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Articles by Dartes Swimmers Past and Present

Every now and again, someone pops up out of the deep end and writes an article for the website. Sometimes these are former Dartes swimmers with happy memories to share. Often they're current members with something special or interesting to shout about. Either way, if it's interesting and in some way connected to Dartes or Doncaster Swimming, we'll probably publish it.
Here's one of those articles.

The Stories behind the Headlines


The medals won at this year's Yorkshire teams reminded me of the early years of this century. The photo is from the 2003 Senior/Junior Championships at the old Leeds International Pool. You can just make out the red Dartes jacket and a huddle of black shirts collecting Bronze medals (but can you identify them).

The very next year though, those four moved one place to their right and collected Golds. Just reward for a team that had won minor medals in that event for most of the previous 5 years while racing a City of Leeds quartet that often included within its ranks a Mr James Hickman, multiple World Short Course Champion over 200m Fly.

Forgive me the indulgence, but that Gold medal winning team was led off that year by some old dude called Dave Cuthbert, and if memory serves (old age being what it is) was brought home by a young whipper snapper by the name of Kevin Nicholas.

But what of that other familiar name I hear you ask. If two thirds of our current lead coaches were in that team, what about Head Honcho himself?

Well Coach Wallace, or just plain old Andrew back then, led off the Men's B team touching exactly 0.2secs behind DC leading out the A team. His B team eventually finished in 7th place. Gold and 7th in a Men's Yorkshire Freestyle final -- not bad!

There's something about team events that bring out the best in people. They're usually the memories cherished the longest too. Of all the memories from my swimming career, 3 stand out above all the rest.

3. Snatching Yorkshire Silver at the end of my first full year back at Dartes, racing in the Men's Freestyle team in 1999.

2. Being part of the 6x50m Freestyle team to win the Rotherham Metro Easter Meet at Maltby in 1998. The bit I remember: being late to join my team mates and walking the length of Maltby pool towards a terrifying and menacing huddle of broad shouldered blackness in a sea of colour. Terrifying that is, had it not been my team I was walking towards!

1. Being part of the 6x50m Mens team that secured Dartes the Division 1 Speedo League NE title in 2005. We were practically level with York with just the Men's and Women's teams left to go. In an electric atmosphere I don't even think this last weekend could match, we came from behind to win the team and win the meet.

It's the team aspect of those 3 memories that make them stand out. Sharing the joy of achievement with your best friends who all feel the same way is one of the things sport is about. It doesn't happen often in swimming, but when it does, it's special.

Author: Dave Cuthbert
Date: Mar 2009

Girls 11years, 200m Freestyle Team

Now I don't know about you guys, but I'm pretty damned proud of our 11 year old girls team. Not just for winning Gold, but for the way in which they went out and fought for it together as a team and the way in which they celebrated together as one afterwards.

Little Tonika was terrified about leading out the team. She knew she couldn't keep up with the other swimmers around her and she didn't want to let the girls down.

Number 1 But that's the thing about teams. Someone is always going to be the weakest. It's how you stick together and fight for each other that counts. And fight for the team Tonika most certainly did.

Nothing short of a video or experiencing it in person can describe what unfolded accurately enough. But here's an attempt.

Ladies and Gentlemen, we give you the 11 years Girls Dartes Freestyle Team. Number 1 in Yorkshire!

Off first was Little Fish Tonika Holdsworth (Spa). Not remotely small for her age, but compared to the rest of her team of giants she's the head to sit on their shoulders.

The pressure was on, she would have to pull out the swim of her life to stay anywhere near the top 3 or 4 teams down the first 50m. The race plan for Tonika was to go hard and get to the wall before the teams next door dived in and drowned her with waves. Staying with the leaders was not a realistic outcome, but getting to the wall ahead of the wave was essential! Traditional team line ups put the number 2 swimmer as lead-off. In the case of the leading teams today that would generally mean a final contender. Instead, we threw tradition in the bin and decided to give our noisey fans something to go hoarse over.

A 150m Chase!

How did Tonika respond to the challenge of being the sacrificial lamb? Like an absolute trojan!

As she entered the last 5, City of Leeds and the other leading teams were just winding up their take over and flew over Tonika's head who cruised the resulting wave all the way into the wall. Her gutsy performance limited their lead to maybe 3m of clear water as she touched alongside most of the chasing pack. A valiant swim, which despite being the slowest split in the race, is likely to be confirmed as a large PB for her later in the week. She placed her team mates much closer to the leaders than we had hoped to be.

Job 1

By the time Caitlin hit the water, City of Leeds and the other favourites were flying down the pool with clear water between them and us. Ominously, the yellow cap was starting to pull out a small lead at the front of the leading group.

We were 3 metres down.
Or rather, we were ONLY 3 metres down!

Let Battle Commence!

With the battle cry from the Dartes supporters club pushing her down the pool, the express train that is Caitlin Dixon (Arm) was clawing her way back with every stroke. One by one the other teams fell behind as Caitlin pulled back maybe 2 metres of the head start we'd generously handed out. By the time she touched, Caitlin had dragged us back to their legs with what would later be confirmed as the 4th fastest split of anyone in the race.

Their clear water lead had been completely destroyed.

Number 1 Leeds were still pulling away from their challengers at the front and Heidi Smith (Ros) still had to overhaul the minor medals before Shannon could be let loose to attack the Leeds girl. But Caitlin had pulled us back to the medal contenders, mission accomplished.

Job 2

By now the fight was in full swing.
No quarter being given by anyone.
Leeds were running clear for Gold, but Heidi was rapidly cruising upto the shoulders of the minor medal contenders.

By the 25m mark she was edging her way in front of them. Heidi looked to have secured us the Silver medal position, but could the team's momentum carry her on? Slowly, inch by inch, she seemed to be gaining on Leeds. Could she launch Shannon into the last 50m with a sniff of the Gold medal?

At the wall, Leeds touched first, but Heidi had not only pulled comfortably ahead of the scrap for Bronze (nearly 2secs), but reeled in the Leeds girl to just 1.4sec too. Never one to be content with anything short of a miraculous performance, Heidi earned herself the 2nd fastest split of the race to continue the Dartes fight back and leave Shannon with a sniff of Gold as she flew off the blocks a body length behind.

Job 3

And then out of the dive, Shannon decided to turn on that prodigious underwater dolphin kick that she never uses in training and rarely uses in competition either. Leaving the blocks with a 1.4sec deficit, she kicked 6, 7, 8 maybe 9 metres down the last 50m to surface a head and maybe even shoulders in front of a startled Leeds girl who must have thought the race was won.

Sorry Leeds, but there's no way you're coming back now -- This race belongs to Dartes!

A rampaging Shannon was probably singing 'Big Fish, Little Fish, Cardboard Box' under the lane line at her rival all the way down the last 50m. She was certainly singing it all the way back down the side of the pool as she and Caitlin rushed back to congratulate Tonika and Heidi.

A Gold for the gutsy, high pressure, first leg of Tonika.
Another for Steam Train Caitlin.
Launch pad Heidi with a well deserved golden smile for a change.
and Shannon Dodson (Spa), a Golden, dancing, Big Fish with the fastest split of the entire race and the only girl under 30sec!

Awesome job girls, well done!

In case you missed it: Caitlin, Heidi, and Shannon recorded 3 of the fastest 4 splits in that final. BoK's anchor was 0.2 faster than Caitlin, no one else got close!

You can now watch the race unfold on Dartes TV.