A SURGE in the number of children making the leap from learning to swim to competitive ranks is behind Warrnambool Swimming Club’s big presence at tomorrow’s All Juniors championships in Melbourne.
The club will be represented by 35 swimmers aged between eight and 14 in tomorrow’s semi-finals at the Melbourne Sports and Aquatic Centre.
Assistant coach Josh Sobey said it was the biggest contingent the club had taken to the All Juniors semi-finals in more than eight years.
He said the high number augured well for the club’s future.
Sobey said entry in the district qualifying events was restricted to swimmers who had not won a medal in their chosen stroke at country or state championships.
“A lot of the older guys have qualified for country and state championships,” he said.
But Sobey said qualifying for the semi-finals meant the younger swimmers would swim for the first time in front of a crowd in the outdoor pool used for the 2006 Commonwealth Games.
“It gives them a big boost in their motivation for the sport for the next year,” he said.
Sobey said the contingent was a result of juniors flowing from swim school Splash Factory into the club.
“The process seems to be working,” he said.
Club president Peter Logan said the number of swimmers attending the meeting was great.
“The team of 35 is one of the largest teams we have sent to this competition for many years and is testament to the great work of our coaching panel, in particular Josh Sobey and Pete Finnigan,” he said.
Sobey said many of the squad members were highly rated in their strokes, including Chloe Windahl in the 50-metre butterfly and Jason Pritchard (50m breaststroke) and Tatye Lang (50m backstroke).
He said Tom Buckley in the 14 years’ 50m backstroke had been in good form, along with 13-year-old Jason Pritchard in the 50m breaststroke and backstroke. Lainey Miller is a strong chance in all four strokes in the 14 years’ girls’ events, while Emily Bartlett, 11, is well credentialled in the butterfly and breaststroke.
The fastest five swimmers in each age group at the district trials qualified for tomorrow’s semi-finals. The fastest 10 from the semi-finals qualify for Sunday’s finals. Sobey said the club was hoping many of the weekend’s swimmers would progress to the country short course championships in August.