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Dolphin Dominate at Wiltshire Age Group County Championships

The Wiltshire Age Group (10 to 13 years) County Championships 2023 took place across two consecutive weekends in January at the Five Rivers Leisure Centre in Salisbury and the Link Centre, Swindon.

Swindon Dolphin had 44 qualifiers for the championships, the highest number from any Wiltshire club. Seven of Dolphin’s line-up competed in all 16 events across the 3 days of competition, Harriet Matthews (11), Riley Watts (12), Zara Halpin (12), Phoebe Kerley (12), Gethin Jenks (13), Jacob Burton (13) and Betina Puszkarska (13). There was a grand total of 336 entries for the Swindon Dolphin team, higher than any other club by over 100 entries.

Swindon Dolphin dominated the medal count at the Championships, topping the table with an incredible 112 medals, more than the second and third top clubs combined. The 42 gold, 40 silver and 30 bronze medals even surpassed the huge success of the 2022 Championships. Medals were won across every event and age group, with 16 of the competing swimmers achieving a top 3 place. With the Wiltshire Championships being a target meet, a personal best rate of 80% was testament to the way that the swimmers have worked on their process goals both in training and competition.

Phoebe Kerley (12) topped the individual medal table, making her the most successful swimmer in Wiltshire as she became County Champion in 15 of 16 events. Surpassed only by the brilliant Dominik Bartoletti of Tigersharks, Harry Owens (11) finished as second top boy in the medal count with an outstanding 10 gold and 3 silver medals. Betina Puszkarska (13) finished as second top girl, coming away with a fantastic 8 gold, 3 silver and 3 bronze medals.

The competition allowed the opportunity for swimmers to gain qualification times to the South West Regional Championships 2023, held in April to May. An impressive 16 new regional consideration times were achieved, and 4 new regional qualifying times. Caitlyn Hillier (13), Ryan Lees (13) and Zara Halpin (12) were elated to pick up their first ever regional qualifying times across a total of seven events, a credit to their continued hard work and commitment.

Gethin Jenks (13), Jacob Burton (13), Josh Newton (13) and Ryan Lees (13) had an excellent showing in the Boys 13 years age category, achieving a total of 2 gold, 14 silver and 10 bronze medals between them. The boys went head-to-head in many races, with Jenks picking up a total of 1 gold, 9 silver and 4 bronze medals, Burton picking up 1 gold, 4 silver and 5 bronze medals, Josh Newton (13) coming away with 1 silver and 1 bronze, and Lees adding another bronze to the tally in the age category. All four boys will be competing at the South West Regional Championships in a few months’ time as they have qualified for 33 events between them, where they will be hoping to build on their successes.

In the Girls 13 years age category, Betina Puszkarska (13) had an excellent showing, finishing in the top 4 of every one of her 16 events. Puszkarska swept the age group category in the backstroke events (50m, 100m and 200m) and individual medley events (100m, 200m and 400m) as well as taking the title in the 200m butterfly and 200m freestyle. Not only was the racing on form, but Puszkarska displayed excellent maturity in supporting the team and providing guidance to those navigating their way through the Championships. Caitlyn Hillier (13) finished the meet with 3 bronze medals in the 200m backstroke, 200m breaststroke and 400m individual medley. Olivia Hamlett (13) added to the medal tally for the 13-year age category with a further silver in the 400m freestyle and bronze in the 200m freestyle. A regional qualifying time in the 200m breaststroke sees Hillier qualify for the South West Championships for the first time, an excellent achievement. Hamlett has also qualified for the first time, with a regional qualifying time in the 200m butterfly.

In the Girls 12 years age category, there were some excellent performances from Phoebe Kerley (12) and Zara Halpin (12) where they won every event in the category between them. Kerley became County Champion in 15 of the 16 events she entered, with Halpin taking the crown in the 200m backstroke. Kerley did not have it all her own way, going into the final of 6 events after the heat swims as the underdog, and stepping up to take the title in each of these finals. The girls set a huge number of personal best times, with Kerley achieving new regional qualifying times in a further 6 events, meaning she now has 13 regional qualifying times for the 2023 Championships. Halpin qualified for her first regional championships in the 50m breaststroke and 100m backstroke, with no doubt more to come in the next few months.

