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News November 2021

Keep up to date with what's happening at Dartes and performance swimming in Doncaster. This page records the news as it happens -- history in the making!

The Stories behind the Headlines

Road Trip to Billingham

14 Nov 2021: As many will know, we've said it enough times recently, we are very big on encouraging everyone to experience every event on the programme. With that in mind, we introduced our Animal time trials around a decade ago to give everyone the opportunity of qualifying for Yorkshire Championships at 800/1500m Freestyle and the 200m Butterfly, and 400m IM. Those first two events are very hard to enter at open meets, doubly so without a previous time on rankings.

For 2021 we decided that Level X had been enough in-house time trials for one year, and took the decision to travel north for Billingham's long distance meet as a replacement.

On offer at Billingham were the two big Freestyle events, and oh boy, did this meet prove popular. We expected to break into double figures, we ended up with 33 entries on the day with a few rejections and withdrawals on top. A huge thank you to Billingham for accommodating us all, it must have been a shock to receive our entry file out of the blue.

The Team at Billingham Long Distance Meet There's a chance Coach Dave over-sold the idea of contesting both 800m and 1500m events on the same day (one in the morning, one in the afternoon). But after so long out of competition, getting both times updated on rankings in a single day was worth the effort and some cracking times were swum.

We had 13 swimmers doubling up on both events, with a further 7 doing one or the other. 9 Gold medals and 11 of the other colours came back home to Doncaster - 60% of our swims won medals - and a whopping 96% PB ratio achieved. That latter figure is hardly a surprise of course, these events are swum so infrequently and for many it was their first time.

It was also another big day on club records, which at a meet of this level is probably more important. The big surprise is that with nearly 40 years worth of performances in our database, these two events still don't have full Top 6 lists. Such is the horror that these distance events ellicit in athletes that simply doing them is cause for celebration in itself.

So starting with the younger age-groups, let's look at who made a name for themselves in the ranks of Dartes past and present.

First up, the pocket rocket Aimee Keefe (Spa) and Chloe Dixon (Arm). Straight in as the first pair of Dartes 11 year old girls to even attempt the 1500m short course. Aimee claimed the record, with Chloe 2nd.

Obviously the 800m has traditionally been the female event, whereas the 1500m was the male equivalent, so the opposite tends to have the weaker records. For the 12 year old boys the 800m standard was set in 2019 by those illustrious names "Luke" and "Callum", so a tough act to follow for Jenson Owen (Edl). He wasn't far behind though, adding a third name to the list of short course attempts and a trio of very talented names.

For those looking ahead and considering entering these events at Yorkshires, Luke may help to set your expectations. In December 2019 he set a short course time of 9:33.36. At the following Yorkshire Champs in February 2020, he matched that time Long Course in 9:33.41 at the ironically named Yorkshire Sprint Championships. Look through our records for these two events and you'll see that match happening time after time; first swim at trials in Nov/Dec short course, match the time long course at February Yorkshires. A target to aim for.

In the older age groups, our Top 6 lists become much more competitive, especially the 800m for girls. The 12 year olds attacked it in strength. Grace Burton (Arm) set the 2nd fastest Dartes time in both 800m and 1500m, Cazia Martin (Arm) was within a second of her for 3rd in our 800m, and a couple of seconds down in the 1500m but still sitting 3rd. Connie Crowther (Drn) also got in on the action for the 1500m, jumping in at number 6.

The boys were more than happy to fill in the blanks for the 13 year olds 800m too. Trailing behind the 2017 record of Ben Wright (Arm) who would later go on to win English Nationals Silver at 1500m, were Harrison Maskrey (Adw), Lawrence Chapman (Ros), Noah Brown (Adw), and Cohen Leonard (Adw), all swimming the 800m for the first time and becoming only the 2nd-5th Dartes 13 year old boys to do so short course. Well done them.

Back to the girls and Greta Highfield (Ros) came within a finger nail of claiming our 1500m record in 18:50.92. Rose Keefe (Spa) kept her honest along the way to take the 3rd spot on our hierarchy.

Then came along a big one. Megan Wood (Arm) smashed her way through the 14 year olds 1500m for another age-group record in 18:42.29. Hopefully we'll see her in full-flight repeating that long course in the new year. Following her through those gruelling 60 lengths Grace Blair (Adw) and Violet Sykes (Adw) were enjoying their own battle, 5th and 6th on our all-time lists and separated by just 0.18.

To highlight the quality of the swim by Megan, that age-group record also leaves her as our 3rd fastest female of any age at short course 1500m. Greta also sneaked in to the open list at number 6.

An awesome job by everyone taking part in this event. Hopefully it'll become a regular fixture on our meet calendar.

Squad Meeting Season

28 Nov 2021: We are well and truly into squad meeting season now, with Phase 5 starting things off last Saturday and Phase 4 continuing on Sunday. Phase 3 will be later this week, to be followed by ABC squads at dates to be determined (we have a busy couple of weeks of competition coming up).

The content of those talks is slightly different depending on the squad. For the younger guys in Phase 5 it was about building the engine, following LTAD-based attendance targets, and being sure to concentrate through those big hard sets. Concentration is the key factor in learning new skills or developing old ones.

