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News July 2009

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

We Came, We Saw, We Made An Awful Lot of Noise

The Boys 26 Jul: Spending the week at Ponds Forge surrounded by the biggest age group teams in the country puts things in perspective. There is one team that is bigger and stronger than everyone else. They came to Ponds Forge today thinking they had the loudest and most passionate supporters in British Swimming and for the most part they were proved right.

Plymouth Leander had the most dominant banner (lesson for 2010: next year we bring all 5 of ours!) and turned an entire block of the Ponds Forge balcony blue. Every time their swimmers challenged for medals (which was most events) they flooded the building with cheers and noise.

Awesome cheerleading from, let's face it, an awesome team.

But!!!

With over a hundred (rough estimate) supporters and hangers on packed together on the balcony you'd expect a lot of noise.

Next to them, or maybe a block of seats further down, sat Andrew Trof, the Grainger Clan, and deserving of a special mention, head of our horn section, young Joe! That's a few of the ring leaders behind the Dartes Cheerleading team, but we were missing a number of influential (LOUD) team leaders. It was also a fairly half-hearted and lack lustre turn out - only Pete, Joe, and Sophie wore team kit. So let's face it, we weren't really trying.

Our warm up event was the Boys 400m IM. We'd let Plymouth set the standard all week, now it was our turn to just gently let them know that we really weren't impressed. The announcer presented each swimmer. Each was accompanied by the usual polite clapping and muffled cheers.
They did their best.

Then we got to lane 6.
Anyone present at the Yorkshires earlier this year will know what was about to happen.

"In lane 6, the Bronze medal winner from the 200m IM, representing Doncaster Dartes, M..."

Needless to say, that's as much as anyone heard.
Airhorns sounded.
The choir started singing.
Thank God we'd left the trumpets, cow bells, and drums to travel to the Bradford meet!

That was the 2009 Nationals' first taste of the Dartes cheerleaders. There was more to come!

As usual on a 400m IM, Max couldn't quite keep with the pace on Butterfly. By the time he turned for Backstroke he'd already lost about 3 secs on his main rival at this meet, Joseph Poynter.

Matthew "Unbeatable" Johnson was already well away heading for yet another British Age-Group record, but Max Litchfield (Spa) used his best stroke to maximum effect by clawing back all the 3 second lead he'd given to Joseph.

Unfortunately that effort meant he couldn't keep pace on the Breaststroke leg and being up against the Silver medalist from the 1500m Freestyle, he was never going to do more than hang on down the last 100m.

In the end Max earned himself a huge PB and another Bronze medal to go with the earlier 2. He also finished runner-up in the 14 year boys National BAGCATS award (you all know who won).

Anyway, back to the noise!

It's only fair to give Plymouth their due. The race between Max's IM and our Boys' team was the girl's equivalent. A loaded Plymouth squad managed to find themselves behind in the final few metres (actually the first few metres but we won't rub it in). They were going wild cheering their girls home, and, and, and, ...

No one knew the actual result for about 5 mins because the score board refused to tell us where City of Salford came (1st or 2nd) and the video replay was inconclusive. But that didn't stop them cheering every time their girls appeared on the big video screen. PL eventually discovered they'd won by 0.01sec and went crazy!

Except the real measure of a cheer squad is whether you can hear yourself think when standing underneath them. And both Coach Andrew and Coach Dave, and Kingston Upon Hull's Coach Nick Mills (see you've got yourself another mention), will testify that they just weren't up to scratch!

Southerners you see!
Close, but no Guitar!

Now learn from the masters!

It was destined to be a very exciting and very noisey 400m Medley team, but first the presenter did his stuff again. This time the noise was deafening. Two or three different air horns, one ridiculously deep (most likely Joe) and very loud cheering. That's how you welcome your team to the blocks.
That was just the overture.

The symphony continued almost as soon as the starting beep had ended. All the way down the first 50m, Max's Backstroke leg was accompanied by a deafening crescendo of noise. Not very musical, but hey, we can work on that for next time and we did only have around 10 members of the orchestra present.

The atmosphere was electric. The Dartes choir cheered home every one of our swimmers, dragging them that little bit faster down the pool. Despite a valiant effort by Nicholas Grainger (Spa) on the Breaststroke (I'm sure he climbed up to 2nd place at one point) we couldn't quite hold on to the medal position. Nevertheless, Nik earned himself a whopping PB for his efforts.

