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A magnificent seven

Event: ASA South West Regional Youth Championships Venue: Millfield School Date: 4th to 6th May 2013

Dolphin’s national qualifier tally increased to seven last weekend at the ASA South West Regional Championships where Jon Audis made the national grade in the 100m backstroke and the girls’ 4 x 200m freestyle team of Charlotte Pitts, Lauren Matthews, Victoria Jennings and Georgina Pitts recorded a time that will also enable them to take on the country’s best at Ponds Forge, Sheffield in July.

A Dolphin squad of 21 were at Millfield for the Championships which for some would be the pinnacle of their season, but for most would hopefully be a springboard towards achieving the prestigious national qualifier status.

James Clark who had already achieved the 50m freestyle national qualifying time (NQT) was looking to add to this and did so in the heats of the 100m freestyle. Clark’s 100m breaststroke entry time also made it look likely that he would achieve a further NQT in this event, but was disappointed with a heat swim that fell well short of his previous best. Undeterred, and following some sound technical advice from Chief Coach Louise Clayton, Clark went on to finish the final in a significantly improved time falling just a few tenths short of his target time.

James Clark ~ 50m and 100m freestyle national qualifier

It was a similar story but with a better ending for Jon Audis in the 100m backstroke who had earlier missed the national qualifying mark in his more favoured 50m backstroke. A below par heat swim by Audis’ standards only just made the final eight and to pull off a faster finals swim was always going to be a tough call for the 33 year old. However, a change of overall approach to the swim left Audis with more in reserve in the last 25m and this improved back-end speed gave him his NQT for an incredible eleventh year running. This achievement is made all the more remarkable by the fact that Audis went against the grain of most swimming careers by qualifying for nationals for the first time during his early twenties. Whilst not providing a major threat to senior swimmers at the very top of the sport nationally, he has clearly demonstrated that performance swimming at club, county and regional level can transcend the traditional age group, youth and masters structure.

Jon Audis ~ 11 at 33

Despite focusing largely on medley events in training, Lauren Matthews looks to have found a new niche in the 200m butterfly and has been steadily creeping towards her national time in the event. Having taken 2 seconds off her personal best recently at Bristol to bring her within 4 seconds of the required 2:26.00, Matthews made a valiant effort in both heat and final swims, falling just short of the mark in each but picking up a bronze medal for her efforts. The 15 year old also came close to the national mark in the 400m individual medley with another bronze medal performance, but will probably now be looking to focus on her butterfly in the lead up to the final chance of qualification at Cardiff in June.

Lauren Matthews ~ a close call in the 200m butterfly

Matthews is not a complete stranger to the national stage having qualified as part of the 4 x 200m freestyle team last year. This year, she was joined by Victoria Jennings, Georgina Pitts and 400m freestyle national qualifier Charlotte Pitts as they attempted to make it two years in a row for Dolphin. A solid performance from all four girls saw them finish 6th on the day and by recording one of 40 fastest times nationally, earned the right to compete at the national championships in the summer.

Lauren Matthews, Charlotte Pitts, Victoria Jennings, Georgina Pitts ~ Sheffield bound

Podium places were as usual hard to come by for Dolphin in a top performing region that includes Olympians and now Olympic gold medallist Ruta Meilutyte. It was interesting to see the 16 year old diversifying from the event that won her the ultimate accolade and still achieving success, and perhaps something that all swimmers should take note of.

Craig Harris was competing in the open age group S14 Multi-Disability category and found the going tough up against the likes of 2012 paralympian Ben Proctor who dominated the category’s gold medal positions. Consequently Harris had to be content with winning five silver and two bronze medals.

Liam Jefferies found himself in a tough 1500m freestyle heat up against European Youth gold medallist and British Age Group record holder Joel Knight.  Jefferies put in a good swim to give him a well earned silver. Charlotte Pitts’ 200m and 400m freestyle swims won her a bronze in each and an exciting finish in the 400m individual medley saw her touch out team-mate Lauren Matthews to take silver.

The Regional Championships continue on 1st June at Millfield with the age group (11 to 14 years) competiton.


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