Swim England National Winter Championships

5th to 8th December 2019 at Ponds Forge

There was a large Tadcaster York Sport contingent at the recent “Winter Nationals”, with entries in all the relays and Tom and Will flying the flag in the 50 fly. The relay line ups as follows:

Men’s 4 * 50 medley: Callum, Steve, Tom and Ethan

Ladies’ 4 * 50 free: Clemmie, Alex, Gemma and Abby

Men’s 4 * 100 free: Ethan, Alex, Jake and Tom

Ladies’ 4 * 50 medley: Tabby, Alex, Meredith and Abby

Men’s 4 * 50 free: Ethan, Will, Jake and Tom

Ladies’ 4 * 100 free: Libby, Abby, Alex and Meredith

The full range of teams entered for the relays overall generally represent two races within one. The performance squads and swimming schools cruise the heats before duking it out for the medals in the final, with the smaller clubs laying it all down in the heats just to secure an outer lane in the final. There were genuine hopes of the TYS teams making the final in the freestyles, with the medley teams realistically just there for the experience.

On a technical note, it’s hard to be precise re PBs on relays given the flying starts, so anything “ball-park” after allowing approximately for the takeover gets a mention!

Day 1:

The lads kicked things off with a solid outing in the medley. Callum led off in his first competitive relay (no pressure there!) after which Steve, Tom and Ethan were all at or close to PB-pace to claim  15th place. The disappointment of missing the final was tempered by being home for lunchtime.

Day 2:

Some great sporting rivalries develop over time (e.g. Federer and Nadal, Hill and Schumacher, Coe and Ovett etc.) whilst others spring from nowhere. I doubt anyone in Weston Super Mare knew any more about Tadcaster or York Sport than we did about Weston or Super Mare before the draft programme was issued, but it soon became clear that the two clubs would be fierce rivals for the outer lanes in all the ladies’ finals!

With 12 entrants in both of the day’s events (short freestyle for the girls; long freestyle for the lads) getting through to the final didn’t sound that hard on paper, but it proved somewhat harder for the girls in the water, as they claimed the last qualifying spot, edging out the aforementioned W-S-M.

The lads made it look somewhat easier, qualifying safely in 8th place, with Tom producing the second fastest split overall on the anchor leg, seemingly hydroplaning his way to his first sub 50 second effort, backed up by PB-level efforts from the others.

This successful morning session raised again the thorny issue when in good form at Nationals: What on earth do you do for 6 hours in Sheffield before the finals? The answer was simple this time: take advantage of Pizza Hut’s weekday “Eat all you can buffet” for £7.50. The buffet also included pasta (hopefully the “go faster” variety) on which the swimmers refuelled (in addition to pizza and chicken wings in a few cases!)

One of the girls provided a further diversion after lunch by losing track of her race suit, which resulted in a bit of dashing to and from Pizza Hut where the suit was thought to have been dropped, before it was eventually located – in her bag!

The finals are pretty cool at Winter Nationals. The main lights dim, the music starts and the disco lights flash before the contestants parade to their blocks. Conventional wisdom has it that a centre lane is best, but lane 9 for the slowest qualifier was best for the relays as that allowed the girls to be out first, enjoying the limelight. For unexplained reasons, the girls were announced only as “Tadcaster” with the lads given an upgrade to “Team Tadcaster” when they came out.

It was a somewhat salutary experience for all concerned in the water. The girls consolidated their place as slowest qualifiers, with the lads dropping a place to 9th despite a big PB from Tom on the opening leg and another PB from Alex.

Day 3:

Tabby had been expecting to race in the YCBC gala today but got a last minute call up for nationals duty due to Clemmie withdrawing due to illness. She was certainly thrown in at the deep end, leading off between two swimmers who were a fair few seconds faster.

