53.04 in the 200 IM, and further improving her time in the 100m breaststroke (1:30.01), the 200m freestyle (2:29.54) and the 100m freestyle (1:09.34). Una also managed to bring it home for the girls' under-14 medley relay team, racing to the finish line in a very exciting race and managing to touch home in 2:23.90 just splits of a second before Limerick (2:23.45).
Hazel Coen, in her first time out at Division 2 level, recorded PBs in the 100m breaststroke (1:32.63), the 200m breaststroke (3:17.65) and the 200m backstroke (2:57.59), while her sister Meaghan Coen also swam well, recording 5:46.46 in the 400m freestyle and 2:56.06 in the 200m backstroke.
For many of these young swimmers it was their debut at national competition level, and with more than 500 swimmers from 73 Irish clubs participating, a huge increase from last year, it was quite the daunting and action-packed weekend in Limerick. As always, the Castlebar swimmers behaved impeccably well, swam their hearts out and had a ball in the process. Much credit is due to coach Joe Moran whose guidance and dedication throughout a long and intensive year of training helped the swimmers stay the course.