FIVE swimmers from St Helens High Performance Swim Squad produced excellent results at the recent North West Regional Championships.
In the Youth Section 15-year-old Alex Dunk recorded five personal bests, coming 4th in the 400m Freestyle and second in the 1500m Freestyle, while in the 1500m Freestyle he finished third to qualify for the National Championships at Sheffield in August.
Another 15 year old Simon Williams also qualified for the National Championships coming second in the 200m Butterfly as well as producing personal bests in the 50m and 200m Freestyle.
In the Age Group Section 12 year old Jonathon Dandy produced five personal bests coming 5th in the final of the 100m Butterfly, while Emily Lowrie (11) gained a personal best in the 200m Individual Medley. Saving the best till last 10 year old Neil Wylie took the silver medal in the 100m Butterfly where he also PBd to add to his personal bests in the 200m Freestyle and 200m Butterfly.
These successes come in a season that has seen the squad produce its best results for many years and with just the Merseyside & District Individual Championships and National Championships to come the season looks like reaching a exciting finish.
Young people in St Helens tend to reach an age when they have to make a choice -rugby league or football,’ laughs Helen Billington, who is head coach at St Helens Swim Training Project.
Helen, who travelled the world competing for the Great Britain swimming team, and the scheme’s administrator Joe Coy, know that few youngsters make it in either sport and several decide to take to the water.
Their project, which has been running since the 70s, brings together youngsters from four local swimming clubs to create a hot-house where promising swimmers receive specialist training with a view to nurturing the champions of the future.
There are currently 60 on the project. ‘We realise not all are going to make it but we still want them to enjoy the experience,’ says Helen. ‘They end up feeling good about themselves and it helps them gain confidence.’
Joe adds: ‘Part of my role is to educate the parents - telling them what we do and why we do it. It needs dedication from them as well as the youngsters.’
It certainly does. The scheme, based at the Parr Swimming Baths, requires a commitment of around 16 hours of training a week - in the pool and on dry land. If St Helens doesn’t have some swimming champions in the near future, it won’t be through lack of effort.