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News December 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

100m Butterfly Final at Winter Nationals

6 Dec 2021: Like every other major championships at the moment, qualification standards for Swim England Winter Nationals had been significantly lowered. That didn't affect our three who would have been inside the usual times anyway, but it did make for an extremely crowded meet that at times felt more like Regionals than Nationals.

That is, apart from it starting 7am Friday morning, advertising boards surrounding the competition pool, and the live professional commentary.

For most regions, having men and women competing simultaneously in different halves of the pool was also a novelty. For the North East, we've been doing similar for the last decade. It was however, a late adjustment to the schedule caused by far too many entries, and reduced recovery periods between races was the result.

So we rolled through Friday and Saturday morning feeling like any other meet. Nothing special just rather busy. Then Madison Johnson (Arm) qualified for the 100m Butterfly final and Saturday night everything changed!

Most don't realise that Ponds Forge has two sets of lights. The standard fairly dim ones, and the high powered, super bright (and expensive to use) lights they turn on for National finals. You can feel the difference when those illuminate, not just see it.

The highlight of Maddie's nationals every year appears to be the upbeat, musical marching arrival of the officials poolside for finals. That sets the mood for the evening and Saturday night didn't disappoint.
It was loud.
It got the crowd clapping.
The winds of anticipation blew around the pool hall.
Yep, this was now definitely Nationals!
It's one of the perks of qualifying for finals - the live stream is nothing like it.

When the stakes are at their highest, the atmosphere comes to life. The music filled the balcony introducing every swimmer behind the blocks. The big teams made sure their athletes were supported even above the volume of the music. The likes of Mount Kelly, Loughborough Uni, and Hamilton Aquatics squeezed themselves into the scoreboard end of the pool concentrating the volume for an electric, football stadium-style atmosphere.

Coming out behind the blocks for a final can be extremely intimidating the first time. Freezing like rabbits caught in headlights is a common reaction. The atmosphere needs to be soaked in prior to your turn. If/when you qualify for Nationals, be sure to take the opportunity to attend a finals session in person to get a feel for it - the live stream does not do it justice.

But that all happened Saturday night, let's go back to the beginning and enjoy a day off school on Friday.

Event 1 was the Mens 50m Freestyle, we had Callum Broadhead (Arm) competing as a Junior. Winter Nationals is really for 16s and over. Only the very best under 16s qualify as there are only two age groups: Seniors for everyone, and Juniors for the 16 and unders. The best 10 come back in the evening for the Senior final, the next 10 juniors contest the junior final.

At 14, Callum was one of the younger ones, and due to Covid this was his first taste of National level competition being part of the generation to have missed two years. It was also the first time since returning from lockdown that Callum could compete without the hinderance of an illness which has plagued him for months. The effects of that illness meant he would only be contesting the sprints due to missing months of training.

There's no holding back his raw speed though. A quarter second PB from NERs left him the fastest 14 year old in 24.24, lowering his Dartes age-group record and making him Doncaster's 3rd fastest ever. A good start to the meet.

Next up was Maddie's 200m IM. A little off her NER performances with a solid 2:24, but a packed programme followed for her. A much better swim in the 100m Freestyle at lunch time set her 2nd best time ever, and set her up nicely for day 2.

Between those events Molly Chambers (Drn) and Callie Ramshaw (Edl) braved the 200m Butterfly. Callie of course, our main lifeguard during the summer, had officially retired with the pandemic killing off training in 2019. Arriving at Sheffield Hallam for University saw her dip back in to regular training and her race times from 2019 Nationals qualified her for this weekend.

She was never going to match those times, but post-covid PBs were up for grabs and the smiles from competing again at the elite level were all that mattered. Callie returned on Saturday wearing a mix of kit (Dartes, Edlington, and Team Hallam) for the 400m Freestyle too.

For Molly, the 200m Butterfly brought another opportunity to continue destroying her PBs. This one had stood at 2:21.79 since the summer of 2018. Winter Yorkshires reduced it to 2:19 in October, and NERs almost saw it duck below that last month, our club record was now in sight at 2:18.48.

The target pacing for this one was something like 31, 35, 36, 36. Coach Dave was heard stressing the need to push for a 35 on the third 50m and hang on. Was a 1:05 first half likely to leave her struggling in the second? 1:06 had served her better in the final at NERs. Such considerations are important and understanding how to hit those times is a skill elite swimmers must manage. Going out too hard makes holding those back-end 36s very painful or impossible.