Richard Lee (Spa) did his usual fine job on the Butterfly to keep us level with the battle for 4th, 5th, 6th, and 7th who all finished within 2secs of each other. The final leg fell to Elliot Trofimowicz (Spa) who had to contend with a wall of deafening noise all the way through his 100m Freestyle.

He touched in 6th place just as the symphony was reaching its climax. But it didn't end there!

For what seemed like another 5mins, the Dartes cheerleaders went insane (I'm sure that's the only accurate word that can be used). No one heard any announcements at the end of the race which to be honest was quite fitting. This was afterall, the end of the 2009 National Age-Group Championships.

So despite vastly out numbering pretty much everyone. And despite trying their hardest and feeling proud at their efforts for most of the week. The blue shirted army were put well and truly in their place during the last three events.

They did look a little miffed!
Welcome to Yorkshire -- Dartes country ;-)

Another Bronze Medal at Age-Group Nationals

25 Jul: The headline speaks for itself, Bronze medal number 3 for Dartes at Age-Group Nationals. But that's not all that happened today, let's start off with a couple of things that would otherwise have passed quietly by unnoticed.

Way back in 1997 a young man by the name of Dave Holmes (Arm) came 8th at Nationals. His time that day was 1:02.65. It's significant because it has stood as the fastest 100m Butterfly time by a 14 year old Dartes boy ever since.

Until this morning!

In his heat of that same event, Richard Lee (Spa) recorded a PB of 1:02.27.
Congratulations Richard.

I'm sure that Dave, who is now on the coaching staff at Armthorpe, will be as delighted as we are about the new standard set by Richard. But it raises an interesting question. If Dave came 8th in 1997, how far has British Age-Group swimming moved on over the last decade?

Well to partially answer that question, the results sheet suggests that Dave would have come 9th today with his time from 1997 -- 9th that is, had he been 13, in the age group below! As a 14 year old he would have finished one place behind Richard who was 21st. That's quite a massive difference.

For those of you who aren't easily shocked, the winning time today was: 56.56!
Scarey stuff! Remember: these boys are just 14.

We're going to keep you waiting to hear about Sophie's exploits today and update you on Magnificent Max's latest results. We didn't really expect him to reach finals today, not for the 200m Freestyle nor the 100m Breaststroke, but the kid is on fire at the moment.

Let's have a look through the club records again, but this time we'll ignore the age group records and go straight for the jugular. The all time best 200m Freestyle time by a Dartes swimmer (long course) is 2:02.08 by Michael Gartside (Spa). In 1999 that earned him 4th place in the 15 year olds National final.

Today, in the age group below, Max Litchfield (Spa) swam 1:59.78 as a 14 year old. You'd kind of think that knocking 2secs off Michael's time in a younger age group would give you a higher placing?

Oh no, not a bit of it.
Max finished 8th.
To beat Michael's 4th place and get that Bronze medal he would have had to swim 1:56 at 14!
For the Gold you'd be looking at 1:53 and Matthew Johnson's new British Age-Group record.

The reason I've raised these points is to highlight what's required to compete at this level. Many people read this website from Doncaster's local clubs in addition to those associated with Dartes. I thought you'd all like to know what it takes for Max (or Sophie) to reach National finals and win National medals. In fact, anyone who is seriously looking to qualify for Nationals next year needs to be completing around 50,000m of highly skilled training, each and every week!

That's the standard target volume up and down the country for 13 year old girls and 14 year old boys. It rises progressively up to that age, and rises slightly higher as you age beyond it.

Compare that with your own weekly volume that I know you all diligently track in your log books.

That's 50,000m every week -- absolutely no resting for non-taper meets (there are 3 taper meets per year)!
50,000m consistently for more than 12 weeks in each of 3 training cycles.
There is no option to reduce when your body feels utterly exhausted -- and it will.
You probably only swim really fast 3 times; at the taper meets that signal the end of each cycle.
Repeat the same process 3 times during the course of the year.

