The Yorkshire Champs have just concluded, spread over three weekend at Leeds and Sheffield. As a result of further progress since last year by the swimmers, there has been “grade inflation” to the extent that PBs and qualifying times for NERs etc. are no longer enough to warrant an individual mention as there are simply so many these days – debuts and places in finals are needed this year. For all those who don’t warrant an individual mention, we’re all immensely proud of you for qualifying for the Championships in the first place. Yorkshire is the largest and strongest county in swimming terms and to even make it onto the start lists is an achievement in itself.
The first weekend was at Leeds, in short course mode. Tad was represented by Ethan Baylin, India Bryant Chesters, Alex Chesters, Ben Digby, Alex Heard, James Hendon, Rachael McHenery, Ellie Walker and Alex Williams.
Saturday morning saw Ellie and Alex qualify for the 100m backstroke final, in which they finished 7th and 10th. In the afternoon, James was out first, making his County Champs debut in the 100m breaststroke and Ethan qualified comfortably for the final in this event. Ellie and Alex also qualified for the 200m IM final with Abby as a reserve finalist. The day ended medal-less though, with Ethan finishing 7th and Ellie and Alex 9th and 10th.
On the Sunday morning, Ellie was the reserve finalist for the 100m butterfly, with Indi and Abby both qualifying for the 100m breaststroke finals. Indi finished 8th in the 400m free heats and overall, as there was no final at this distance for the youngsters. Abby rounded the morning off with 7th place in her breaststroke final. In the afternoon, Indi and Ellie flew the flag, with the former qualifying for the 100m freestyle final and the latter for the 400m IM final with a mahoosive PB. In the finals, they bagged 6th and 7th places respectively, after which they trekked off to York to go training. Proper hard they are!
The second week was also at Leeds, still in short course mode. Flying the Tad flag were Emily Ball, James Ball, Ethan Baylin, India Bryant Chesters, Tom Carswell, Alex Chesters, Maxwell De’Ath, Alex Heard, Ellie Walker and Alex Williams.
Indi and Ellie kicked off the second weekend in the morning. Indi finished 6th in the heats of the 200m freestyle, again spared the need to do it all again in the final. Ellie easily qualifying for her final in this event. Tom caused no mean level of consternation for coach and parents by qualifying 7th for the 100m fly final, well off his PB. In the 200m breaststroke, Indi was 9th (again, no final) and Emily qualified for her final. In the finals, Ellie produced a big PB to finish 5th, before Tom allayed the concerns in the gallery by swimming over 3s faster in the final to claim the gold medal, with the “slow” heat all part of the masterplan to surprise everyone from an outside lane apparently! In the afternoon, Tom finished 5th in the 100m freestyle final which was won by world relay champion Nick Grainger.
On the Sunday morning, Tad action was somewhat limited, but what action it was, with Ellie and Alex both qualifying for the 100m freestyle final. In the final itself, Ellie stormed off the start, wasn’t too far off her 50m PB at the halfway point and hung on to win by just 0.05s from a fast-closing yellow-hatted rival. Not a bad way for Ellie to bag her first Yorkshire medal! That concluded the Tad involvement at Leeds as the Sunday afternoon saw the distance freestyle events where Tad is yet to make its mark.
The final weekend took place in Sheffield, with the individual sprints on Saturday and the relays on Sunday. Competition was fierce from the word go on the Saturday, with the Ponds Forge car park full long before 730am and queues for Q Park stretching back round the roundabout.
In action for Tad were Emily Ball, James Ball, Ethan Baylin, India Bryant Chesters, Tabby Browning, Tom Carswell, Aerin Catt, Alex Chesters, Benjamin Colling, Daniel Colling, Chloe Collins, Maxwell De’Ath, Ben Digby, Chloe Foster, Alex Heard, James Hendon, Rachael McHenery, Tiago Melo, Imogen Holbrook, Charlotte Holmes, Jake Lee, Gemma Parkinson, Abby Parkinson, Ellie Walker, Libby Walker and Alex Williams.