Tabby started what we hope is a new trend for TYS swimmers by uncorking a mahoosive PB on her nationals debut. We learnt quickly about W-S-M as the heat unfolded. It was soon apparent that they have an extremely good backstroker so as Alex and then Meredith took to the water, there was some serious work to be done on the breast and fly legs. Alex and Meredith did what needed to be done in fine style, leaving Abby to cruise home to ensure they didn’t finish last overall.

With one of the swimming schools getting DQd for a dodgy takeover, the girls actually finished 11th, all at PB-pace or thereabouts, optimising the relationship between “good result” and “home in time for Strictly”.

Day 4:

There was a much shorter wait for TYS action today, with Tom and Will out in the 50 fly before the relays. Will was only a smidge off his entry time, a solid effort on his first outing for the club. Tom continued his great form with a big PB to qualify 10th for the senior final.

In the relays, the lads qualified for the final, despite finishing 11th overall. Only one of the two East Leeds teams who finished above them was allowed to race in the final, so the lads claimed the coveted maximum livestream exposure in lane 9 for the final.

For the girls, Libby also got a late call up and also got to lead off. With only 9 entrants, qualification for the final was, on paper, a formality. But with the girls getting DQd last year (for impeding a swimmer whilst leaving the pool, of all things) no-one was taking any chances this year, with a “safely in and safely out” mantra the order of the day.

With only 9 finalists, it was important not to be slowest qualifier, as this would have landed the girls in lane 0 where during the “parading on” they would have been completely hidden behind the melee of the faster qualifiers in the centre lanes. The deed was safely done, seeing off the requisite one team to secure maximum exposure in lane 8 with Libby pretty much bang on PB pace and Abby looking particularly frisky with a sub 58s leg.

Today the question was “What do we do in Sheffield for 4 hours?” as the finals mercifully started a couple of hours earlier than on the other days. The answer for all bar Danny was to have a relaxing lunch at the Smoke House, though today sadly not in the form of an eat all you can buffet. For Danny, however, the answer was to run back to the pool to sort out an admin issue that had seen the East Leeds B team allocated the lads’ outside lane for the relay final. This was soon sorted and the lads allocated their rightful place, but the incident did Danny’s blood pressure no favours.

The finals come and go pretty quickly, so it wasn’t long before Tom was out to do his stuff in the 50 fly. The commentators had clearly done some research during the interval as he was announced as representing “Tadcaster York Sport”. It being a senior national final, the competition was unsurprisingly fierce and Tom didn’t advance on his qualifying position, but did nearly match his morning PB and was clearly in good form for the relay.

In the shorter freestyle relay, the lads stepped it up, going nearly a second faster than in the heats, with Will, Ethan and Jake all at PB-pace, the latter half a second faster than in the morning.

In the longer freestyle relay, the girls really stepped it up, Libby, Alex and Meredith particularly so, going approximately three seconds faster than in the heats. This was partially as a result of wanting to sign off in style but also as result of wanting to complete the coveted treble over W-S-M. Abby led off with a PB, officially under 58s for the first time, followed by Libby also with a PB. Alex and Meredith were both on PB pace, with the latter just hanging on to claim 8th place in front of W-S-M. They just failed to breach the 4 minute barrier, but had at least claimed the treble!

Summary

All in all, a great few days at Nationals with PBs coming thick and fast. There were also debuts at this level for Alex W, Ethan, Gemma, Jake, Tabby and Libby and a first senior final for Tom.

On the quirkier side of things:

  • Tom was the only swimmer in the whole competition to be announced as representing three different clubs: “Tadcaster”, “Team Tadcaster” and “Tadcaster York Sport”
  • Gemma recorded a legitimate negative takeover time. She did minus 0.02s in the final, just inside the 0.03s tolerance that the Ponds Forge timing system allows
  • 13 may be unlucky for some but it was 13th time lucky for Abby at nationals as she finally recorded a PB at this level of competition

Roll on the Christmas Champs – Nationals are good, but reindeer antlers and the t-shirt relay are in a league of their own!