Masters Forged from Sheffield Steel
With the youth and age group swimming season barely underway, the Masters competition calendar reached its peak last weekend with the British Gas ASA Masters and Senior Age Group Championships (25m) at Ponds Forge, Sheffield.
An experienced contingent of 17 Dolphin swimmers were competing, among them Nick Southern in his first masters competition. Southern was first off the blocks for Dolphin in the 1500m freestyle and after a cat-and-mouse battle with Neil Agius of Maxwell had to settle for fourth place in 17:15.04, just 0.27 seconds shy of a bronze medal. The 18 year old also found himself in a similar battle in the 800m freestyle with team mate Andy Evans. Evans just had the edge throughout the 32 length race but it was Southern’s touch on the final stroke that earned him bronze in the 18-24 years age group in a new club record time of 8:56.02. Evans had also dipped under the previous record but was content with a 30-34 years age group silver medal in a time of 8:56.06.
Kath Baker (18-24 years) set herself a demanding programme of all five 200m events and the 400m individual medley. Vast improvements in Baker’s technique and fitness saw her cruise to gold medals in the 200m and 400m individual medleys and the 200m breaststroke. Personal best swims in the other events also earned her well deserved silvers in the 200m freestyle and 200m backstroke.
Kath Baker ~ Gold 200m, 400m IM and 200m Breaststroke 18-24 years
With masters swimmers usually content to make any small improvements in their lifetime best times, this was not the case for many Dolphins over the weekend. The recent training programme focused heavily on fitness, and it was the 200m events where the benefit was really seen. Jon Audis managed to produce lifetime bests in the 50m and 100m backstroke sprints, but it was a brilliantly swum 200m backstroke in 2:02.67 that saw him come within 0.6 second of Martin Harris’ British record. Gold medals and new club and county records in all three events were small consolation for his near miss, although by moving up an age group next year, the 29 year old looks certain to enter the record books in 2010.
Jon Audis ~ Gold 50m, 100m, 200m Backstroke and 100m IM 25-29 years
At the top end of the 40-44 year age group, Anthony Clark’s gold medal winning performance in the 200m breaststroke in 2:34.47 was 7.5 seconds faster than his previous best; a drop normally reserved for much younger swimmers. Like Audis, Clark moves up an age group in 2010 and a British record is a real possibility.
Anthony Clark ~ Gold 200m Breaststroke 40-44 years
The mens’ 120-159 years relay team of Jon Audis, Chris Jones, Andi Manley and Nigel Masters had set their sights high and were looking to break world records in both the freestyle and medley events. Despite impressive looking performances, the quartet had to be content with a new British and European record in the medley and lowering their own previous national mark in the freestyle. There was further success in the mixed freestyle relay with a convincing win for Audis, Matthew Thomas, Claire Hayes and Sarah Forbes in the 120-159 years, and an equally impressive victory by the 72+ years womens’ medley team of Hayes, Forbes, Kath Baker and Louise Maynard.
Other individual medallists were Nigel Masters (4 silver), Jose Adam (2 silver, 1 bronze), Sarah Forbes (1 silver, 3 bronze), Paul Kirk (2 bronze) and Matthew Thomas (1 bronze). Twenty four Wiltshire masters records fell with Masters and Kirk between them remarkably taking eleven from eleven events entered.