Relay team hit the magic mark

Cameron NewboldAlbany Advertiser
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Albany’s red-hot relay team Tom Gawned, Luke Wallinger, Jacques Swarts and Jake Shepherd after achieving a second national qualifying time.
Camera IconAlbany’s red-hot relay team Tom Gawned, Luke Wallinger, Jacques Swarts and Jake Shepherd after achieving a second national qualifying time. Credit: Laurie Benson

Never has the magic mark of 1min.45sec. been so relevant for an emerging Albany relay team than in their last-ditch effort to secure a national qualifying time.

Jacques Swarts, Jake Shepherd, Luke Wallinger and Tom Gawned are the talk of the town following their brilliant swim at HBF Stadium in Perth last weekend.

Appropriately named the “Last Chance Meet” the Albany foursome gave themselves one last crack at qualifying for the nationals in the 4x50m freestyle relay — and it proved time-perfect.

The team, having already qualified for nationals in the 4x50m medley relay, were unsuccessful in their recent attempt at getting under the 1:45 mark needed in the freestyle but that didn’t deter the young Albany Swim Club stars.

Coach Marshall McAleese pushed them to improve as they ramped up training ready for a final crack at qualifying. Their dedication to shave even the smallest margins off their individual times was rewarded when the team stopped the clock, incredibly, at 1:45.00 to book another lane in the pool in Adelaide next month.

Albany turned for home in 1:20.22, leaving the anchor Gawned to bring it home in 24.78sec.

Gawned motored through the water and did just that, sending the Albany team into jubilation on the pool deck. McAleese described how proud he was to see the team knuckle down and strive to reach their goal.

“It was bloody amazing, the versatility the boys showed,” he said.

“The first three boys swam well inside their PBs to give us a chance and then Tom brought us home.

Albany Swim Club relay team Tom Gawned, Luke Wallinger, Jacques Swarts and Jake Shepherd.
Camera IconAlbany Swim Club relay team Tom Gawned, Luke Wallinger, Jacques Swarts and Jake Shepherd. Credit: Albany Advertiser

“Three boys are natural sprinters but Luke is a distance guy — he worked on his speed and improved the most.

“I’m just so proud of them. We had a go at the 4x50m freestyle and got really close, but they were determined to swim time and qualify.”

Collectively, the Albany team said they didn’t see the time coming, labelling what they were attempting as nearly impossible given they had swum different strokes in their medley relay qualification.

The nationals will be held in Adelaide next month, for which Gawned has also qualified in seven individual events.

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