SWINDON Tigersharks Head Coach Lesley Leffers was left pleasantly surprised by quality performances of her youth squad and hopes it continues into another weekend of competition.
Leffers was disappointed at the Wiltshire ASA County Youth Championships 12 months ago couldn't help but was all smiles two thirds into this years event. “We had a fabulous weekend (last weekend),” she said. “Far better than I’d hoped. We’ve won a lot of junior championships and had swimmers featuring in the senior championships which has been a big surprise for me.
“The kids have worked very hard and they came here and really wanted to show what they can do. They have and that's been a really good turnaround from last year.”
Fifteen-year-old Sean Purvis was the standout performer and was crowned County junior champion in the seven disciplines he contested. Fifteen-year-old Rebecca Cook continued her rehabilitation from two serious injuries to claim a gold and a bronze, while Bethany Wakefield secured two junior titles and two bronzes.
Leffers was full of praise for her youngsters who have suffered a lack of role models in recent years: “Our problem in Tigersharks, is that all of our swimmers go to university when they hit 18, so then there is a big gap at youth level.
“We were in a tough spot because all of our national qualifiers all left at the same time. These swimmers had nobody to look up to and work towards, they are the next generation.
“Lots of our swimmers are quite close to National Championship qualifying times. We’d had a big gap of non-national qualifiers and now we’ve got quite a few that are very close to national qualifying times. I think that they’re all working hard off the back of one another to get those times.”
This Saturday the Link Centre will host the final two sessions of the Wiltshire ASA County Youth Championships before the younger swimmers, boys aged 9-14 and girls aged 9-14, compete in the British Age Group categories or ‘BAGCATS’ competition on Sunday.
Leffers is confident of another good weekend for Tigersharks: “We’re very strong in the BAGCATS. We won the trophy last year by a very long way.
“We’re very strong in the younger age groups. I’m pleased that our older swimmers have matched them. It’s taken them a while to get back up there but I’m very pleased with that.”
The strong performances have convinced Leffers many of her young swimmers will hit the challenging qualifying times required for an invition to the National Championships, held, this season, in Sheffield in August: “I think that Sean Purvis, Rebecca Cook and Oliver Howitt will get there this year, Conor Keye swam very well last weekend and so has Bethany Wakefield. There’s a few that are knocking on the door now, so I’m really pleased about that.”