GIPPSLAND Regional Aquatic Centre was the place to be for the Victorian Long Course Country Swimming Championships, with hundreds of swimmers culminating in Traralgon from January 20 to 22.

Almost 700 swimmers across 32 clubs were in town to compete for their respective clubs, but it would only come down to two clubs for the championship.

It was the first Country Swimming Championships held indoors since 1986, a true testament to the facilities at the Gippsland Regional Aquatic Centre.

Gippsland Swimming president, Jaqueline Madden was stoked with the event, and said she was looking forward to the future of swimming in Traralgon.

“This was the seventh time since 2009 that we’ve hosted in the district,” she said.

“Previously we’ve hosted in Sale and Warragul, but this is the first time we’ve hosted at an indoor pool … since the 1980s.”

Latrobe City Mayor, Darren Howe and Member for Eastern Victoria Region, Melina Bath attended the opening ceremony, as swimming action began on Saturday, January 20.

Gippsland Swimming Life Member and Traralgon Swimming Club President, Jane Mitchell, read the officials oath, and South Gippsland Bass coach, Dylan Muir and MC Gemma Cook read the athletes oath.

Traralgon Swimming Club was well-represented, with 95 swimmers, one of the most-represented clubs at the championships, up there with Geelong and South Gippsland Bass, giving them a good chance at the title.

Back where it all started: Olympic swimmers Emily Beecroft and Ruby Storm returned home for the state championships, proudly representing Traralgon once again. Photograph supplied

“Our calculations based on swimmers’ times before the meet showed that we could possibly finish third, well behind two other teams, however the performance of our swimmers, and in particular our relay teams, was outstanding,” Traralgon Swimming Club Senior Head Coach, Brian Ford said.

Heats and finals were raced over three days of competition, with the finals completing the event on Monday, January 22 along with the presentation ceremony.

“The result in the end came down to the final few relays which was really exciting,” Madden said.

Geelong was eventually crowned champions, beating Traralgon by just 46 points, with South Gippsland Bass third.

All clubs finishing in the top 10 were presented with plaques to commemorate their efforts over the weekend.

Despite coming second, the Traralgon Swimming Club was thrilled with their efforts.

Traralgon won 34 Gold, 19 Silver and 23 Bronze medals.

From their 95 entrants, 12 girls and nine boys won individual medals, 30 additional swimmers won medals in relays, with 11 also making finals or finished in the top eight in relays.

“Winning 15 of the 22 relays on offer highlighted the ability of our swimmers to race a steam and perform at a higher level for each other than individually,” Ford said.

“On an individual level, we also had the performance of our captains, (Ashley) Nicholes and Molly Cargill, who between them won seven Gold, six Silver and one Bronze medal.

“(Nicholes) was quite amazing, swimming in 32 races in total, making finals in all of his 15 individual and four relay swims – a supreme performance winning him the title of Swimmer of the Meet.”

Nicholes was presented with the Bruce Carter Trophy for the highest aggregate points across all events, and Cargill was the Female Swimmer of the Meet, for scoring the highest World Aquatic Points at the championships.

Crew: Traralgon swimmers Connor O’Neill, Ash Nicholes, Joel Baillie and Jordyn Cargill had a super carnival. Photograph supplied

There was heats and finals over three days, culminating with the finals on Monday afternoon and the presentation of the trophy.

The Gippsland Regional Aquatic Centre thrived in hosting the event, holding hundreds of people in the venue across the three days.

“We had seating all around the pool, we had seating for around 750 people – so there’s already 500 in the complex so (we) brought in more,” Madden said.

“More than anything, the facility is just amazing.

“Swimming Victoria were absolutely thrilled with the running of the event, the facility itself.

“Gippsland Swimming is really proud of what we did.”

The success of the event is a huge boost for Latrobe City, with plans to host more swimming events of this magnitude in the future.

“For Latrobe City themselves to have it at the (Gippsland Regional Aquatic) Centre, I know in the past what I can bring to the community, they value that up to $5 million, indirectly and directly,” Madden said.

“But the Traralgon Swimming Club had the event at their pool, showcasing the facility, its just a huge boost to the community.”

Gippsland Swimming is set to host the Gippsland Swimming Championships over long weekend in March at the Gippsland Regional Aquatic Centre, and the venue is also set to host the Country Long Course in early August.

“We will keep applying to have events there for Swimming Victoria, but of course you have to share it around,” Madden said.