Laura Le Cras shone brightest at Saturday’s GASA 50m Gala by clean-sweeping the four disciplines and equalling her own breaststroke record, but for her and many others, the meet marked an opportunity to put aside recent Covid disruption and put down early markers for coming months.
Le Cras is one of Guernsey’s eight swimmers building towards the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games, while the long-awaited return of the Channel Island Championships next month provides a more attainable target for many competitors.
Saturday’s gala was also the first major qualifying opportunity for the Guernsey 2023 Island Games, plus the only senior inter-club meet at the host venue since the pandemic began.
It delivered some thrilling racing from the first event as Guernsey Swimming Club star Le Cras touched in 29.22 to lead a tight finish in the fastest women’s 50m butterfly heat, followed by Barracudas’ Oriana Wheeler (29.39) and Molly Staples (29.45).
Le Cras won a similarly close backstroke from the same duo, before dominating the breaststroke in 33.55 to match her gala record from two years ago and beating Staples by half-a-second in the freestyle.
That clean sweep was no mean feat for Le Cras given that she has only recently recovered from Covid.
In the senior men’s events, Samuel Lowe split the honours evenly with fellow Commonwealth Games pick Jonathan Beck.
GSC teenager Lowe emerged a clear victor in the butterfly and likewise the backstroke.
But tall Barracudas sprinter Beck returned fire with victory in the breaststroke and then his strongest discipline, the freestyle.
Another highlight came with the consistently strong performances of GSC girls Tallulah-Mae Rautenbach and Emma Bourgaize, who took maximum points in the particularly competitive 12 and 13 year age groups respectively.
Barracudas head coach Sara Parfit praised the overall standard given the timing of the gala.
‘I was very happy with everybody’s performances,’ she said.
‘At the moment we are in heavy training and our focus has been moving to the Channel Islands Championships.
‘We had not tapered for something like this, but everybody swam well and we had quite a lot of PBs.
‘We have continuously had swimmers off because they have got Covid and some are being quite slow to come back, so we have been quite affected by it.’
GSC counterpart Naomi Wakeford claimed to be ‘very pleased overall’ after her swimmers were hit even harder by Covid, losing access to their St Sampson’s High training pool for most of January due to restrictions in State schools.
‘It has been quite a mixed year so far, as because of Covid we did not have as much pool time,’ she said.
‘Quite a lot have had Covid and some are still feeling the effects.
‘Laura and Sam, those are good swims and it was an opportunity for them to see where they are and then to move on for the Commonwealth Games.’