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Dolphin make their mark on National Championships

Event: British Gas ASA National Chammpionships (Youth, Open & MC) 2013 Venue: Ponds Forge, Sheffield Date: 30th July to 4th August 2013

Competing at the ASA National Championships is the ultimate goal for many swimmers and only achieved by few.  Even with the very best of the best not in attendance due to international duty at both youth and senior level, the standard is still a major step up from that experienced during the main competition season.

Swindon Dolphin have always maintained a presence at the six day championships and this year was no exception with five swimmers competing at youth (15/16 years and 17/18 years) and one in the 19 years and over category.

The fourth day of the competition saw a nervous but excited Lauren Matthews first up for Dolphin in the 200m butterfly in her first appearance in an individual event.  From an outside lane in the first heat, Matthews took control of the race leading from the outset and maintained a steady pace to touch home first in a lifetime best of 2:25.28.  The swim put Matthews in 30th place overall, an impressive start to what looks to be the first of many more national championship appearances.

James Clark’s first event was the 100m freestyle and although ranked 21 found himself in the outside lane of the cyclically seeded top heat.  Clark did not look out of place in the company of the top ranked competitors as he swam a personal best of 52.75, a new Dolphin club record, and with the 12th fastest swim earned himself a place in the semi-finals.  Clark again worked hard in the semi-final and showed no signs of losing pace on the back end of his swim, something that has dogged him previously, producing a faster 52.64 but just missing out on a finals place and remaining in 12th place overall.

For the second year running, a Dolphin team qualified for the girls 4 x 200m freestyle relay.  Lauren Matthews, Charlotte Pitts and Victoria Jennings were also part of last year’s team and this year were joined by nationals first timer Georgina Pitts who had made a remarkable return to training over recent weeks following major knee surgery.  The 15 year old was however clearly not back to full fitness and despite a valiant effort was not able to produce form close to her best time.  Jennings was also unable to find her form and despite solid swims from Matthews and Charlotte Pitts who looked to be making ground on the last leg, the quartet finished slightly slower than their entry time.

Dolphin’s 4 x 200m freestyle relay team ~ Victoria Jennings, Georgina Pitts, Lauren Matthews, Charlotte Pitts

The penultimate day saw swims from Charlotte Pitts in the 400m freestyle and Jon Audis in the100m backstroke.

Pitts has qualified for the 400m freestyle for three years running although has always struggled to find the form at the championships that had got her there in the first place.  Pitts again appeared to allow the excitement of the occasion to get the better of her and recorded 100m and 200m split times that were clearly ambitious.  The lack of distance freestyle competition over the season clearly showed as the initial fast pace took its toll and Pitts finished in a disappointing 4:34.25 and placed 27th overall.  The past season has seen events other than the 400m freestyle emerge as possibilities for Pitts to focus her efforts on and her continued national championships experience can only have helped the 17 year old in her development as a competitive swimmer.

Jon Audis was competing in his 11th year of national qualification and was determined to put in a performance to be proud of.  Audis was one of only three in the first heat. However with all three swimmers evenly matched for pace this made for some good racing which helped push the 33 year old to beat his entry time with a respectable 1:00.48 finish.

Jon Audis prepares for his 11th national appearance

Following a well earned rest day, James Clark was again in action on the final day of competition in the 50m freestyle.  With the heats, semi-finals and finals taking place on the same day, it would be a major test of character for all competitors.  In the heats, Clark got off to a tremendous start, breaking the 24 second barrier for the first time with a 23.85 swim and a new Dolphin club record.  The semi-final did not go as smoothly with what looked like a poor opening 35 metres.  Clark however dug deep to produce a superb last 15 metres in a new best time of 23.74 and earn a 6th ranked place in the final.  A noisy and packed arena greeted the swimmers for the final session of the championships and the 50m freestyle final.  Clark’s excellent start off the blocks gained a fractional overall lead on the underwater phase but slipped back to level due to a slower breakout. What followed was around twenty seconds of a line of white water thundering down the pool, and only the scoreboard was able to split the top finishers with Clark amongst them.  A 23.49 joint fourth finish with Ireland’s Conor Munn was an excellent result for Clark, with the top 3 places going to swimmers with either international honours or British records to their name.

National 17/18 years 50m freestyle finalist James Clark with Dolphin Chief Coach Louise Clayton

Dolphin Chief Coach Louise Clayton was delighted to have finished her fourth season with the club with a fourth place finish from Clark.  “James has clearly demonstrated the clubs ability to produce swimmers that can reach the very top of British youth swimming and has set an outstanding example for others to follow”.

For Clark this is the end of an era having joined Dolphin as a four year old in the Learn to Swim programme. From September the 18 year old moves to Bath University to study Sports Performance and continue his training, his ultimate goal being to represent his country.  Given the level of performance shown at this year’s championships, this would appear to be an achievable ambition.


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