Young Southland swimmers who performed with distinction at the New Zealand open and division two championships in Auckland and Hamilton recently are expected to perform well at the national age-group championships in Wellington next week.
Eleven Southland competitors under coach Jeremy Duncan, assisted by manager Megan McKenzie, will mix with the country's best over five days of fierce competition.
The province has several rated in the top eight, suggesting some will make finals.
A total of 664 swimmers from 82 clubs will compete in Wellington, including 23 from three overseas clubs.
The young swimmers have had up to eight (three before school) two-hour training sessions in the pool along with two one-hour gym sessions per week leading up to the national championships, on top of school commitments.
Southland's representation includes five from Murihiku, four from Orca and one each from Collegiate and Hokonui (Gore).
Jack Corkery and Kees Herrick will fly the flag for Southland in the 13-year-old boys section, with Emma McLeay and Amelia McKenzie in the 12-13 years girls.
William Howie and Emily Joyce are entered for 14-year-olds and Kyla Marshall and Katie Grant in the 15-year-olds girls section.
Harrison Finnerty and Hannah Morgan will be on hand against the 16-year-olds, with Sian Davis the sole entrant in the 17-year-old division.
The long-course (50m) season is staged nationwide from October to April with the national short-course (25m) season getting under way in June.
Michael Finlay was the only Southland open swimmer at the New Zealand championships in Auckland, setting three Southland records in the 50m and 100m sections and finishing in the final of the 50m freestyle.
Seven Southlanders performed with distinction at the division two nationals in Hamilton in March, two from Hokonui, three from Orca and two from Murihiku.
Chris Grant (Orca) bagged golds in the 200m and 400m individual medleys and bronze in the 200m butterfly.
Emma McLeay (Orca) won gold in the 100m and 200m butterfly, as well as silver in the 50m butterfly.
Kees Herrick (Orca) finished with a six-medal haul, including gold in the 200m backstroke, silver in the 200m and 400m individual medley and bronze in the 100m backstroke, 100m freestyle and 100m butterfly, earning him the title of second-highest points scorer in the 13-year-old boys category.
Jack Corkery won silver in the 200m backstroke and Flynn Sinclair gained bronze in the 200m individual medley.
Corkery, William Howie and Herrick are competing at the national championships for the first time, following in the footsteps of older brothers who competed 10 years ago.
Corkery is tracking brothers Matt and Tom, Howie follows his brothers Paul and Thomas, and Herrick his older brother Hayden.
The Orca club's representatives did particularly well to finish 18th of 80 clubs in the country at the division two championships.
Significantly, the club was one of only two from which each swimmer averaged more than 100 points.
- The Southland Times