Swimming: Small swim clubs reveal big hearts

By Stuart Whitaker

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Members of the Mount Maunganui Swimming Club team that competed at the New Zealand Junior Swimming Championships: (Front) Ruby Helm, 10, (L-R) Poppy Wilson, 10, Kel Iggulden, 11, Scott Bartlett, head coach, Gus Shivnan, 11, Lucy Bartlett, 11. Photo / George Novak
Members of the Mount Maunganui Swimming Club team that competed at the New Zealand Junior Swimming Championships: (Front) Ruby Helm, 10, (L-R) Poppy Wilson, 10, Kel Iggulden, 11, Scott Bartlett, head coach, Gus Shivnan, 11, Lucy Bartlett, 11. Photo / George Novak

Youngsters from across the region have excelled at the New Zealand Junior Swimming Championships held at the National Aquatic Centre in Auckland.

From a team perspective, Mount Maunganui Swimming Club has gone from obscurity last year to an impressive 12th place overall after this year's event.

"Six [swimmers] qualified and five attended. And for such a small team it was something quite special," said coach Scott Bartlett.

"This was against some pretty big clubs from around New Zealand. We didn't even get on the table last year."

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Ruby Helm was a shining star, coming away from the meeting ranked third girl overall and clutching three under-10 national titles in three breaststroke distances, two Bay of Plenty records, two silvers and a bronze.

But I'm not surprised because they have worked hard towards it and they walked away from it feeling pretty special.
Scott Bartlett, coach

Gus Shivnan won four bronze medals in the under-11 boys division and he, Lucy Bartlett and Kel Iggulden also put in personal best performances. Poppy Wilson was the fifth team member.

"For such a small group they did an amazing job," said Bartlett, who took over the coaching role last year. "They set the goals they wanted to achieve in October last year and trained hard and just stuck to it. At the championship they pulled it all together against some of the big guns."

It is an impressive turnaround in the club's fortunes.

"But I'm not surprised because they have worked hard towards it and they walked away from it feeling pretty special."

The Greerton Swimming Club, which finished 17th overall also had its success stories with 11-year-old Louis Fitzjohn the standout, lowering his own 50m butterfly record when winning the national title and also winning the 100m butterfly, again setting a new Bay of Plenty record.

His third national title/regional record combination came in the 200m medley where he took nine seconds of the previous record.

The club also returned with a silver and five bronze medals.

Otumoetai Swimming Club's swimmers Mia Gardiner, Lily Pearce, Penny Middleweek, Ayla Redshaw, Zachary Graham, Matthew Wagstaff, Emily Mahon and Zach Reeder all posted personal best times, with Reeder also securing a bronze as part of the Bay of Plenty 200m medley team.

The highlight of the final day was Wagstaff's swim into fourth in the under-12 butterfly with an 11-second personal best.

From the Papamoa club Zyleika Pratt-Smith won two golds and two silvers while Rotorua-based Bethlehem College student Emily Spear, 12, won the 400m freestyle title.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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