Swimming Gunnedah is celebrating a hugely successful weekend in the pool at Homebush with three swimmers returning home NSW Country champions while others picked up a medal and top 10 finishes.

Josh Spinks (11), Alexis Whitton and Banjo Fitzgerald clinched gold at the NSW Country Championships at the Sydney Olympic Park Aquatic Centre and Max Smith snatched a silver in what was a great weekend for junior racing especially.

In a squad of 10 swimmers, Spinks led the medal tally with a stellar performance across three days of racing to bring home an impressive six medals. The talented 11-year-old posted 13 personal best times from 13 races and snatched gold in the 400m freestyle after slicing 13.45 seconds off his season’s best. He also nailed a silver in the 200m Individual Medley where he slashed more than five seconds off the mark, and another four bronze medals in the 200m freestyle, 50m and 100m butterfly and 100m freestyle. Spinks came away with top 10 finishes in the 50m and 100m breaststroke (5th), 100m backstroke (5th) and 50m backstroke (7th). He finally broke the 30 second barrier in his 50m freestyle to hit the wall in a personal best time of 29.90 seconds to just miss a medal and finish fourth by a whisker. Spinks also put his stamp on the club history books with a club record in the 200m breaststroke, previously held by Jacob Smith, where he raced home in a time of 3:09.23.

Alexis Whitton (12) backed up after recent illness to snatch NSW Country gold in the 12 years girls 50m freestyle with a time of 28.64 – just off her personal best of 28 seconds. She also nabbed a silver medal in the 50m backstroke after finishing a close second behind her 2023 school Nationals team mate Georgia Wheeler from Young. Whitton came close to the medals in the 100m freestyle where she finished fifth and won a finalist ribbon in 8th place for the 100m backstroke. Also in the 12 years girls, Matilda Denovan dropped 0.59 seconds from her 50m freestyle with a time of 31.82 to place 36th.

Making a huge splash in the junior ranks was Banjo Fitzgerald who only swam his first competitive race nine months ago. He stormed home in the 9 years 50m butterfly to clinch his first Country title. The up and coming speedster sprinted up the pool to take gold in a cracking time of 35.44 and a new personal best time. It also earned him a Gunnedah club record that belonged to Josh Spinks. Banjo took home a medal of each colour, nailing a silver in the 100m freestyle and a bronze in the 50m freestyle where he dropped almost a second. Club mates in his nine-year-old age group which included Max Smith, Lewis Mainey and Rafe Denovan helped up the competition. Max snatched the silver in the 50m backstroke, with Banjo just missing the podium in fourth and Lewis Mainey racing home to drop 1.74 seconds to finish a close fifth. Smith also collected three nail biting fourths in his 50m freestyle, butterfly and 100m freestyle but still dropped time, while Mainey secured a top ten finish with sixth in the 50m freestyle. Rafe Denovan collected a 6th place finalist ribbon in the 50m breaststroke with a personal best time of 49.54 with Banjo coming in eighth. Max’s older brother Liam (11) also shined in his 50m backstroke, finishing just outside the medals with fifth place.

In the 10 years boys, Camden Many came close to standing on the podium after missing a medal by a fingernail in the 50m breaststroke. Many touched the wall in fourth in a personal best time of 45.72, with the bronze medallist clocking 45.47. He was also a top ten finalist in the 50m backstroke after finishing a credible eighth with a best time of 40.34.

Leading the squad and providing inspiration to the juniors was respected senior swimmer Baxter Knapman (13). In a tough age group, Baxter nailed four personal best times from eight races, including the 50m breaststroke where he won a finalist ribbon in eighth place with a season’s best time. He also dropped time in the 50m freestyle to clock 29.24 seconds, as well as the 100m freestyle (18th) and the 200m backstroke (30th).

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