European Aquatics Junior Championships 2024 – Report

A strong Irish team of twelve swimmers and four coaches represented Ireland this year at the European Aquatics Junior Swimming Championships hosted in Vilnius, Lithuania. Across the six-day meet, six Ulster-representing athletes took to the Lazdynai Swimming Pool to compete and race against some of Europe’s fastest Junior swimmers. Our six athletes included Reuben Alty representing Larne ASC, Adam Bradley of Bangor SC, Alana Burns-Atkin from Banbridge ASC, Bryden Byrne also of Bangor SC, Grace Davison from Ards ASC, and Matthew Hamilton representing Lisburn City ASC. Of the four coaching staff that travelled with the swimmers, the Irish team was led by Andy Reid, and supported by Ards ASC’s head coach, Curtis Coulter. Norma Reid travelled with the team as the Team Manager.

Reuben Alty (50m, 100m, 200m Freestyle)

Adam Bradley (50m, 100m, 200m Breaststroke, 4x100m Medley Relay – Men’s, Mixed)

Alana Burns-Atkin (50m, 100m, 200m Butterfly, 4x100m Medley Relay – Women’s, Mixed)

Bryden Byrne (50m, 100m, 200m Backstroke, 4x100m Medley Relay – Men’s)

Grace Davison (100m Freestyle, 200m Individual Medley, 4x100m Medley Relay – Women’s, Mixed)

Matthew Hamilton (50m, 100m Freestyle 4x100m Medley Relay – Mixed)

Day 1

The first morning in Lithuania seen three of our swimmers make a splash in the pool. Adam Bradley took on the 50m Breaststroke and touched in a time of 29.30, ranking him 35th in Europe. Bryden Byrne also competed in a splash & dash race in the 50 backstroke, where he placed 44th in Europe in a time of 27.36. The last swim of the morning was Reuben Alty making his Irish international debut in the 200m Freestyle, finishing in a time of 1:57.40.

Day 2

The second day presented a quiet morning session for Team Ireland with only two swimmers in the pool, and one of them being the Banbridge swimmer Alana. She raced the 100m Butterfly where her time of 1:01.31 qualified her for that evening’s final.

On the Wednesday evening session, Alana raced once again in the semi-final of the 100m Butterfly where she bettered her time from the morning and touched in a 1:01.08, 0.23 seconds quicker than the morning heat swim.

Day 3

The Thursday morning heat session had four of our Ulster swimmers in the water racing across three events. Bryden Byrne stormed the 200m Backstroke heats to qualify for that evening’s semi-final in a time of 2:03.50. Matthew Hamilton and Reuben Alty swim the 50m Freestyle heats, where Matthew clocked a time of 23.47, and Reuben, a time of 24.01. Last up in the morning session, Adam Bradley raced the 200m Breaststroke heats where he placed 42nd in a time of 2:23.47. 

During the evening session of the Championships, Bryden Byrne took on the rest of Europe in the 200m Backstroke. After qualifying from the morning in 12th place, Bryden touched the wall in a time of 2:03.80, fractionally slower than the morning swim, to place him 11th in Europe.

Day 4

Over halfway through the meet and day four seen Grace Davison take to the pool for the first time, alongside Alana Burns-Atkin, Bryden Byrne and Adam Bradley. Grace raced the 100m Freestyle heats and qualified for the semi-finals in a time of 55.84 in 6th place. Alana made her splash in the water in the 200m Butterfly where she also qualified for the semi-final that evening! Alana touched the wall in a time of 2:16.66 in 16th overall. The last action of the morning heats seen Team Ireland take to the pool for the 4x100m Mixed Medley Relay. The relay consisted of all Ulster swimmers and finished in a time of 4:02.02, placing them 19th in Europe (Bryden Byrne – 58.47, Adam Bradley – 1:04.80, Alana Burns-Atkin – 1:02.80, Grace Davison – 55.95).

Finals sessions were lively with both Grace and Alana back in the water. First up, Grace Davison made her splash in the 100m Freestyle semi-final, where she broke her own Irish Junior Record set back at the Irish Open & Olympic Trials in May. Grace touched in a time 55.09, putting her in 2nd seed going into Saturday night’s final. 

In the 200m Butterfly semi-final, Alana Burns-Atkin raced hard and touched in a time of 2:17.06, placing her 14th overall.

Day 5

Saturday morning was full steam ahead for all 6 of our Ulster swimmers as they all raced in the morning heats. Matthew Hamilton raced the 100m Freestyle where he qualified for the semi-finals in a time of 50.72. Reuben Alty also raced the 100m Freestyle but narrowly missed out on a semifinal swim touching in 52.77 seconds. Adam Bradley raced his last individual Breaststroke event of the week, where he swam the 100m event in a time of 1:04.59. 

Closely after, Bryden Byrne took to the pool and raced the 100m Backstroke, finishing his individual Backstroke campaign in a time of 58.20. Alana Burns-Atkin was next into the water for the lightning speed 50m Butterfly, where she touched in 28.17. Finally, Grace Davison raced the 200m Individual Medley heats, where she qualified for that evening’s semi-final (2:16.67 – 5th), alongside her 100m Freestyle final.

On the Saturday evening, Matthew Hamilton swam the 100m Freestyle semi-final and placed 16th in Europe in a time of 51.11. Grace had her double final evening with the 100m Freestyle final up first. After the first 50m, Grace turned in 6th place, however patience and a superb last 50m dash to the wall seen Grace touch in 3rdplace in a time of 55.11 and taking home a bronze medal for Ireland. 

Shortly after, she stood back up for the 200m Individual Medley semi-final, touching in a time of 2:16.37, 0.3 seconds quicker than the morning heat swim. This semi-final time qualified Grace into the final in 6th place.

Day 6

The last morning of racing in Lithuania was for the Irish relays to shine, where four of our swimmers represented Ireland in two relays. Alana and Grace both swam in the Women’s 4x100m Medley relay. The butterfly leg was executed by Alana (1:02.37), and the final freestyle leg of the relay was swam by Grace (55.84), helping to place Ireland 15th in Europe in a time of 4:15.24. 

The second relay was the Men’s 4x100m Medley Relay where both Adam Bradley and Matthew Hamilton represented Ireland in the heats. Adam swam the breaststroke leg in a time of 1:04.37, and Matthew carried the relay home on the freestyle leg in a time of 50.48. As a result, the Men’s relay team touched in a time of 3:47.08 and broke the previous Irish Junior Record of 3:47.73, set back in 2019.

As the end of the competition drew closer, we still had the Women’s 200m Individual Medley to eagerly watch as Grace Davison raced the final in the last session. After an electrifying race, Grace touched the wall in a time of 2:15.20, placing her 5th in Europe, 1.17 seconds faster than the semi-final swim the night before!

Overall, it was a great meet for Team Ireland as the country walked away with 3 medals (John Shortt – Gold and Silver), as one of them comes back to Ulster and Ards Swimming Club in Grace’s hands. As for the summer, the next chapter is ready to start as the Paris Olympic and Paralympic Games awaits for 10 of our Ulster athletes, and Irish Summer National Youth & Senior Championships start towards the end of July for the majority.

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