To say that the University of St Andrews Swimming Club are having a good season would be an understatement. The men’s and women’s competitive teams wrapped up a historic first semester just in time for Christmas with a 3-1 W-L match record, a strong indicator of the programme’s growing depth and strength.
The team set off the season with its first ever Varsity match against the UK’s top ranked squad Edinburgh – a swimming powerhouse in its own right – with a remarkably young squad: 16 of the 24 are newcomers. While Kingdom ultimately fell to Capital, a fast paced start to the season against a world class squad gave the team the valuable chance to measure themselves early on.
Edinburgh is in a separate competitive league from St Andrews, so the match results didn’t count toward the team’s overall dual meet standing. St Andrews’ first real test came a few weeks later against Heriot-Watt University, the top ranked divisional squad. The final result came down to the wire, with St Andrews edging Heriot-Watt out 88-82.
“Edinburgh was a great practice test. It definitely showed us where our strengths and weaknesses were,” said returning swimmer and club outreach officer Lucy Boulton. “We took what we learned there and put it in the pool – and when we went up against Heriot-Watt, we knew what we were capable of, and did just that.”
The team continued its upward trajectory throughout the semester, sweeping Abertay 104-64 with top individual finishes from Giselle Chauhan (50m freestyle, 31.44), Angus Waugh (100m freestyle, 53.99; 50m freestyle, 25.90) and Charles Bason (100m individual medley, 1:11.88).
A week later St Andrews fought a tough battle but ultimately fell to Dundee 89-79. With this year’s result being one of the closest margins between the two teams in history, one has to credit the programme’s exceptional improvement this year. The competitive team is going into its second year coached by Tom Bourne, who expanded on the success: “This year, the team has seen an influx of passionate and committed swimmers from across the globe… [and] the team’s dedication to training has paid off bucket loads in competition.”
Added dry land sessions, increased pool time and a new, more hands on approach from club president Eilidh Levein and captains Giselle Chauhan and Alexander O’Neill have played heavily into the team’s growth. These efforts should be strongly applauded as they are central to what has made this year’s team tick.
A strong indicator of a team’s depth is always relay performance, and though a loss, the meet against Dundee displayed that newfound depth well. While the women’s relays fell short to Dundee, the St Andrews men edged out Dundee in both the 4 x 50m medley relay (Leon Vaughan – BK, 30.53; Max Glover – BR, 34.47; Paul Baumstark – FL, 28.59; Kamil Kolosowski – FR, 24.64) and 4 x 50m freestyle relay (Waugh, 25.57; Chris Li, 26.39; Ben Read, 25.61; Kolosowski, 24.86).
The last meet of first semester against Glasgow Caledonian saw St Andrews sail to a 110-58 victory. In February, St Andrews will take on Strathclyde for the last divisional meet of the season, an, depending on other bracket results, St Andrews could be looking as high as a first or second place divisional finish – unheard of in previous years. This, combined with some of the highest attendance rates and best individual place finishes at some of the UK’s largest invitational swim meets this year including Stirling Sprints and BUCS Short Course Championships, have showed the depth of this team’s commitment to success and indicate continued growth to be had in next semester.
This sense of strength and expansion is not just a sentiment that has been echoed by the team, however, but also by the wider club itself. The club’s committee have worked hard to show their inclusivity to the St Andrews student community, with the growth of the recreational side of the club which grants swimmers of all abilities access to pool time a testament to club president Eilidh Levein’s success. In addition, the establishment of a ‘development squad’ for more serious swimmers, who, although may lack the training or the time to commit to the competitive team fully, get to experience practices led by experienced swimmers and occasionally join team sets, has shown the club an influx of prospective, dedicated talent.
Moving forward, the club hopes to continue the successes of first semester both in the pool and out. If the past semester has been any indication, they will no doubt do just that.