It was a given that, when Jacob and Tahlia Smith set off to board at St Peter's Lutheran College in Brisbane, their swimming would improve. There lies the famed St Peter's Western Swim Club, home of world-renowned coach Dean Boxall and more than half a dozen Olympians in training. But what has pleased their father, Aaron Smith, even more than their progress in the pool is Jacob and Tahlia's progress out of it. "It's not just about the swimming," Smith said. "The school, the education system, the boarding support. For Jacob [aged 13], his confidence has grown massively since he's gone into boarding. "Dealing and living with different people, the character side of it has been fantastic." It has not just been the pair's living situation that has brought them out of their shells. Tahlia, who became the first swimmer from Gunnedah to qualify for nationals in 2022, has long struggled with nerves. Particularly at big meets, the 15-year-old has, in the past, let her anxiety impact her results. "At nationals, she just struggled with the mentality side of it," Smith said. "She's working really well with the coaches at St Peter's now, and also some sports psychologists. They've got all the professionals up here. They're working not only on her swimming strengths and fitness, but also her mindset." With both now settled and thriving in Brisbane, Aaron is confident they will produce improved performances at this week's Queensland Senior State Age Championships, which began on Saturday and will run through to Friday. Though their progress at the school has been steady, the lead-in to the competition forced the Smiths to adapt. "They had to come home two weeks ago when their school finished," Smith said. "But the last two weeks is always the most important two weeks leading into an event, being away from their club and their coach." As a workaround, he employed the services of Swimming Gunnedah coach, John Hickey, who had trained Jacob and Tahlia for years prior to their move north. "They've done a good job," Hickey said. "I've been giving them a hand, working on their St Peter's program. They've been doing really well." While he has missed his kids, Smith is immensely proud to see them settled and thriving in an environment which he hopes will help them achieve their shared dream of a 2032 Brisbane Olympics spot. He did add, however, that the family has relished their time together over the Christmas break. "It's lovely having the family back together after a while," Smith said. "Every 10 weeks they come home for two or three weeks, but it is hard logistically. "We've got another two kids at home, and they've gotten more attention, which has been good for them."