On top of the world
Event: Arena League Round 3 Venue: Link Centre (Premier Division, gala 3), Weston-super-Mare (Division 2, gala 3) Date: 9th December 2017
The third and final round of the National Arena League took place this weekend with a total of 400 teams across the country’s seven constituent regions battling it out in their respective galas. An excellent result for Swindon saw Swindon Dolphin A win their meet at the Link Centre, and Swindon Dolphin B finish as runners up in Weston-super-Mare.
In the Western Division, Swindon Dolphin are one of only 9 of the 49 clubs represented in the league to field an A and a B Team, providing more swimmers with opportunities to compete against a wide range of competition. As in recent years, the A Team were competing in the Premier Division and the B Team in Division Two. Points gained in the first two rounds of the competition decide which of the three seeded galas teams are in for the final, and with both having to be content with gala 3 appearances, the question would always be whether the A Team could avoid relegation to division 2 and the B Team could perhaps win their final round given their second placed ranking.
The A Team had only met one of the four other teams in previous rounds and were therefore against little known competition. It soon transpired how evenly matched all five teams were. There were many finishes that came down to the wire and in a few cases decided on the skilful placement of a final stroke into the wall, although not all in Dolphin’s favour. With 16 of the 50 event meet being team relays, these races became a significant factor and a real test of team trust in being able to execute a takeover with minimal loss of time, but also subject to the satisfaction of the watchful eye of the judges.
Points remained close throughout the night with the lead changing hand no fewer than nine times, and on four occasions Dolphin were tied for first place. Going into the final block of relays, Dolphin were in second place, 4 points behind Nofio Sir Gar, although a costly disqualification on a start for the Welsh club put Dolphin in front, a position they maintained to the end. Incredibly, Dolphin won only seven of the 50 events, but by maintaining a top 2 finish for nearly half the events and touching home last on just six occasions their overall team performance ensured they finished on top.
Swindon Dolphin Arena League A Team
At Weston-super-Mare, Bristol North were the top ranked team, with Swindon Dolphin B in second. With both teams exchanging places for the top spot a few times during the first few races it seemed that these would indeed be the main contenders for victory. Severnside Tritons B however had other ideas and led from event 7 through to the finish. Dolphin B held firmly onto second place throughout the night, but despite 17 wins in total, more than any other team and including the prestigious mens 6 x 50m freestyle relay, they could not catch the leaders.
Several swimmers in both the A and the B team achieved personal bests in individual swims, some in their key events; an impressive feat given that this was not a target open meet. However, in the context of a team competition where team points are what mattered, these swims were no more important than those involving the few swimmers who only took part in relay events.
Premier division, gala 3 results: Swindon Dolphin A 157, Nofio Sir Gar 153, Torfaen Dolphins 149, Street & District 149, West Wilts Force 5 A 141
Division 2, gala 3 results: Severnside Tritons B 176, Swindon Dolphin B 171, Bristol North 153, Torquay Leander 133, West Wilts Force 5 B 106