Talented swimmers tend to perfect skills quickly and practice them to death. Emulate those stars by staying switched on at all times. Determination is then required to keep those improvements in place all the way through a 2000m+ threshold set. Try executing 8m underwaters, every turn, while hitting PB +10sec for 25x100 with minimal rest! Determination and mental toughness are the order of the day.

Phase 4's talk was similar. Starting off with an introduction to Coach Rob and a chance for him to set his expectations for the squad. The same message regarding attendance and punctuality; a dive into nutrition and the usual questions around what to eat before morning training; and a look at how the season will progress in terms of training and competition.

Obviously we have a new setup at Dartes since returning from the pandemic lockdowns. The talks further down the club will focus on introducing everyone to what Dartes is all about and what opportunities are available to everyone. As many aren't yet aware how competitions work, we'll be running through those bits too, making sure everyone knows what they need to know heading into the New Year.

Phase 3 have been invited to their meeting already. ABC squads will get the call in the next few weeks, probably broken into smaller groups so that everyone can fit safely into the back room. It does look like face masks will be necessary for these meetings going forwards.

No one Fitter than Swimmers

10 Nov 2021: Wednesday was Doncaster Schools Cross Country day. It's another of those events where schools realise their swimmers are the fittest kids around and suddenly place more demands on their already full schedules. So for the coaches it's a frustrating matter of turning a blind eye to missed training (the stuff that made them so fit in the first place) and consider the unthinkable of dropping the intensity a notch for the rest of the week.

Sore legs are everywhere after this event, as water based athletes pound their legs around the countryside for 3km, using their big diesel multi-purpose motors to drag them away from their non-swimming peers.

And that's exactly what happened on the day. These big aerobic monsters of the pool, who moan and groan that we make them run a little bit in land training, ended up achieving the following. We're not sure how many school years took part in this, but if Dartes were a school ...

Why is this happening, and why do similar results appear most years? The answer is quite simple if you understand the sport science behind it.

Swimmers work extremely hard!

It's highly likely that no sport demands so much from young athletes as swimming. Never get Coach Dave talking on the subject or you'll hear his crazy theory of optimally preparing children for an athletic lifestyle:

In fact, at a multi-sports coaching conference many moons ago, our Head Coach at the time spoke with some elite coaches from the world of rowing. They openly admitted that they focused on recruiting former elite swimmers for that very reason. You don't get to the top in our sport without developing a massive aerobic engine. That is exactly what you need in every endurance sport.

Congratulations to our winners and runner up, and well done to all the others who took part. Now stop moaning about your legs aching ;-)

100 Greatest US College Swimmers

11 Nov 2021: A few Dartes club records helped earn Georgia Wright (Arm) a scholarship to West Chester University in the States. While there "The Katie Ledecky" of NCAA Division 2 helped herself to National Gold at 1000y and 1650y for three straight years and broke a few records along the way.

Those achievements (and a few others) contributed to the College Swimming and Diving Coaches Association (CSCAA) including her on the CSCAA's 100th year celebration list of 100 Greatest Women's Swimmers and Divers.

It's a list packed full of Olympians from the past century, including the likes of Missy Franklin, Allison Schmitt, Katie Ledecky herself, and the original distance swimming superstar Janet Evans!

A truly astonishing honour for a young lady who owns current Dartes records in Backstroke and Freestyle. Well done Georgia.

Dartes to Benefit from Co-op Community Fund

1 Nov 2021: A swimming scheme for youngsters in Doncaster is hoping shoppers will splash out to help after it was chosen to benefit from the Co-op Local Community Fund.

The organisers of Doncaster Dartes said they were delighted to have been chosen for the fund to help deliver their fantastic service to the young swimmers of Doncaster. Committee member Harry Ainslie said:

"As you can imagine, the last 18 months have been really challenging for small, charitable groups like ours. The pandemic has drastically affected our fundraising efforts, so we’re grateful to have this partnership with the local Co-op. We’re urging local members to choose us as their cause so we can continue to deliver our fantastic service to the young swimmers of Doncaster."

When members buy selected Co-op branded products and services, 1p from every pound spent goes to support local causes. Co-op members can select Doncaster Dartes as their local cause on the Co-op website.

Harry added:

"We really hope that people will visit the Co-op website or download the Co-op app and select us as their Local Community Fund cause so we can continue making a difference. We aim to develop opportunities where local kids get involved in sport instead of the street corner scene, by providing opportunities locally and providing volunteers with the necessary training."

Doncaster Dartes run various sessions from a basic 45-minute swim set, where younger swimmers develop existing skills and learn new ones. The key aims are to build confidence and friendship in an environment where taking exercise is fun and enjoyable. Swimmers swim for between 45 minutes and 20+ hours per week depending on the individual.

Harry said:

"We bring people together in a number of ways by encouraging friendship within our squads. Older kids in the squads provide a friendly face, whether it is at school or in the street. With parents, they have the opportunity to get involved, socialise, learn new skills; it is sometimes as much a lifeline to parents to get involved. We currently are involved with a number of groups across Doncaster."

This follows on from our success in a similar initiative in 2019. That resulted in a trip to Co-op Funeralcare in Doncaster for a presentation event.