2016 SU INTERNATIONAL/DAVE MCCULLAGH MEMORIAL MEET
- Friday, March 4th – Sunday, March 6th
- Bangor Aurora Aquatic & Leisure Complex, Northern Ireland
- Prelims at 9:45am local (4:45am Eastern)/Finals at 5:30pm local (12:30pm Eastern), Sunday at 4:30pm local (11:30am Eastern)
- Meet Information
The 2016 Swim Ulster International/Dave McCullagh Memorial Meet took place at the Bangor Aurora Aquatic & Leisure Complex in Northern Ireland over the weekend.
With the meet serving as a qualifying competition for the European Junior Championships, European Championships, the Olympic Games, as well as being an IPC-sanctioned meet, several key athletes from the UK were on-hand to compete, even rendering some shake-ups to the Irish Swimming record books.
By the time the meet was done and dusted, 13 swimmers qualified for the European Senior Championships and 13 for the European Junior Championships. Below are highlights from the meet.
Shane Ryan‘s Olympic Cut
Former American National Teamer and international-level swimmer Shane Ryan finalized his transition to full Irish sporting citizenship by becoming the second Irish swimmer to secure qualification for the 2016 Summer Olympic Games. Note, Ryan does not qualify to claim any Irish records until his Irish eligibility comes through in May.
Entering the meet, Ryan’s lifetime best in the 100m backstroke was the 53.84 he registered at the 2013 U.S. National Championships, which qualified him to represent the United States at the bi-annual Duel in the Pool cross-Atlantic challenge. The 22-year-old was just short of that mark in 53.93, but still comfortably cleared the FINA “A” Olympic Qualifying Standard time of 54.36 and render the former Penn State swimmer a spot on the Irish Olympic roster.
The collective University of Stirling clan were sprinkled throughout the competition, making waves in their respective events, but swimming quite conservatively overall. 2014 Commonwealth Games Champion and 2015 FINA World Championship bronze medalist Ross Murdoch fired off winning times in 2 of 3 signature breaststroke events, but in rather lackluster times most likely indicating the Stirling squad’s heavy training load.
Murdoch led the charge in the 50m and 100 distances, where he scored times of 28.20 and 1:00.98, respectively. 22-year-old Murdoch then settled for 200m breaststroke silver in 2:14.71, just .06 of a second shy of the winner of the event, China’s Zhihao Zhang (2:14.71).
Of note in that men’s 100m breaststroke event, Irish swimmer Alex Murphy scored a personal best time of 1:01.01. That result was quick enough to qualify Murphy for a spot at this summer’s European Championships.
Stirling teammate Craig Benson was present across the 3 breaststroke races as well, earning times of 28.34 in the 50m, 1:01.39 in the 100m and 2:15.34 in the 200m race to rack up a silver and 2 bronze medals, respectively.
2015 European Games multi-gold medalist Duncan Scott took on a monster schedule, which included events outside his bread and butter 200m freestyle. For instance, Scott took 3rd in the men’s 200m butterfly, registering a time of 2:00.75, knocking over 2 seconds off of his previous best of 2:02.67 from February of last year.
Scott was also present alongside his teammates in a rare 100m breaststroke appearance where he touched in 1:06.64 for 9th. The 19-year-old also took on the 200m IM event where he hammered home a new best time of 2:02.33, almost a second faster than his pervious career-best of 2:01.57.
The 200 freestyle saw Scott take the gold handily, where the youngster registered the only sub-1:50 time of the field in 1:49.77. He won the gold in Baku in a time of 1:48.55, so this weekend’s performance was only a second slower than that outing from 2015.
Irish Records Galore
Junior swimmer Conor Ferguson kicked off an Irish record-breaking siege over the weekend, which included 20 new marks in the Irish Swimming record books. Ferguson started the party by clocking a new National Junior Record of 25.67 in the 50m backstroke. The race would then lead to 2 additional National Records for the Larne swimmer, as the 16-year-old broke records in the 100m and 200m backstroke events.
In the 100m race, Ferguson touched in 54.64 behind Shane Ryan, but was able to nab the National Record due to Ryan’s eligibility not yet being completed. For Ferguson, his time was just .3 off of the Olympic A qualifying mark, setting the youngster up to potentially nail the mark come Irish Trials in late April. Ferguson also set the 200m backstroke National Junior Record, scoring a time of 2:01.56 to break the old mark from 2009.
Ferguson’s Larne teammate Danielle Hill also turned heads in the women’s 50m backstroke race, touching in 29.15 for a new Irish Senior Record, overtaking the old mark of 29.44 that stood since 2010. Before the meet was done and dusted, Hill would also break the Irish Junior Record in the 50m freestyle (26.08) and 200m backstroke (2:16.09) events.
18-year-old Gerry Quinn accomplished two major milestones with his 50.41 100m freestyle, as his mark set a new Irish Junior Record, as well as qualified the Longford swimmer for the European Junior Championships.
Another teenage stand-out, 16-year-old Mona McSharry, took the women’s 100m breaststroke gold in a time of 1:09.07. That performance notched a new Irish Junior Record, as well as qualified McSharry for the European Senior Championships. McSharry also scored wins in the 50m and 200m breaststroke races later on in the meet. Bronze place finisher in that same 100m breast race, Niamh Coyne‘s 1:10.96 time qualified her for the European Junior Championships.
Ellen Walshe, at just 15 years old, stood atop the podium in the women’s 200m butterfly race, stopping the clock at 2:16.78 to earn her European Junior qualification time.
In the men’s 100m butterfly final, Brendan Hyland became the first Irish swimmer in history to dip beneath the 54-second threshold. Winning the event, Hyland blasted a 53.59 to write his name into his nation’s record books.