Swimmers Donnie Price and Felix Gifford did Shetland proud in the Scottish National Championships at Edinburgh’s Royal Commonwealth Pool at the weekend.
Donnie, 12, became the first swimmer from South Mainland Amateur Swimming Club to win an age group Scottish title, which he achieved in the 10-12 year boys’ 1500m freestyle.
Felix, from Delting Dolphins, was the best Scottish-based swimmer in the blue ribbon 100m freestyle event in the 14 years age group. Although he was awarded the bronze medal, the two boys who beat him were both from English clubs.
Swimmers representing 29 English and 32 Scottish clubs competed over five days at the top level competition. In his first national championships, Donnie had qualified for 10 events. He produced good PBs in the 200m breaststroke, long course bests in the 200m backstroke and 200m individual medley and was on his entry time for the 100m breaststroke. Only his 100m backstroke was a little off his entry time.
However, it was in the five freestyle races that Donnie performed his best, breaking his Shetland age group records.
In the 200m freestyle heats he improved by 1.5 seconds on his previous long course time which was enough to qualify for the final. An excellent race resulted in him taking over one second off his heat time to finish in 2.18.91, seventh place and fourth out of the Scottish boys.
In the 800m freestyle Donnie was a fraction ahead of Sandy Walker from Heart of Midlothian until the last turn. In the final 50m they pushed all the way, Sandy touching one second ahead to take third place to Donnie’s fourth.
A virtual repeat performance took place on Friday during the 400m freestyle when again the two boys kept pace with one another throughout the eight- length race, with once more Sandy just beating Donnie by a mere fingernail, 0.12 seconds ahead.
The result was a fifth place for Donnie.
On Saturday, for the fourth day in a row, the boys lined up in lanes one and two, with 12- year-old Dale McAnish from Grangemouth in lane three. With similar entry times and having witnessed the earlier freestyle events, again an exciting race was expected.
The youngsters did not disappoint. For the first 400m all three could not be separated, but over the next 400m Donnie inched slightly in front of Sandy and a couple of body lengths ahead of Dale. Donnie worked hard, maintained excellent pace and increased his lead a fraction of a second each length.
At the final 100m both boys gave it their utmost, but the lead Donnie had built up was just enough to give him a clear three seconds over Sandy and a superb long course time of 18.53.22.
At this stage of the event Donnie was the fastest 10-12 year boy, but in the following heat Thomas Gregson, all the way from Portsmouth, produced an outstanding swim to take first place overall. As Thomas is English, in addition to getting silver medal for second place Donnie was awarded an age group champion medal as the top Scot.
On the last day, the 100m freestyle heats brought an unanticipated challenge when, as the race started, the starting flash light for a deaf swimmer failed and the false start rope was dropped as the rest of the swimmers hit the water. Unfortunately Donnie swam hard into the rope giving himself a painful red rope burn.
In the few minutes that it took to re-start the race, Donnie started to shiver and was disappointed in his heat time. Fortunately it was still fast enough to qualify for the final. In the final of an exciting 100m freestyle he lost out on the bronze medal by half a second.
Felix attacked the 100m freestyle, from the start swimming 55.77 which was only seven hundredths of a second away from Olympic swimmer Robbie Renwick’s North district record and only eight tenths away from the Scottish record. When converted the 54.17 time also broke the Shetland open and age group records.
Felix started the week-long competition with the 200m freestyle, where he was joined by team mate Tom Raikes, in the same heat. Tom just beat Felix with a very good swim. However, Felix’s swim gained him a place in the final in which he came eighth. Felix also swam a good 400m IM in which he was on his PB and came ninth.
The following day both boys swam the 100m butterfly, this time in different heats and again they both swam very well. Felix won his way through to the evening’s final where he improved his time to a 1.02.88, another Shetland record, to come sixth and fourth best Scot.
Felix swam a very impressive 400m freestyle where he broke the Shetland open and age group records. Saturday saw both Tom and Felix swim a gruelling 200m butterfly. Tom was off first, swimming a very determined race in the very competitive 16-18 age group, where he was the second best 18-year-old. Felix won through to the final were he came fourth and third Scot in another Shetland age group record time.
In the afternoon Felix also swam the 1500m freestyle where he put on a good display to be on his PB.
The last day in the 200m IM Felix swam to the reserve position. Tom swam the 100m freestyle and led up to the 150m mark and finished right on his PB. Felix has qualified for the British Nationals in Sheffield in August.
Sarah Williamson and Megan Petursdottir from the Shetland Amateur Competitive Swimming Club were also competing at their first nationals in the 11-12 years age group.
Sarah was one of the surprise packages of the meet. As the only 11-year-old in the 100m breaststroke on Sunday morning, the last day of the meet, she was in the first and slowest heat of the breaststroke event. She cruised to a comfortable first place in her heat, with a four-second improvement on her entry time.
As the event went on it started to become apparent that Sarah was one of the fastest and was on her way to the final, where she qualified seventh fastest. In the final she turned at the 50m mark in fourth place. She was unable to improve on this in the second 50, finishing in sixth place, but it was an outstanding performance.
On the Thursday morning both Sarah and Megan were competing in the 200m breaststroke. Sarah improved on her entry time by four seconds to finish 14th overall, while Megan’s two-second improvement saw her finish 20th.
Megan had the privilege of opening the nationals on Wednesday morning as she swam in the first heat of the first event of this year’s championship, the 200m butterfly. Despite it being a tough enough event to swim in a 25m pool, never mind a 50m one, Megan produced a gutsy performance to equal her PB.
In the 4x100m relay on Sunday night Megan swam the backstroke leg, taking a second off her short course best time.
A spokesman said the girls trained with the Clickimin squad and their achievement was a tribute to their hard work and dedication to the sport. It is likely this could be their first nationals of many.