The Swimming Gunnedah team has returned jubilant from the NSW Country Championships with three silver medals and a bronze, coupled with a swag of finalist ribbons placing competitors in the top 10. 

Club records were smashed along the way and personal best times were registered as the squad put their hearts and souls into their events.

There was jubilation in the camp as Baxter Knapman snatched a bronze medal in the 10-11 years 50m breaststroke stopping the clock in a personal best time of 40.76 seconds to beat club mate Jacob Smith by just .04 of a second. The cheering and clapping from the Gunnedah support team was the loudest in the gallery, as the pair fought it out to the finish.

The training mates reversed the roles in the 100m event with Jacob flashing home for a silver, clipping 4.98 seconds from his entry time, with Baxter Knapman coming in a close fourth and almost four seconds improvement.

Jacob went on to win another silver medal in the 10-11 years 50m butterfly, in  a personal best time of 31.56 seconds, smashing his own club record. He scored a huge personal victory in the 11-12 years 200m medley, where he slashed 11.41 seconds from his entry time and finished fifth overall. As the second-placed 11-year-old his results auger well for this event next year.

In the 12 and under 200m freestyle the speedster improved his entry time by 5.84 seconds, gaining a finalist ribbon and taking confidence in the knowledge that he was the first 11-year-old to the wall.

The 11 years 100m backstroke was a nail-biting event for onlookers as Jacob swam strongly into fourth place, just missing a medal after improving his time by 3.03 seconds. Jacob rewrote another of his own club records in the 50m freestyle with the excellent time of 29.46 seconds placing him seventh overall.

Ten-year-old Alexis Whitton won a silver medal in the 10 years girls 50m freestyle, shaving 0.83 from her entry time to stop the clock at 31.75 seconds, shattering the club record of 31.78 seconds set by state champion Tabitha Andriunas 42 years ago.  

The rapidly improving youngster finished fifth with a finalist ribbon in the 10 years 100m backstroke improving by 5.20 seconds to register her best time of 1:23.33. 

Molly Ramien competed strongly in the freestyle event swimming into sixth place with a personal best time of 32.97 seconds. Molly claimed another finalist ribbon with sixth place after improving her time by 5.05 seconds in the 100m backstroke.

Competing in the 13 years division, Tahlia Smith was another finalist, swimming into sixth place in the 100m backstroke after clipping 1.32 seconds from her best.

Competing at his first ever Country Champs, Josh Spinks eclipsed the nine years club record years for the 50m butterfly held by Jake Bastion since November 6, 2010. 

Audrey Hannaford went close to cracking the 30 second barrier with a personal best time of 30.99 seconds in the 11-12 years 50m freestyle, while 14-year-old Alex Thompson had his first NSW Country experience and put in a strong effort in the 50m freestyle. 

There was a collective sigh of disbelief in the crowd halfway through the Sunday morning session when the remaining events were cancelled after a competitor vomited in the pool and it had to be closed for deep cleaning.

Unfortunately for Jacob Smith, Josh Spinks, Alexis Whitton, Molly Ramien and Tahlia Smith it meant that they could not compete in their remaining individual events with both the boys and girls freestyle and medley relays also called off. 

After so many improved times and support from the club, including the coach John Hickey and parents cheering and supporting the swimmers both in the stands and online at home watching SwimTV, it was extremely disappointing for the team but in typical club unity, they returned home to focus on upcoming district and school carnivals with the NSW Speedo Sprint finals looming fast.

Prior to the start of the championships, coach John Hickey said he had all confidence in his squad as they are all experienced racers, and they know what to do.

“They just follow the process, and they will race well,” he said.

“I am looking for PBs and if they win a medal and are close to their personal best time, I will be happy – medals are a bonus.” 

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