Swimming: Talented teenagers inspired by Games

Carnegie's Mark Szaranek winning the 400 IM at the Scottish Gas Age Groups Swimming Championships. Picture: Markus Stitz
Carnegie's Mark Szaranek winning the 400 IM at the Scottish Gas Age Groups Swimming Championships. Picture: Markus Stitz
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Just 15 months to go until the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow and the lure of the big time is clearly bringing out the best in Scotland’s new guard of swimmers.

After day two of the Scottish Gas National Age Group Championships, it is obvious that Suleman Butt, Charlotte McKenzie, Mark Szaranek and Duncan Scott are among the teenagers inspired by the prospect of competing in one of the world’s biggest events in front of a home crowd

Butt, just 15, claimed his second gold medal at the Royal Commonwealth Pool last night and he has promised himself a few more.

Winner of the 100m backstroke on Wednesday, the Aberdeen swimmer added the 200m freestyle, winning in a fast 1:54.36.

“I definitely want to make it to Glasgow for the Commonwealth Games,” said the teenager whose height and Popeye physique belie his tender years.

“I’m just about to sit my Standard Grades and, next year, I’m going to just do four Highers instead of five so I can concentrate on the Games.”

An all-rounder, Butt and his coach, Alison Low, haven’t yet selected an event to target for the Games, although he himself favours the 100m and 200m freestyle.

McKenzie (FIRST) is a 16-year-od with a Commonwealth debut firmly in her sights. She already has a Games qualifying time and she obliterated the 16 years 200m backstroke age group record with a winning 2:13.65.

Last year, the Larbert youngster swam for Team GB at the European Junior Championships and her goal this summer is the World Junior Championships in Dubai in August.

But she won’t have it all her own way in the scramble for Glasgow selection. Lucy Hope (BEST) and Warrender’s Megan Briggs are in this summer’s British line-up for the European Junior Championships in Poland and they finished second and third respectively.

The closest finish of the night was in the 16-17 years 200m freestyle. Stroke for stroke all the way, Jordan Hughes (North Ayrshire) got the golden touch in 1:54.14 with Szaranek (Carnegie) having to make do with silver in 1:54.16.

But it turned out to be a minor blip for the Fifer. Winner of the 100m backstroke on day one, Szaranek, who is coached by dad John, was back in the pool to add gold in the 100m butterfly (55.86) and another in the very tough 400m individual medley (4:37.14).

Scott (FIRST) is another promising 15-year-old and he completed a golden hat-trick. Winner of the 200m breaststroke on day one, the all-rounder added the 100m butterfly (57.61) and then the 400m individual medley (4:31.56).

Kelso’s Kirsty Armstrong, who competes for the Borders Elite Team, collected her second 13 years title of the Championships, setting the 100m breaststroke (1:17.13) alongside the opening session’s 200m butterfly.

Keri-Anne Payne, the Olympic Open Water swimmer, claimed her second gold of the Championships in the 17 and over 800m freestyle.

The 25-year-old joined Warrender towards the end of last year following her marriage to Scotland’s Olympic swimmer, David Carry, and she cruised to victory in 8:40.84.

Lexie Waller (Heart of Midlothian) won the 10-12 years 200m backstroke and she had the added bonus of setting an 11 years Scottish age group record of 2:33.39.