Following the Commonwealth Games, Craig Benson made the tough decision to move from Warrender to the University of Stirling.
It was an amicable switch, and the results from the weekend’s Scottish Gas National Short Course Championships suggest it was a good one.
The West Lothian youngster hit the headlines when he qualified for the London 2012 Olympics as a 17-year-old schoolboy. But the past two seasons have been more of a struggle.
But he has battled through the down times and now appears to be back on track. He won the Scottish titles in both the 100m (58.72 secs) and 200m (2:06.81) at the Commonwealth Pool – his best for a long time.
From a Scottish viewpoint, last night’s 200m event was slightly devalued through the absence of Commonwealth Games champion Ross Murdoch (ill) and Olympic silver medallist Michael Jamieson (attending the BBC Sports Personality of the Year awards in Glasgow).
However, Jamieson did swim in the morning heats and had promised he would be going all out for a fast time. But it turned out to be 0.34 secs slower than Benson’s winning time from the final.
“I was a difficult decision to move to Stirling,” Benson conceded. “But, after the Commonwealth Games, I knew it was best to have a change. I needed fresh motivation.
The 20-year-old now has Murdoch as his daily training mate and the Striling squad under coaches Ben Higson and Steve Tigg also included double Olympian Robbie Renwick.
“I’m doing a lot of work on technique and general fitness,” Benson added. “These Championships have been great for me. It feels so good to be swimming my best times in two years. I really feel I’m coming back.
“The goal for 2015 is to get to the World Championships in Russia, but everything is ultimately aimed towards the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio.
On Saturday, Warrender’s Dan Wallace, the Commonwealth Games 400m individual medley champion, finished second in the 200m medley and set a Scottish record of 1:56.32.
“I always love getting back to swim in Scotland,” said the University of Florida student. “It took a wee while to get over the jet-lag this week but it’s been good.”
However, the 21-year-old pulled out of the 400m individual medley heats yesterday morning with a groin injury – he wouldn’t have been available for the final as he was also at last night’s BBC bash.
Renwick also showed the benefits of a shift from City of Glasgow to the University of Stirling. The 26-year-old collected the 100m and 200m National titles.
“I didn’t do myself justice at the Commonwealth Games and I knew I had to do something about it,” he said. “Moving to the university set-up has been great and I love training with Craig and Ross.”
Renwick clocked 1:44.19 in the 200m – just 0.15 secs outside Andy Hunter’s Scottish record – and, on Saturday, he had set a Scottish mark of 47.96 secs in the 100m. He won the National titles in both.
“I was racing in the US last weekend and it has been tiring,” he added. “I think if this race had been at the beginning of the Championships then I could have gone even faster.
“But it just feels nice to be back and enjoying my swimming again. I’ve lost that love a wee bit in the last year or so.”
Hannah Miley, despite suffering from a soar throat, had a typically prolific meet, taking four Scottish titles. Yesterday, the Garioch 25-year-old added her Commonwealth Games gold event, the 400m individual medley, and the 200m freestyle to earlier successes in the 200m medley and 200m butterfly.
Teenager Kathleen Dawson, the Warrington-based Scottish Commonwealth Games competitor, also had reason to celebrate. She broke the record in both the heats and finals of the 50m backstroke on Friday and she was at again in the 1000m.
Craig McLean (Carnegie) confirmed his promise with a bunch of Scottish junior records. In the final session, he set a new mark 54.63 secs in the 100m backstroke.