The long course North East Regional Champs took place over the last two weekends in May, including a special bonus on Bank Holiday Monday. Qualification standards are very demanding for the swimmers, so there was only a small Tadcaster contingent in action. However, due to the rescheduling of the youth and senior events to the same weekend as the age group ones, selection criteria for officials were somewhat less demanding so your correspondent managed to sneak onto the roster.
There was great excitement in the officials’ room before the start. It was the first session of the live stream on YouTube and Facebook, so there was great attention to detail on how and in what order we should walk to our positions in order to best impress the viewers. Whatever impression the organisers had hoped to convey was probably somewhat scuppered by the tannoy man, who piped us in to the “Great Escape”. Unfortunately due to some early technical issues the live stream wasn’t even working as we made our entrance!
There was actually some swimming too. In the first age group session, NER debutants Alex Chesters, Joe Burnell and Ava Williams were joined by “old hands” Ethan Baylin and Abby Parkinson. The live stream apparently flickered into life just before Alex kicked things off. If he was unduly nervous about representing Tadcaster in front of a potential global audience of 7 billion, it didn’t show and he bagged a tidy PB in the 100 breast with Ethan doing the same in this event shortly afterwards. Ethan also raced in the 50 free along with Joe, who bagged a PB in finishing 2nd reserve for the final. Abby then qualified for the 50 breast final, also with a PB. Ava finished as the second fastest 11 year old in the North East for the 50 breast but as that age group is combined with the 12 year olds missed out on a place in the final.
Over what should have been the lunch break, the first session of youth and senior events took place, with Emily Ball claiming 2nd place in the senior 100 breast and Ellie Walker bagging a PB in the 200 backstroke. The rescheduling of these events did GCSE students no favours and there had been numerous withdrawals from the original start list, including Tom Carswell in the 100 fly.
The evening session saw the age group finals, with Abby racing at the end of the session at what felt like midnight but was in fact “only” 6.30pm. NER finals are nicely done by the organisers, with swimmers announced by the tannoy man as they walk on, to an array of rousing tunes and it clearly did the trick as she uncorked a huge PB to claim the silver medal in the 50 breast.
It was age group heats again the next morning, with debutants Tom Bleanch and India Bryant Chesters joining Ethan and Abby in action. There was a long wait before Ethan and Tom raced in the same heat of the 50 breast, with both bagging PBs. In the 50 free, India ended up as the fastest 11 year old in the North East but missed out on a final for the same reason as Ava the day before, with Abby qualifying comfortably for the final in the same event. Abby also finished as 1st reserve for the 100 breast final.
The lunch break was again taken up with youth and senior events, with Ellie adding a PB in the 100 backstroke. Both Ellie Walker and Alex Heard were in action in the 100 free, just missing their PBs. Tom was again amongst the exam revision casualties.
In the evening session, the 50 free final was towards the end of the programme, so it was another late finish. Abby pulled out another PB to claim a medal, this time a bronze.
On the second age group weekend, Abby was joined by Alex Williams both days, with three PBs from three outings on the Saturday (Alex 50 fly, Abby 100 fly and 200 breast).
On the Sunday morning, Alex was in action in the 50 back and Abby the 200 IM, 50 fly and the 100 free, with a PB in the latter seeing her through to the final in the afternoon session. Another PB saw Abby home in 6th place in the final, less than a second off the podium.
On Bank Holiday Monday, it was time for the youth and senior age group sprints, with Alex, Emily and Ellie joined by Tom Carswell, Chloe Collins and Gemma Parkinson. The omens were good before the session even started, as the Tad parents were first in the queue for the viewing gallery and effortlessly secured prime position by the finish line.
With an array of 50s sandwiching a few relays, the action was thick and fast, interspersed with regular PBs and finals for the Tad swimmers. Alex and Ellie registered PBs in the back, with Alex advancing to the final. Tom then logged a PB and a place in the fly final. Ellie, Alex, Chloe and Gemma all secured free PBs, with Ellie qualifying for the final via a sub-28 second effort. After the relays, curiously bereft of anything approaching a proper “slap-off”, Tom qualified for both the back and free final with a PB in the former, whilst Ellie bagged another PB in the fly. Emily completed a hat trick of second places in the senior age group (19 and over) in the free and breast.
The finals’ session was manic, with 4 finals either side of more relays. I don’t think any 50m race actually started before the previous one had finished, but it was mighty close on more than one occasion! Alex was first out for Tad in the back and the froth had barely subsided before Tom embarked on a victorious outing with gold in the fly in the youth age group (18 and under) with another PB. Ellie then rounded off the pre-relay section with another sub-28 second effort to claim 4th place overall in the free, less than a tenth off the bronze medal.
There was a break of approx. 20 minutes during which the relays took place and Tom prepared for his next 2 finals. First up was the backstroke, where he claimed 4th place, before setting a PB for climbing out of the pool, returning to the start end and lining up behind his blocks for the free final. Tom was understandably shattered and didn’t feature at the sharp end of things in this one as he was one of only 2 in this final to have also swum in the back final.
Refuelling was definitely called for and as soon as Tom emerged from the changing rooms, there was a cavalry charge to the Golden Arches. The first consignment from the kitchen arrived with commendable speed, though there was clearly a mix up in the ordering process, as part of the delivery was a salad.
The second consignment arrived shortly afterwards, and despite being almost the same size as the first, it was just for Tom. It was, by this stage, more than 7 hours since he’d last eaten anything, and that was a modest snack comprising only a “full English”, toast and croissants at the Marriott, so it was understandable that he was now a little peckish. The mountain of food did not last long, though it must be noted that the Mississippi Mud Pie McFlurry (chocolate goo with bits in, for those not familiar with the regular menu “Chez Ronald”) nearly finished him off!
Overall, a great couple of weekends in Sunderland for Tad, with places secured at the British Nationals for Tom (50 fly) and places in the English Nationals for Tom (100 fly, 50 free and 50 back), Abby (50 breast and 50 free) and Ellie (50 free) in addition to the medals (a full set: gold for Tom; silvers for Emily; silver and bronze for Abby) other finals’ places and PBs.
None of the success on race days could happen without the coaches, so many thanks to them for all their work, not least managing to make the swimmers look forward to sessions which are too exhausting to type, let alone swim!