In the water, Indi kicked things off in style, qualifying for the freestyle final. In the backstroke, Abby, Ellie and Alex all qualified for their finals, with Rachael a reserve finalist. In the breaststroke, Ethan progressed safely to the final whilst Tiago made his Yorkshire Champs debut. In the butterfly, Abby, Alex and Ellie all progressed, with Imogen as reserve finalist. Tom finally got to do his stuff in the freestyle in the last heat of the last event of the morning and to no great surprise, qualified safely for the final.
In the finals, Indi again kicked things off with 5th place in the free. In the backstroke, Abby claimed a surprise silver which Ellie repeated a few minutes later, with Alex H in 9th place. Ethan then got the lads on the scoreboard with 7th in the breaststroke. In the butterfly, Abby’s long arms again came in handy at the finish as she claimed the bronze, with 3rd-7th places covered by just a quarter of a second before Alex H came agonisingly close to a first Yorkshire medal with 4th place. She did bag a first sub 30s effort by way of consolation, with Ellie just behind in 5th. Tom rounded off the session with a silver in the freestyle.
The afternoon got off to a steady start, with James H finishing 3rd amongst the 10 year olds and 21st overall in the combined 10/11 year old breaststroke. Aerin qualified for the final of the breaststroke by the length of a fingernail but by the time she found out, after a series of phone calls from the Team Manager, she was halfway back to Tadcaster, necessitating a quick U-turn on the M1 and a hasty return to Sheffield! Alex, Emily and Ellie all qualified for their breaststroke finals but saved Vicki further phone calls by remaining in the building after racing. In the butterfly, Tom qualified safely enough, implementing his new tactic (or so we hoped in the gallery) of doing just enough in the heats and saving the fireworks for the final. The girls were out in force in the freestyle with Ellie, Alex and Gemma all qualifying for their finals. Abby also qualified safely for her final in an impressive comeback after a chastening experience an hour earlier in the breaststroke. Alex W and Tom rounded off the heats by qualifying for their backstroke finals, with Tom again saving a bit for the final.
In her breaststroke final, Aerin put in another solid effort, with Emily, Alex and Ellie claiming 4th, 6th and 8th in their finals. It’s a shame there isn’t a 4 * 50 breaststroke relay on the programme! In the butterfly, Tom showed that he had indeed saved it for when it mattered with a second silver medal after which Abby completed her comeback by winning her freestyle final to complete a full set of medals for the day. Gemma and Alex H claimed 8th and 9th in their respective finals, with Ellie claiming silver behind one of the Sheffield big hitters in the scorching time of 27.09s. Alex W and Tom rounded things off, with a great 7th place for the former and another silver for the latter in the backstroke, giving Tom a hat-trick of silvers for the day.
I think both swimmers and parents had something of a spring in their step for Teams Day: There’s a later start for the morning session, the sessions are short (under three hours compared to the four hour marathons of Saturday) and getting into Q Park is not a gladiatorial contest. But best of all, the swimmers seem to really enjoy racing together on teams, even siblings whose favourite past-time is arguing with each other!
First in the water for Tad in morning were the open-age lads in the medley, though Caroline Digby was first out overall, on duty in the whites, getting signed off for relay takeovers. Qualification for the final was not too much of a challenge as only ten teams took to their blocks. Our guys (Tom, James B, Ben C and Jake) laid down a marker where it mattered though, with their “guns” primed and their abs rippling, allegedly leaving the more impressionable teenage girls in the building swooning. Next out were the 13/14 lads (Ethan, Ben D, Alex C and Tiago) in the medley. Qualification for the final was much more of a challenge here with 21 entrants, but our guys rose to it in fine style to go through. The 15/16 girls (Imogen, Charlotte, Aerin and Chloe F) put in a solid effort in the freestyle but fell victim to the takeover judge.
The same three teams then raced in the same order, but doing the other discipline, with the lads’ quartets both progressing to their finals. The girls stayed on the right side of the law-enforcement agencies in the medley but did not progress, despite some further solid swims.
