TRARALGON Swimming Club underlined its status as the pre-eminent force in Country Victoria by winning its 15th Alan Monaghan Shield in the past 16 years at the 2015 Victorian Country Swimming Championships.
Held at the Kardinia Aquatic Centre in Geelong across the Australia Day weekend, Traralgon competed against more than 700 athletes from 42 other country clubs.
The 79-strong Traralgon team combined for 2652 points to nearly double the score of second-placed club Geelong (1457 points), while Warrnambool (1163 points), Ballarat Gold (908) and Bendigo East (826) rounded out the top five.
The club also convincingly won the male and female aggregate point score shields.
A total of 61 medals were procured by the squad, comprising 34 gold, 12 silver and 15 bronze, as well as 27 relay team medals which included 14 gold.
Head coach Brian Ford and assistant Dean Gooch were delighted with the efforts of their charges.
“While we had 23 individual medallists, 25 additional swimmers won medals in relays, and total of 66 swimmers assisted in the points score of our awesome result,” Ford said.
Mikaela Cornelissen (16) managed an incredibly tough program across the three days to achieve a fantastic haul of 10 medals that included seven gold and saw her take out the prestigious Bruce Carter trophy awarded to the swimmer achieving most points across all events.
Cornelissen also won the Australia Day Medallion for the best female performance at the meet.
Fresh from a successful open swimming championship campaign, Emily Beecroft proved herself the dominant multi-class swimmer of the meet with five gold medals, while Caiden Gill’s (16) efforts in winning three gold and four bronze were recognised with his Australia Day Medallion for the best male performance at the meet.
Other triple gold medallists were Jordyn Cargill who, at just 10 years of age, won the butterfly, backstroke and freestyle in the 11 and under age group, and the brilliant Alex Tsebelis (14) whose meet success also included two bronze medals.
Lauren Akers (14), Connor O’Neill (14), Ellodie Reid (14), Melina de Cort (14) and Sophie Waller (11) enjoyed a fantastic meet with two gold medals each.
Bridget Cain (13), Chance Doultree (12) and the evergreen Caitie Mitchell (27) – who in her return to swimming for the club delighted onlookers with an exciting win in the 18 and over 50 metre breaststroke by 0.01 of a second – all earned gold medals.
Thomas Hamilton (10), Sadira Snell (13), Ashley Withell (16), Locke DeGaris (14), Maggie O’Keefe (17), Trent Morrow (18), Alice Peddle (14), Neisha Ablett (11), Caydence Bezzina (11), Harliai Curthoys-Davies (12) and Ben Geard (33) each produced fine swims to win a medal each.
Incredibly for Geard, this was the 17th consecutive country swimming championship at which he has won a medal.
The squad set championship event records in five individual events and by seven of its relay teams, as well as country records set by four of its relay teams.
Cornelissen established event records in the 16/17 years 100m fly and 100m free, as well as the open 100m free, while O’Neill set an event record in the 14/15yrs 100 back in 1.02.31.
Young gun Sophie Waller produced a new event record in the 11 years and under 50m back event breaking previous Traralgon swimmer Georgia Tsebelis’ time from 2009.
Among the many terrific performances by the group, Ford labelled O’Neill’s win in the open 200m backstroke as one of the most outstanding swims he had witnessed during his 17 years at the helm of the club.
Ford also paid special tribute to 33-year former swimmer and assistant coach of the club Geard who has recently taken up a head coaching position in northern Queensland.
“Ben is the club’s greatest ever country championships swimmer, as well as a fantastic person and coach. We really wanted to win the points trophy for Ben, and we have dedicated the victory to him,” Ford said.