At the end of each training cycle you have a taper. A well planned and progressive rest period that lasts probably 3 weeks and leaves the athlete fresh, rested, and bursting with speedy energy. That's the time you make big time drops like Max and Sophie have enjoyed this week. But if you don't do the 50,000m consistently enough, you can't expect the taper to work either.

It's a tough sport. If you want to be the next Rebecca Adlington or Joanne Jackson, that's what it takes, but there are still no guarantees. Welcome to national level swimming.

Of course, the rewards for all that effort are pretty special too: assuming an enormous sense of pride and maybe even a posh medal presentation ceremony are enough to put a smile on your face.

This morning Sophie Taylor (Arm) went in search of that reward in the 100m Breaststroke. Ranked 7th behind the blocks, she pulled out a huge PB to qualify 2nd fastest for the final.

Ahead of her was set a new British Age-Group record by Cheadle's Jodie Hawksworth. Behind her, was the South African Breaststroker from Plymouth Leander, Jess Liss, who was tipped to clean up here this week and leave everyone for dead. Something didn't look quite right with those expectations now.

Earning herself the 2nd spot in to the final was good enough, but she also recorded the fastest ever 100m Breaststroke by a Dartes girl and she's still only 13. Her time of 1:13.20 beating the 2005 mark by [Name Removed] (Drn) of 1:14.76.

In the final we expected fireworks and so it proved.

Jodie went out fast and pretty much destroyed the field, lowering her new record by another couple of tenths. Sophie looked strong challenging the big threat of Jess Liss for the Silver most of the way. It was going to be close. Very close. The big video screen below the score board showed Jess touch 2nd, then 2 girls hit the wall almost simultaneously for 3rd. All eyes instantly flicked to the scoreboard. Who had the touch for the Bronze medal?

By just 0.02sec, Sophie had it.

Sophie's first National medal, won by the thickness of a hair. It moves her up the all time Dartes medal table to join Max inside the top 10.
All Time Medal Table ...

Oh So Nearly Silver, Max Walks Away with Bronze

23 Jul: The morning started off (for us at least) with the girls 200m Breaststroke. Last year Sophie Taylor (Arm) earned a surprise 4th place in this, her weaker of the two breaststroke events, but with an invincible year behind her we had high hopes for today.

Despite being easily the highest qualifying girl from the North East, Sophie found herself ranked 7th, nearly 8 seconds off the medal challengers. We've been hunting for a higher class of competition for her all season and only managing to sneak into the final in 9th place highlighted why. Her solid performance of 2:44.84 left her with a lot of work to do to catch the medal contenders; 4th fastest was 2:39, 3rd was 2:38. Her PB: 2:43.

Sophie Now Coach Wallace is convinced Sophie can go out much faster than she has done to date. Whether it's a fear of dying down the last 50m or a lack of confidence in her ability to hold on after a hard start no one knows, but the North East's top Breaststroker had a big test in front of her today. If she was going to get anywhere near the medals she would have to overcome those fears and discover just how hard she can push the first 100m. A drop of at least 5sec from her PB was required to get even close. A drop of that magnitude would need the first 100m to improve by around 3secs!

The time came for Sophie to walk to the ready room. Andy muttered a few magical incantations to her before she left, then sprinkled fairy dust over her as she walked away. The stage was set.

For the finals, the ASA were brave enough to flash each athlete's photo on the score board while presenting them to the crowd. Some of Andy's fairy dust must have been sprinkled over that procedure too, because unusually for Ponds Forge these days, the computer system didn't buckle under the extra strain!

If nothing else, Sophie was destined to win the prize for best photo of the day. While everyone else was treated to passport style, scary photos, Sophie had used the GB Swim Stars pic above. Compared to the rest, it looked like something out of a modelling portfolio. Quick Brucey, upload your underwater shot to your ASA profile!

Take Your Marks!

A huge PB was asked for -- could Superstar Sophie deliver in the final?

Down the first 50m there were 3 girls setting the pace; the rest were already being dropped. Leading the way was Plymouth Leander's South African import Jessica Liss. Next to her was Cheadle's Jodie Hawksworth. But staying with them over the far side of the pool was Sophie. Destined to turn in 35.16, she was only half a second behind Jodie and crucially 1.63 faster than her heat.

This was the swim Andy knew she had inside her.
This looked set to be something special.

