Sawtell Pair Blitz Country Champs

Winning an event at the 2015 Stramit Country SLS NSW Championships is one achievement; taking out more than 10 races is astonishing.

Sawtell SLSC members Lauren Dam, 18, and Tahlia Kollen, 16, challenged themselves by competing across multiple age groups.

Kollen entered events in the U17, U19 and Open category, while Dam raced in both U19s and Opens.

The pair contributed to a highly successful carnival for Sawtell finishing 8th out of 29 clubs, proving that athletes from smaller clubs can mix it with their bigger country rivals.

“To know that I am competing and winning in age groups above mine gives me great confidence because they are stronger and harder competitors and therefore it makes me push harder when I compete,” Kollen said.

“I’m very proud of my club Sawtell. We showed great strength and talent throughout all ages,” Lauren Dam said.

“Personally, I’m very proud that I have continued competing for as long as I have for Sawtell and made so many friends as a result,” she said.

It’s been an interrupted start to the season for Dam as she only recently completed her Higher School Certificate and resumed serious training. The talented 18-year-old has also had to make some decisions about her future. She was recently accepted into a psychology course at university, but has opted to defer it for a year before beginning her studies in 2016.

“It gives me confidence knowing that my training is paying off and that I have the skills and fitness to match the challenge in Open girls events,” Dam said.

“It’s always pleasing to know that my own and the whole team’s commitments to training are turning into results. It displays a real unity within such a small club like Sawtell.”

Tahlia’s build up for the Country Championship was a lot smoother than her club mate’s. Tahlia’s training partner is her sister which means she doesn’t often get a chance to track her progress against other athletes.

“This season I was well prepared for country and it has paid off because Mollymook has been my best country championships so far,” Kollen said.

“The most pleasing thing about winning so many events is to know that I am up to the standard of elite competitors.”

Although her sister is her main training partner, Tahlia has a very influential mentor in the form of Coach John Mills. The 87 year old has been Kollen’s surf coach for the past four years and with 70 years’ experience under his belt, there’s no wonder she blitzed Country Champs.

“John is very precise on his technique and will correct it until it is perfect. He will always make each and every training session more challenging by introducing new skills,” Kollen said.

“I am very privileged to have John as a coach who has a lifetime of knowledge that he is now passing on to me.”

The duo of Tahlia and Lauren were an unstoppable force when they lined-up together in team events throughout the Championships. The pair teamed up in 11 events and finished on the podium every time, taking home an incredible eight gold medals.

“Being with Lauren in teams at Country was exciting. I knew we had a good chance at claiming a medal because we are both strong competitors. We proved ourselves by winning medals,” Kollen said.

“It was the first time I have competed in teams with some of the younger girls like Tahlia and their enthusiasm gave me extra motivation this year. It was a lot of fun,” Dam said.

Individually the two experienced success in the championships, Tahlia won two (Opens surf race and U17 Iron Woman) while Lauren won took out four races (Open beach flags, U19 beach sprint, U19 Iron Woman and U19 surf race).

Despite the heavy Country program, neither Lauren nor Tahlia have any plans of slowing down as the season enters its final months.

“For the rest of the season I plan to compete in both QLD and NSW state titles and the Aussies titles in April. I will compete in the Manly and Freshwater carnivals and I will also be involved in smaller carnivals around my area,” Kollen said.

Lauren meanwhile will set her eyes on the NSW Championships where she will once again hope to challenge herself against the best the state has to offer.

The two Sawtell members were very complimentary of each other after the Country Championships finished up on Sunday. Spending so much time together, the two girls have nothing but praise for the other’s accomplishments.

“I love “Fish” (Tahlia’s nickname)! It was so refreshing to have a team member who loves swimming and gives 100% effort each time without complaint.

“She must have swum about 7 times in one team event after the other. Having someone like Tahlia in your team is very motivating,” Lauren said.

Tahlia meanwhile believes the presence of Dam has spurned her on to even greater success.

“It was very rewarding to have a girl like Lauren around; she’s great at pushing me to my best,” she said.

Thu 22 Jan 2015