Dolphin strike gold at Regional Age Groups

The South West Regional Age Group (11 to 14 year olds) Championships took place over two weekends recently at Bristol and Millfield. Like the Youth Championships in early May, the rewards on the day were either in the form of medals or personal best swims. The prizes of achieving national qualifying times were no longer on offer, with selection now based on rankings at the end of the qualifying window. Given that the youngest age group for the national championships is now a 12/13 double age band, national qualification was only realistic for the 13 and 14 year olds. It was however a level playing field for championship medals which were awarded in single age bands with finals swum in the 50m, 100m and 200m events. A squad of 21 swimmers from Swindon Dolphin with an overall haul of two gold and three bronze showed an encouraging improvement on previous years for the club.

Finals in each of the four age groups always adds to the excitement of the championships and gives swimmers a second chance to improve on their heat time and ranking. Whilst it may seem a tough task to swim even faster than a best effort at the heat stages, this is a standard requirement at national performance level swimming and any opportunity to experience this should always be embraced. First to seize this opportunity was Henry Pearce in the 50m backstroke whose heat swim earned him a 5th ranked place in the final where a further improvement saw him finish just shy of a medal in 4th place. Pearce also made appearances in a further four finals including the 100m freestyle and although going in ranked 3rd and improving on his heat time, again agonisingly finished just outside the medal positions.

Oscar Pearcey impressively reached three finals and despite a valiant effort in his 12 years 200m breaststroke final and going more than two seconds quicker than his heat, could not hold off the challenge for a bronze medal from West Dorset’s Finley Jarvis who managed to step up his game by a greater degree to take third place. The same race saw Dolphin’s Henry Rideout put on a superb display, staying ahead of the pack throughout to take gold in 2:56.16. A further five final appearances and bronze medals in the 50m and 100m breaststroke ensured a fruitful weekend for Rideout. Like all swimmers who excel at form stroke events, the cessation of the BAGCAT points system arguably relieves the pressure on Rideout and Pearcey from having to also focus on freestyle and medley events, although whether this is beneficial to the swimmer’s development and success in the long term remains to be seen.

Miles Farrington had been making some good progress in the lead up to the championships although experienced a mixed bag of results over the four days of competition. Despite finishing a respectable 6th in the final of the 50m backstroke, Farrington was disappointed with his favoured 200m and 400m freestyle swims where he finished 8th and 5th respectively. Although finishing just shy of his best in the 13 years 1500m freestyle, the performance was still sufficient to win gold. In the same event in the 14 year age group, Josh Fox dipped under the 18 minute mark for the first time to take a well-earned bronze.

Other Dolphins to make finals were Olivia Flack in the 50m, 100m and 200m backstroke, finishing in 6th place in all three events, and Georgina Hall who finished 5th in the 50m freestyle.

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