The pace continued down the next 50m. The Gold medal was expected to go to Jess Liss by quite a margin, but Jodie was giving her a race. Bronze on the other hand now had Sophie written all over it.

At the half way point she touched 3rd in 1:15, almost a full second ahead of 4th place. Already she was nearly 4secs faster than her morning's effort. Now all she had to do was bring it home the same way.

Unfortunately, Tenby's Bethan Davie hadn't read the script. Clawing her way back all the way down the 3rd 50m, she turned with a 0.3sec advantage over Sophie who still looked extremely strong. Bethan's heat time was the target set for Bronze (2:38.25 -- remember that time) and both girls were practically level with 50m to go.

Battling hard all the way down the last 50m, Sophie didn't die, she kept going strong. She touched and the score board flashed up: 2:38.25. Exactly the same as Bethan's 3rd fastest heat time!
Such a shame Bethan swam faster in the final.
Pity too that Plymouth imported a South African Breaststroke sensation.

Nevertheless, her 4th place and 5sec PB earned her the compliment of the day from a hard to please but delighted coach: 'That is exactly what I've been wanting from her -- Excellent!' A beaming smile covering his face.

Who's Next?

Yesterday it was so nearly Gold, but for a dodgy turn that will haunt Max for many months to come. Haunt him that is, unless he can settle the score today. He was up for two events and ended up doing 2 swims for each.

Debut Boy In the 100m Freestyle he was joined by Richard Lee (Spa) making his Nationals debut finishing 33rd. Max's main event of the day would be the 200m IM though, the freestyle was entered just to pass the time. Pass the time it did too, when his heat performance earned him a lunch time swim-off for the last final berth which he just missed out on.

Between his two freestyle sprints came the heats of the 200m IM. An event in which he was ranked 4th behind Yorkshire rivals Matthew Johnson and Ryan Flanagan. Could Max Litchfield (Spa) beat one of them when it really counts to bag himself a medal?

The heat results suggested he could.

Multiple British Age-Group record setter Matthew Johnson cruised home to qualify first (no surprise there), but best of the rest was our very own Max. Bring on that final.

The game plan for the final was to make absolutely certain we were in 2nd spot after the backstroke. That was critical. Having raced Ryan at Yorkshires and North Easterns we're well aware that the Breaststroke leg signals his onslaught. The other medal contender was Joseph Poynter from Bournemouth. If he was anywhere near Max with 50m to go we have problems -- his Freestyle is exceptionally quick on the back end of a medley.

Unlucky Max Max had to be ahead of them both at the start of the Breaststroke.

Down the Butterfly length Max looked strong. Matthew Johnson was out in front on his way to setting another British Age-Group record but Max touched alongside everyone else. Turning 5th slightly behind Joseph but with his favourite Backstroke leg coming next Max's medal chances were looking very good.

Staying underwater for a body length or more further than everyone else eased him into 3rd position as he surfaced. A strong swim consolidated that placing at the second turn. Joseph was hot on his heels, but Ryan had fallen nearly 2secs down. Silver was looking a distinct possibility.

Fighting back as much as he could, there was no way Ryan was making up that much time over Max on Breaststroke. The silver medal would be fought out between the boy from Dartes and the boy from Bournemouth with only 0.2sec separating them at the final turn.

It looked like Max was holding Joseph's freestyle at bay for the first 10m or so. But all of a sudden there was a metre lead and so it remained to the wall. A Bronze medal becomes a thoroughly well deserved first National medal for Max who looks to add to the tally later in the week.

Both today's finalists move up the all time honours table. Max now finds himself inside the all time top 10 (9th), while Sophie remains a medal away from doing the same (any medal, any colour will do) and with her favoured 100m Breaststroke still to come, there's every possibility.

Training Cancellations

22 Jul: As Phase 4 and 5 are tapering down for the End of Season meets and a lot of swimmers and coaches are heading over to Nationals this week and next, we're making a few changes to available sessions.

These mainly affect mornings and those in Phase 5 not at Nationals, but have a look anyway.

Session Arrangements
Tue 28thMorning Cancelled
Evening runs as normal
Wed 29thAll Cancelled
Thu 30thMorning runs as normal.
Evening: Phase 5 to merge with Phase 4
Only 7pm-8.30pm will run
No land training
Fri 31stMorning Cancelled
Evening as normal
Reduced sessions from Sat Aug 1st onwards

Sorry for the short notice, please pass details around to everyone else.
Any confusion, please talk with your coaches.