Riley Watts (12) competed across all 16 events, finishing in the top 8 for every event. County Championship titles came for Watts in the 100m and 200m backstroke with further success in the form of 5 silver and 3 bronze. Watts achieved new regional qualifying times in the 200m butterfly and 100m backstroke. Fletcher Mutton (12) had an excellent meet too, with top 10 finishes in all events he raced in. The 400m freestyle was a fantastic race for Mutton with a huge personal best time and bronze medal.

Harry Owens (11) demonstrated some remarkable swims, becoming County Champion in 10 of 15 events. A further 3 silvers were added to this success in the 50m freestyle, 100m freestyle and 100m breaststroke events. One of Owens most noticeable races came in the 100m backstroke final, seeded in 2nd position. Knowing that this could be Dolphin's 100th medal, the swimmers, coaches and parents cheered Owens on to a fast final 25m, where the 11-year-old took the touch to become County Champion and collect Dolphin’s 100th medal of the Championships. Just 0.21 of a second separated the top 3 boys in the event.

In the competitive 10/11 years age category for girls, a total of 4 gold, 8 silver and 4 bronze medals were won. Harriet Matthews (11) took a total of 3 gold medals to become County Champion in the 200m backstroke, 200m freestyle and 400m individual medley. Silver medals were gained in the 200m breaststroke, 400m freestyle, 200m individual medley and 200m butterfly. Evie Brayshaw (11) took the title in the 400m freestyle, with silvers won in the 100m butterfly and 400m individual medley and a bronze in the 200m freestyle. Mistral Lyons (11) won 2 silver medals in the 100m individual medley and 50m butterfly and 2 bronze medals in the 50m and 100m breaststroke. Adding to the tally was Evie Littlefield (11) who took a bronze medal in the 200m butterfly.

In the same age category, Molly Hunt (11), Emma Spinks (11) and Grace Dule (10) qualified for final swims. Hunt finished in a brilliant 5th position in the 100m breaststroke, improving on her heat position and setting a new personal best time. Emma Spinks (11) had a fantastic swim in the 50m butterfly, the only event she qualified for. Achieving a new personal best time in the heat, Spinks moved it on in the final to swim faster and place 5th. 10-year-old Grace Dule was one of the younger swimmers in the 10/11 years age category, stepping up at her first County Championships to qualify for the final in the 100m butterfly and 100m breaststroke where she finished in 6th position in both events. This shows the incredible depth in the age group, versatility across strokes, events, and distances.

Adding to the success of the boys’ 13 years age group, Evan Kane (13) achieved final swims, finishing 6th in the 50m freestyle, 5th in the 50m backstroke and 6th in the 100m backstroke. In the Boys 12 years age group, Vlad Morar (12) swam a huge personal best time in the 100m butterfly to finish 5th in the final, a great achievement for his first County Championships. Alex Naisby (12) set a new personal best time in the 100m butterfly to qualify for the final, where he finished in 7th place. Thomas Doel (11) qualified for the final of the 10/11 years 100m butterfly and 100m freestyle, finishing in 6th place for both swims.

Competing at their first County Championships were Aashman Singh (10), Adam Cooper (10), Dylan Watts (10), Victoria Chukwuma (10), Elijah Calton (11), Flora Wigmore (10), Maisie Marchington (11), Tavis McPherson (11), Pippa Wall (11) and Dora Todorova (12). It was fantastic for these swimmers to achieve new personal best times and to pick up valuable experience of competing at a County level competition, which will prepare them well for the future. Sophia Kirk (12), Oscar Crowley (12), Dylan Littlefield (13), Eliza Nunn (13), Izzy Cain (13) and Lucie Prior (13) also had a brilliant meet, with all swimmers setting new personal best times.


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