Sawtell’s Small But Mighty Impact at State Champs

Over three days at the 2016 NSW Surf Life Saving Open Championships close to 2500 beach and water athletes ranging from Olympians to professional surf stars through to rising under 14s competing up in Opens for the first time battled it out for gold, silver and bronze medals.

Tahlia Kollen and Sophie McConnachie from Sawtell SLSC were part of a small but mighty team of North Coast competitors who travelled to the NSW Central Coast to face the much larger metro clubs.

The talented Under 17 surf sports competitors took out the Under 19 Board Rescue then lined up immediately after for the same event in their own age group, still trying to catch their breath.

A strong paddle by McConnachie put the Sawtell teammates among the lead contenders then they opted for the same strategy that reaped them the gold medal in the age above, only this time the water wasn’t as shallow.

“We got off the board too early,” Kollen admitted. “Conditions keep changing each race with the tide,” McConnachie chimed in. “For the 19s we got off our board early to run and it worked. Only 15 minutes later in the next race it didn’t!” The pair finished fifth in that heat and went on to qualify for the U17 Board Rescue final. Kollen also made the Under 17 Female Iron final.

Ky Kinsela, also from Sawtell SLSC, blitzed the Under 17 Male Surf Race, his first gold competing at Open level. “I had no idea I’d won. I went in to try and do my best and see where it got me. I won the swim four years ago but didn’t get anything last year so I really put the effort in this season.”

Kinsela ramped up his training for the State Championships by adding another pool session and doing a beach session every day of the week. “I wanted it so much,” Kinsela beamed.

His long term goal is to qualify for the professional Ironman series, “I think everyone wants to do that!” he admits.

“We don’t have many competitors at Sawtell, our Under 19 girls are strong and won the Board Rescue competing up! We are small in numbers but mighty in performance.”

Sawtell ended up in 27th position in the overall club pointscore.

Coffs Harbour’s Jack Pavey finished with the bronze in the Under 17 Male Board Race.

Liam Nisbet from Bellinger Valley-North Beach came fourth in the U15 Beach Flags.

Open Championships Top Ten

1 Newport SLSC 509
2 Manly LSC 292
3 Wanda SLSC 221
4 Cronulla SLSC 212
5 North Cronulla SLSC 157
6 Umina SLSC 134
7 Helensburgh-Stanwell Park SLSC 126
8 Elouera SLSC 122
9 Avoca Beach SLSC 121
10 Redhead SLSC 96

Pic: Sophie McConnachie, Tahlia Kollen - Sawtell SLSC. Courtesy Stephen Chu

Mon 14 Mar 2016