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Wesley rising star secures spot on Australian Junior swimming team

Jess (Year 11), one of the rising stars of sport at Wesley College, is now making a splash on the world stage, representing Australia at the Oceania Championships held in late April.

Her call-up to the Australian Junior Swimming team came off the back of an outstanding performance at the national Australian Age Competition, where she competed in 11 events across backstroke, freestyle and breaststroke. Jess made the finals in all of her events, winning five medals in total – three silver and two bronze.

Head Coach of Swimming at Wesley College, Janine Bates, is incredibly proud of how Jess has performed at the national level where the competition is intense.

‘Jess won her first national Open-age medal last year, taking home silver in the 100m backstroke in a time of just 59.85 seconds at the Australian Open Short Course Championships. This was the first time she swam under 1 minute for 100m backstroke and she is now starting to achieve times that will enable her to move into open level swimming, alongside the best swimmers in the country, regardless of age,’ she explained.

While she is an accomplished and versatile swimmer, and her competitive nature drives her in the water, it’s not about the medals for Jess. ‘What I love about swimming is the friendships and memories I’ve made,’ she said.

‘Swimming is an individual sport, and when you’re racing, you’re in your own head. It’s you against other people. But when you train together, it’s about the team, and we push each other to do well. At the end of the day, it’s about everyone doing their best, and relays are my favourite!’ she said.

Her coaches describe her as incredibly humble, and it’s obvious that she enjoys the fraternity of being part of the team at Wesley and the Nunawading Swimming Club. ‘She always has time for others and is the first to congratulate her teammates when they achieve a personal best time, make their first final at an event or place well in a race,’ said Janine.

Jess exemplifies several qualities that Wesley's ROAR sports wellbeing framework aims to cultivate in our athletes: sportsmanship, active participation and a spirit of giving back.

‘Despite her huge training load, she always finds time to be part of the swimming community at Wesley,’ Janine continued. ‘She helped support our new swimmers at the Year 7 Sport Induction Day earlier this year; attends Saturday sport, often arriving after a three-hour training session with her club; and loves nothing more than representing Wesley at the APS Swimming finals each year.'

Her selection for the Australian Junior team means that she is amongst the top swimmers for her age group in Australia, but it was an unexpected one. ‘My mum and I were thinking it’s nothing to worry about, I won’t make the Australian team,’ Jess says with her trademark humility. ‘I try not to put too much pressure on myself. Recently, I’ve changed my mind set and realised it’s not just about the races, you can have fun.’

Jess received the news at a team dinner, surrounded by her friends, mum and coach. ‘I jumped out of my seat when I received the selection email. I was so excited! I never fully focused on making the Australian team as a goal, but it was always at the back of my mind that if I put in the effort, I could achieve it. It was surreal to think I’d be representing Australia.’

Jess competed in six events for Australia, including three individual backstroke events and three team relays. She earned a gold medal in each event, which was another huge achievement.

‘It is a big step to move into Open Age swimming and to compete alongside our Olympians, but I’m sure that Jess will continue to strive for improvement in the sport. It’s not unrealistic for Jess to aim for a career in swimming, and to represent Australia at an Open level in the future,’ said Janine.

Good communication with her teachers ensures she can balance her busy training schedule and schoolwork, and she is grateful for the support of her swimming coaches. But it’s her mum that she’d really like to thank. ‘She’s been there through everything, taking me to 4am trainings, and putting up with me being grumpy after double trainings in the afternoons!’ laughed Jess.

Jess enjoyed a brief, well-earned rest after the Oceania Championships, then it was straight back to training as she sets her sights on a new goal... the Olympic trials in June.  While she doesn’t expect to make the Olympic team at this age, her recent performances have shown that anything is possible, and she is looking forward to competing against the very best swimmers in Australia – as long as everyone enjoys themselves.

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