In the finals the gloves came off for the open-age lads, with the ritual “slap-off” for all. How anyone goes faster with tenderised pectorals remains one of enduring mysteries of swimming. In the medley, the Tad lads upped their game and touched 7th but were on the end of a somewhat harsh DQ before claiming a fine 8th place in the free. Having just sneaked into both their finals, the younger lads looked a bit tired, but they’d laid it all down to even get there and thoroughly deserved their pennants.
In the afternoon session, most of the action was in the open-age girls category. Alex, Ellie, Gemma and Abby were in one quartet, with Rachael, Steph Smith (on her County Champs debut), Hannah Sharpe and Chloe C forming another team. The final Tad team comprised three from the 13/14 category (Libby, Tabby and another debutant, Lucy Atkinson) who were lacking one team mate and Indi who was lacking three team mates in her age group. For the lads, Max, Dan, Alex W and David Black took up the challenge in the 15/16 category.
The lane draws were at random and in the first heat of the girls’ medley, the sole City of Sheffield team was racing. It was soon clear they were either saving a lot for the final or the big-hitters weren’t on duty. All our girls were in the second heat , spread right across the pool, and there were audible sighs of relief when none of them lined up in the lane on which Dave “The Grim Reaper” Atkinson was acting as takeover judge. He’d already sharpened his scythe a couple of times in earlier events and it was clear that no-one would escape justice, not even Lucy! The A team qualified third for the final, with the B team first reserve, chased home by the youngsters in the C team. The lads just missed out on a place in the freestyle final, finishing in 11th place.
For the girls’ freestyle heats our girls were side by side, thankfully again out of Dave’s jurisdiction. The A team qualified fastest for the final, with the B team also progressing. The younger girls battled bravely, but again didn’t manage to bag a place in the final with Indi clocking a smidge over 30s for her leg, as she had anchoring the medley. The lads put in a committed effort but again just missed out on the final.
The girls didn’t look too nervous for the finals. They at least had the distraction of wrestling themselves into their best race suits and bullet hats. In the case o
f the A team, great efforts had been made to ensure that kit was matching – Alex had acquired a new Arena suit and Abby had unretired hers for a final outing. Parents and Danny in the gallery just had to suffer the nerves! There were a few subs brought into the line-ups of other clubs, so it was difficult to predict how the medley would pan out. Ellie got Tad off to a great start, leading after the first leg after which York moved ahead into a decisive lead. Alex and Abby battled hard to give Gemma a lead of maybe 2 fingernails over the third place swimmer for the last leg and she pulled a big rabbit out of the hat to extend this lead by a hand-width or two to bag the silver medal.
Celebrations were put on hold as there was still a job to do in the free final. Alex led off for the A team, touching in the lead after a big PB (28.05s). Abby handed over safely to Gemma under typically close scrutiny from Dave, with both adding to the lead, despite a very safe takeover. The only concern as Ellie powered home to victory (with a 26.4s split) was that her Dad’s camera packed up before she left the blocks! Just like with buses, Alex had waited ages for one medal and then got a second almost immediately, in her last race at the County Champs. The B team finished in a strong 8th place with Rachael dipping under 30s for the first time on her lead off leg and Steph also putting in a sub 30s split, as she had in the heats.
Though the sessions were short, it was still a fairly late departure for the finalists, as there were of course several zillion celebratory selfies to be taken.
Various social media platforms were doubtless a bit sluggish for a few days as they got uploaded!
Overall, a great three weekends of racing. The final medal tally was 4 golds (1 relay; Tom, Ellie and Abby); 7 silvers (1 relay; 3 * Tom, 2* Ellie and 1 * Abby) and 1 bronze (Abby), with 24 further places in finals (5 relays; 19 individual).
As always, thanks go to Jane and Danny on the coaching front. Though there were some great successes, inevitably there were few disappointments too, and the coaches have to pick up the pieces in the de-brief which isn’t the easiest job in the world. Thanks also to the Team Managers (Tracy Holbrook, Vicki Bryant and Charlie Heard) and again to Vicki for keeping the news of finalists and medals flowing on Twitter despite the volume of updates straining the Ponds Forge WiFi capacity at times!