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Dolphin’s national experience

Event: British Gas ASA National Championships 2014 Venue: Ponds Forge, Sheffield Date: 30th July to 10th August 2014

Following the success of the home nations at the Commonwealth Games, the National Age Group (11 to 14 years) and National Youth (15 years and over) Swimming Championships took place in Sheffield a few weeks later. The youth event was graced with the presence of many of the competitors from the games including Plymouth Leander’s gold medallist Ben Proud and former Swindon Dolphin Tilly Gray. For some, just qualifying for the national championships is the pinnacle of their careers. For others however, it is simply a continuation of the process towards achieving greater goals such as those achieved by Proud and Gray in Glasgow.

Ponds Forge; home of the National Championships

With more national qualifiers than in recent years, Dolphin were in action in the pool on most of the 11 days of competition. The age group championships took place first with new qualifiers Olivia Flack and Sophie Bartlett competing on the opening day. A nervous Bartlett was unable to produce the form she is so clearly capable of, finishing just outside her best in the 100m freestyle. Flack fared better overall and in the same event finished in a new personal best time of 1:03.96 although struggled to repeat the performance in the 400m freestyle, 100m backstroke and 200m backstroke over the following four days. For both girls competing in the 12 year age group it was an unforgettable experience. It was also a unique experience as providing British Swimming’s competition changes go ahead from next year their proposal is to raise the minimum age to compete at British level to 14 years and under.

William Davies has been catapulted from county to national standard swimmer in the space of one season although the 13 year old appeared unfazed by the occasion as he took to the blocks in the 1500m freestyle. Davies held a steady pace for all but the first and last 100 metres; both being significantly faster than the rest of his swim, suggesting there is potential for improvement in the middle part of the race. Similar lessons were learned a few days later in his 400m freestyle swim where the blistering pace set in the first 100 metres could not be maintained for the remainder of the swim. Despite this, both efforts resulted in significant personal bests and new age group club records for Davies as well as an impressive 10th place finish in the 1500m freestyle; an excellent first national championships appearance.

William Davies; national top 10 performance

The first Dolphin youth to compete was Beth Crouch, although in the slightly cooler waters of Rother Valley Country Park at the national youth open water championships. Crouch found the going tough in the 3km race against far more experienced athletes and finished in a creditable 17th place, taking 38 minutes, 27.26 seconds to complete the course. The National Masters Open Water Championships also took place on the same day where Dolphin’s open water aficionado Helen Hanks won gold in the 45-49 years age group.

Beth Crouch enjoying the fresh air of Rother Valley Country Park

Back in the pool, Charlotte Gardo and Rebecca Flack were competing in the 50m breaststroke in their first experience of individual national competition. The single open age group of the form stroke 50’s which progress directly to finals was always going to make it tough to progress beyond the heat stage. Both swimmers put in sterling performances with Gardo finishing just outside her entry time and Flack producing a personal best by just under two tenths of a second.

For the second year running, Lauren Matthews was competing in the 200m butterfly having qualified with an outstanding 2:22.89 swim at the same pool back in April.   Matthews split the first 100m in 1:07.01 and was on pace to produce a performance that would come close to her sub 2:20 target. However with the time being just under her 100m personal best, the pace proved too much to hold and Matthews finished one second outside her entry time in 2:23.89. Finishing the season ranked inside the top 25 for her age group in the event should still give Matthews the incentive to ensure she makes it a hat-trick of appearances next year.

James Clark who has successfully completed his first year at Bath University was competing in the University colours and has now moved up to the tough 19 years and over age group, pitting himself directly against those who have either reached or are looking to reach the last few rungs of the ladder towards international status. Not unexpectedly, a change in programme over the past year meant Clark was unable to repeat his exceptional 50m and 100m freestyle performances from last year, although encouragingly the 23.91 recorded in the shorter event was better than his times swum at the previous two national events this year.

Mathew Sambrook had qualified for the 1500m freestyle with relative ease at the South West Regional Youth Championships back in May and was confident of holding the 1:06 100m splits he needed in order to produce a new best time. Sambrook’s 500m split time was within 0.3s of his qualifying swim at the same point although after this he started to slip and the 1:07 splits recorded to the end of the swim left him just outside his entry time. A national top 20 finish however was an encouraging start to Sambrook’s national championships career.

Mathew Sambrook takes his marks for national debut

Charlotte Pitts was competing at her last national championships in Dolphin colours as she takes up the position of Swimming Assistant at Sherborne Girls School in September and continues her competitive swimming with Yeovil Swimming Club. Pitts has qualified every year since 2011 although has never managed to produce a performance better than her qualifying swim. Her first swim in the 800m freestyle was still a few seconds off her best although she was not displeased with the result. Pitts’ final appearance was the 400m freestyle on the last day of competition and some focused pace work in the warm-up sessions beforehand proved worthwhile as it resulted in a well controlled swim from the outset. Although just a few hundredths of a second shy of a best time, Pitts was delighted with her 14th placed finish and a new 18 years age group club record.

Charlotte Pitts; a fine farewell performance


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