One year, you’re in the best form of your life, training thirteen hours a week in the pool, and making finals at national level swimming; the next, you’re smoking ten-a-day, boozing, and developing a tummy that could rival a heavily pregnant woman. While this case, which is in fact my own sorry story, is quite extreme, most swimmers in the St Andrews swimming team feel the similar jaded sentiments in realising that their prime in the pool is in fact over. What I have noticed this year, however, is that there is hope for the future. The influx of new first year talent has neither succumbed to my pessimism, nor developed a nicotine addiction. The recent Scottish University Swimming Championships, 2nd – 3rd March, in Inverness has not only provided tangible successes, but also marked a change in the fortunes of one of St Andrews’ lesser known sports teams.
Our ever-so-serious Men’s Captain, Chris Wollner, led his team in style, by making the 100m Backstroke final in the first session. In the 200m Backstroke, however, he went one place further and touched in third place, earning the St Andrews team the first medal of the competition. Chris also achieved success in the 50m Backstroke final, also finishing third.
The rest of the team followed his example. Hannah Krone and Katherine Schmitt rose to the challenge of the 200m Individual Medley. In a nail-biting race, narrowly missing out on the bronze medal, Hannah clocked a time of 2:44 and finished in fourth place. Hannah progressed to the final of the 100m Individual Medley, maintaining her time of 1:15.54 from the preliminary rounds. Katherine had her greatest successes in the 50 metre sprints. Clocking times of 31.11 seconds for 50m Freestyle and 33.57 seconds for 50m Butterfly, Katherine succeeded in upholding her personal best times from her high school swimming days – an impressive feat given that her training hours are a third of what she swam last year.
Silvia Devecchi began her final ever competition in style in the 100m Backstroke in a time of 1:26. Also joining Silvia in the 50m Backstroke event was water polo playing JSA recruit, Andrea Martinez, who swam a time of 38.61 seconds. This female quartet progressed to the final of the 200m Medley relay improving on their time in the heats, finishing in eigth place overall.
The elusive Will Johnston, who had success in the pool at the Scottish National Short Course Championships last December, continued his winning streak. He placed fourth in the 100m Butterfly, missing out on the bronze medal by one tenth of a second, and third in the 50m Butterfly in a time of 26.68 seconds.
The token triathlete of the team, Mark Diamond, discovered his talent for breaststroke in the men’s 200m Medley relay. Having never swum breaststroke in competition before, he pulled a time of 32.98 for 50m Breaststroke out of the proverbial hat – a time that would have easily put him in the final of the individual event.
Arguably, the most nerve-wracking race was the men’s 200m Freestyle relay. The quartet of Mark Diamond, Nick Stutchbury, Chris Wollner, and Will Johnston qualified third fastest team for the final. Nick dipped into the “25 second club” in his leg of the race – a result that proved his continued determination throughout the season. The quartet finished the final in fifth place, beating a number of teams in the higher division of the Scottish University League.
This set of results has been the most successful for St Andrews at this competition in years, perchance ever. Some of you may be asking, why? A lot of it has to do with a very important person: Coach Michelle Risinger. Michelle, who had previously swam and played waterpolo for St Andrews while studying for her masters from 2009 – 2010, has coached the team since September 2011. Her dedication, determination and enthusiasm for the sport has inspired the team to achieve to the highest of their capability – for which the team, and I in particular, am incredibly grateful.
With my rather unhealthy lungs, entering into the water was entering into a game of Russian Roulette. Just finishing the race was a bonus. Despite retaining those extra pounds from Christmas, 2009, I made it into two finals. With the overall success of the team, there are many things to be proud of, and a lot of things to look forward to.