YOUNG Swindon Dolphin swimmers enjoyed what may well have been their final chance to achieve national qualifying times at the recent 2014 Regional Age Group Championships at Hengrove.
Proposed changes to the British competition structure include increasing the minimum age of national qualification from 11 to 14 and to base selection on rankings rather than qualifying times. These changes, currently in consultation and planned to be implemented next year, meant the Bristol event may have been one of the last occasions swimmers could experience the excitement of pursuing national qualifying times.
Dolphin chief coach Louise Clayton is supportive of the proposed British Swimming competition system changes, saying: “We have been used to swimmers chasing national qualifying times and change can be difficult.
“However, it is important that we look at these potential changes as just one part of a new strategy designed to improve the overall performance of British swimmers. It appears that qualifying times may still be in place at county and regional level although there may be increases in the minimum ages at these levels. It is important that as a club we embrace any changes to play our part in delivering the strategy, and if necessary we will look at ways of developing our squad structure to adapt to this.”
Dolphin’s newest national qualifier, William Davies, was clearly not content with just the 1500m freestyle and knew he was in with a chance of adding the 200m and 400m events to his portfolio. On the first day of the meet, a spirited effort in the shorter event saw Davies finish less than half a second outside the required time although his eighth-place heat finish secured a spot in the final. Despite another fine effort to finish in sixth, Davies fell short of the mark.
Olivia Flack was also looking to increase her numbers of national qualifying events and finished the day in style, dipping just under the mark in the 400m freestyle. Flack’s other swims also earned her sufficient BAGCAT points to place her eighth place in the overall awards.
On the final day of the meeting, Regan Jefferies’ 100m breaststroke proved that he is maybe not just a 200m swimmer, as his 1:15.81 heat swim earned him a place in the finals and brought him within just a few seconds of his national time.
The girls’ 200m freestyle was the most lucrative event for Dolphin. By virtue of her 2:13.26 split time in the 4x200m freestyle relay a week earlier, Ella Wardale realised that achieving her required 2:11.36 national time was not an unrealistic target. Wardale was disappointed with her 2:14.69 heat although it was good enough to earn a place in the 14 years final. Twelve-year-olds Flack and Sophie Bartlett also made it through to their age group final.
Prior to the finals, the last heats of the day incorporated the boy’ 400m freestyle, which saw Davies and James Watson drawn in adjacent lanes. Watson remained just in front from the outset and, despite appearing to drop the pace drastically on the fourth 50, regained his composure and finished in 4:31.57, a full seven seconds quicker than he had swum a week earlier. Davies touched home in 4:32.94, well inside his national qualifying time.
The girls’ 200m freestyle finals took place in the last-day finals session. In the 12-year-old final, Flack and Bartlett finished fifth and sixth respectively. Flack’s excitement in believing to achieve however turned to disappointment as she missed the mark by just one quarter of a second. Wardale had yet to achieve national qualification and was probably surprised to find herself making her first realistic attempt in a 200m event rather than a shorter event that she had always favoured. She finished in fifth.