Molly has endured a weekly pair of big fly sets for months, maxing out at the 1800m mark (each). A mix of 100m, 75m, and 50m reps have been responsible for dropping chunks of time off all her Fly events (and Maddie's too). Swimmers will understand how painful that sounds. Now a month after NERs, was this the time to drop the next half second to claim that record. At 19, a spot in the senior final was probably unrealistic.

An aggressive first 50m looked easy and established her with the leading four or five in heat 8. Turning in 30.84 was fast, and set up a half way split of 1:05.54 - would it prove too fast? She was now lying 2nd in the heat, already ahead of target pace with the challenge of holding 35sec through the third quarter.

We've said it numerous times, but let's repeat it here: to hold pace on the third 50m of a 200, you must push very, very hard. On Butterfly even more so. If you manage it, you will pull away from those around you because not many will. Molly managed it: 35.92. It was a smidgen under 36, but they all count. There were now three girls in a line at the front of the race, with Molly challenging for 2nd or 3rd place every few strokes.

At the 150m mark all looked set for a big time. The danger of going out too fast becomes apparent on the last 50m. Many have realised too late and died a painful death. That happened here too, just as it has on many other occasions. But it wasn't Molly, it was the girl she was chasing down the last 25m for 2nd place. Entering the red zone Molly was definitely 3rd, the girl ahead suddenly tied up, a big 2m glide being all she could manage to the wall. Molly nailed her finish, as she so often does, and snatched 2nd in the heat by just 0.05.

Another PB by 0.85sec for what is probably her final short course 200m Fly with Dartes. If that is the case, a new club record brings that era to a fitting end in 2:18.18.

Saturday rolled around and with it a showdown between our Fly girls. The 100m club record had been claimed by Molly at NERs, taking it away from Ella Bainbridge (Arm) who would race today's heat in the lane next to Molly but wearing the cap of Mount Kelly. Five minutes before their heat 10, heat 8 would feature the return of Maddie for day 2.

Going in on a 1:04.10, Maddie was a considerable distance away from the 1:03.45 record and Ella's previous time of 1:03.49. But what's half a second, right? There was also an outside chance of a junior final to fight for. A fast 50 put her in the lead which she held to the 75m. Then she ploughed down the last 25m to touch in 1:03.40 to win the heat and steal the record from her team mate. You train for 16 hours each week for months, and race painful events, and it all comes down to a few hundredths of a second. Another tiny 0.05.

That new standard was destined to last about four minutes until Molly obliterated it in 1:02.99. Ella, struggling with injury, was a little off the pace.

Maddie finished 11th as first reserve for the junior final, or so we thought. One of her fellow 16 year olds had qualified for the senior final, so Maddie took her place and a second swim was hers.

A 1:02 feels like a big jump from starting the day at 1:04. She does tend to pull out big swims in finals though, and Saturday night was no exception. Touching the wall in 1:02.81 for 7th place - her best placing at Nationals thus far - she stole the record back from Molly.

She hadn't been far off reaching two finals that night either. The 100m IM saw her finish 16th, which after shuffling out the young guns qualifying for the Senior final left her as first reserve for the Juniors by just 0.03sec. Her 1:06.21 lowered her own club record for that event too.

Before any of that took part though, Callum was back for the 100m Freestyle. The longer distances have suffered most from his lack of training, but 53.71 still left him as 3rd fastest 14 year old. No prize for that of course, but a good starting point to build on now that his training can begin in earnest.

The final day brought with it the grueling 400m IM. A PB would have put Madison in the final, but after swimming more than 7,000m the day before and the late finals, she could only manage her 2nd best performance. A solid 5:04. We know there's more to come from that, but a good performance nonetheless.

Rounding off the long weekend was Callum in the 50m Butterfly. His 26.09 was the fastest time set by a 14 year old once again. Just like with his 50m Freestyle this gives him the Dartes age-group record and leaves him 3rd fastest all-time.

For Phase 5, Winter Nationals pretty much draws Short Course season to an end. For Molly that might even be her short course swansong. If it proves to be so, then breaking two club records from two events is a great way to end.