Primary school kids lap it up at swim championships

The tyranny of distance was no barrier for students at the NSW Primary Schools Sports Association Swimming Championships. Glenn Cullen reports.

Image: Ava Cummings from Nyngan Public School.

Nyngan student Ava Cummings travelled 550km to compete at the NSW Primary Schools Sports Association Swimming Championships at Sydney’s Olympic Park Aquatic Centre.

But given the 12-year-old travels up to 1,200km each week to train at one of her ‘local’ pools, that wasn’t such a big deal.

Five to six times a week, Ava hits the road from her property on the outskirts of Nyngan to travel to the pool at Warren, a round trip of some 200km.

Mum Geraldine is mostly tasked with the driving – and organisational skills to make it happen.

“Luckily, we had a wet harvest which meant the headers (harvesting machines) weren’t getting going until after lunch so we were able to go to training in Warren in the mornings and then I could get back on the header to strip the crops,” Geraldine said.

While there is a pool in town that would cut the weekly road trips down to 600km, Ava and Geraldine are, for now at least, happy to put in the extra time.

“I was training in Nyngan for a while then mum took me to Warren and I just had a lot of fun there,” said Ava.

“I have a lot of friends there, so I just tell myself I get to see them every day.”

The training has paid off with Ava breaking four school and five regional records, including one that her mum said, had dated back to 1987.

She made the most of her time at Olympic Park, swimming in six individual events and the all-age relay.

Image: Tabulam Primary School students Pepquita Bell, Shane Collins-Adams, Justice Avery and Ricky Adams.

While Ava’s story is at the pointy end of commitment to the pool, the event has more than its share of schools, parents and kids that went well beyond to get to Sydney and also swim regularly in their home town.

Over 1500 kids from around the state made it to the two-day event, which is dominated by public school representation but also features a smattering of students from independent and Catholic schools.

A sizeable crowd was also in attendance – though that was dwarfed by live-streaming numbers, the event registering an incredible 12,000 unique views on the first day.

For four students from Tabulam Public School, a big part of the adventure was just getting to Sydney.

From a school of just 50 in the far northeast of the state, the kids travelled with principal Shaun Piccoli into Ballina before flying into Sydney.

“It definitely was a challenge to get here,” said Mr Piccoli.

“Monday was the first time for a while that Ballina was taking big planes in. They were underwater over the weekend. We were very, very lucky that the Clarence didn’t flood to its full capacity.”

The closest pool to Tabulam is 25km away, but the kids get there up to two times a week to sharpen their swimming skills – a necessity given how much time they spend in the local watering hole of the Rocky River.

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