WARRNAMBOOL Swimming Club is preparing to take its biggest contingent of young athletes to the All Juniors semi-finals in Melbourne later this month.
The club emerged from Saturday’s qualifying meeting in Geelong buoyant after all of its 50-strong squad qualified for semi-finals at Melbourne Sports and Aquatic Centre (MSAC) on March 22.
Assistant coach Josh Sobey, who oversaw the squad at Geelong, said the club was entering uncharted waters at All Juniors.
“It’s the biggest by a mile,” he said of the group that qualified for the semi-finals.
“Last year we took 38 to Melbourne and the year before that we had around 30-32.
“We always hoped this year we could take 50 and by 2016 hopefully we can keep the numbers strong.”
All Juniors is open to under 15 country Victorian swimmers in 50-metre events that have not previously won a medal at state or country championships.
The club uses the annual competition to give emerging swimmers a taste of competing at a higher level. For many, making the semi-finals is their first opportunity to compete in an international pool, the one used for the 2006 Commonwealth Games at MSAC.
Sobey said all the club’s swimmers qualified for a semi-final berth in at least one stroke.
He said it had been difficult for him and fellow assistant coach Peter Finnigan to gauge the performances of the squad at Geelong.
“The conditions on the day were pretty ordinary and we were put in the older pool, which makes it harder,” Sobey said.
He said cold, blustery conditions, coupled with a slightly longer pool than 50 metres, made comparing times irrelevant.
Sobey said young female swimmers easily outnumbered boys at the club.
He said swimmers like Jane Fenton, who qualified for her first country championships in January, had won each of her four events at Geelong, raising expectations of strong performances in Melbourne.
The top 15 swimmers in each age group in each stroke qualified for the semi-finals. The top 10 from the semi-finals on March 22 win a spot in the final the following day.
Sobey said it was the first time Warrnambool club members had faced Geelong swimmers in qualifying after a restructure of the district.
Qualifying would become more cut-throat next year, with only the top 10 qualifying for the semi-finals and then in 2016 it would be reduced to the top five.
The Geelong meeting was the start of a hectic few weeks for Warrnambool club members, with Sobey leading a team of 10 to this weekend’s Tasmanian championships, including Australian junior representative Isaac Jones. Jones kicked off his campaign for next month’s national championships by contesting a raft of strokes and distances at the NSW titles last weekend.
Sobey said Jones had used the Sydney event to build towards the national titles, which double as trials for Australia’s Commonwealth Games team to go to Glasgow in July.