Emotional Hill breaks Irish record to book Commonwealth Games place
An emotional Danielle Hill emerged from the Bangor Aurora pool after booking her place to the Commonwealth Games next year with an Irish record-breaking performance in the women's 50m backstroke final.
It was do or die at the Ulster long course championships for the 18-year-old, as she stood on the blocks for her last shot at hitting the nomination time for the Gold Coast and the Larne swimmer executed the swim perfectly, as she touched in a new Irish record of 28.72.
As Larne coach Peter Hill jumped for joy in the stands, it was a tearful Danielle who summed up just what it meant for her to deliver the time she craved when the chips were down: "This means so much to me and I have to thank my coach Peter who has always stuck by me, always said that I could reach this level and I've done it.
"If I didn't have his support along with that of my family and school I don't know where I'd be," said the Girls Model pupil. "I'm in the middle of my A-level year so it's not easy but the school have been great.
"They have allowed me flexibility with my finishing times at school and with the deadlines for my work and some of my teachers came along to watch which was great.
"They actually made time for me to be able to add an extra swimming session and an extra gym session so it has all come together and I'm so happy.
"I had done the time before but in the time frame for qualification and it was strange swimming at this time of the year in a long course event, usually it's short course.
"I'm off to the European short course championships in Copenhagen so I'm looking forward to that. Coming from long course into short course I'm hoping that I can swim fast."
One man left gutted by not making the time for the Games was James Brown of Ards who won the 200m individual medley by some distance.
Brown was well off his PB when clocking 2:04.56 and will now weigh up whether to head to this weekend's English championships for one final bid to nail the nomination time.
Brown's clubmate Paddy Johnston picked up two gold medals on the final day of competition.
Johnston, a pupil at Campbell College, took the 100m backstroke title in 59.32 ahead of fellow 16-year-old Lorcan Gourley of Larne, 1:01.80.
He then returned to the pool to complete his double with victory in the 200m butterfly. Johnston excuded power as he touched in 2:12.39.
There was more success for the Ards club when Dublin-based Emma Reid took gold in the 100m butterfly in 1:02.18.
Sister Rebecca was second to Hill in the 50m back and also took silver behind clubmate Amelia Kane in the 400m individual medley.
One of the performances of the championships came from 12-year-old Ellie McCartney who won the 200m breaststroke, while Bangor's Jordan Sloan completed a freestyle hat-trick in the 50m discipline.