GB Swim Stars Photo Shoot

Richard Lee Butterfly 20 Jul: As promised, GB Swim Stars popped along this weekend with their fancy (and very expensive) camera to take a few snaps of the mighty Doncaster Dartes. They've already done some of the stars from our South Yorkshire neighbours City of Sheffield, and the GB Water Polo squad, but today was our turn!

The man behind GB Swim Stars, Sheffield masters swimmer Simon Wright, set off from Sheffield at 6am Saturday morning to use our morning session for his photo shoot. The Dartes shoot was intended to be Simon's first attempt at underwater photography (we like to be different) and the results are pretty special.

"The worst thing about working underwater was jumping out the
way of the kids before they hit me at full speed ...
 
And they were swimming FAST!
"

Unfortunately, due to time constraints we only had a few minutes to snap a few pictures in the pool before the public session started.

Sohpie Posing We weren't entirely sure what to expect from the morning. Having never done this before we had no idea how long each photo would take, so apologies to everyone who missed out. Hopefully we'll be able to arrange another session in the future.

Priority went to getting publicity photos for the National Squad in their brand new team kit. Last year Hannah Taylor (Arm) spent a day modelling for Paw Swimwear. Today it was her sister's turn to look glamorous in front of the camera.

How long do you think it will be before Sophie (Arm) finds her way into the Paw catalogue too?

Simon is in the process of producing a variety of posters for the club based on the morning's photos. We've already seen a sneak preview of one featuring Richard Lee (Spa) in the underwater shot above and more are on the way.

On behalf of Dartes, a huge thank you to the two volunteer photographers: Simon and John, who made this unique occasion possible. The quality of the work they're putting together can only help to lift the profile of swimming throughout the UK.

Why not pay a visit to the GB Swim Stars website and have a look through Simon's gallery of work for other clubs and watch as the rest of our photos appear on the site. It really is a privilege to be involved at such an early stage in this project.

European Record for [Name Removed]

S14 European Record for [Name Removed] 18 Jul: Today was an event that [Name Removed] (Drn) has had circled in her diary for quite some time. It was to be her first attempt at breaking a disability British Record, and what an event to do it in: the 200m Butterfly.

It's no good just turning up on the day to break records though, you have to plan before hand. You need to make sure enough time keepers are available to validate the time, and you need to check the qualifications of those judging. At high level meets that's rarely an issue, but occasionally at A/B meets it can be. Anyway, we needn't have worried, our neighbours at Rotherham Metro did us proud and put everything in place for the big day.

[Name Removed]'s time of 3:41.80 beat the previous girl's British Record by about 15secs. The punchline to the story though, the British Record was also the European Record.

Congratulations [Name Removed]. We're sure it's a sign of things to come.

Another Fun Presentation Evening

Most Improved Girl! 11 Jul: Last year's presentation disco was good, this year's was even better. If Charlotte's glossy tickets didn't convince you to attend (thanks for those) surely the tales from last year did. Rumour has it, the tickets are likely to feature many more of you next time. So if you were in a photo last night, you've been warned!

A huge thank you to Helen Smith (or Heidi's mum as she likes to be known) for organising the night once more.

But on with the important stuff. The winners of the awards.

JDS: Most Improved Girl
Natasha Crow (SAS)
JDS: Most Improved Boy Star of the Future!
Mark Beech (Spa)
Phase 4: Most Improved
Caitlin Dixon (Arm)
Phase 5: Most Improved
Nicholas Grainger (Spa)
Girl: Most Committed
Heidi Smith (Ros)
Boy: Most Committed
Max Litchfield (Spa)
Girl: Potential Star Performance of the Year!
Eleanor Chafer (SAS)
Boy: Potential Star
Jarvis Parkinson (Tho)
Performance of the Year
Shannon Dodson (Spa)

If you couldn't attend but won an award, we'll find you during the week to pass them on; but only if you promise to attend next year you party poopers!

Can anyone with photos of the event (or videos of Andrew T dancing) pass them to Coach Dave for a special page in the Photo Gallery.

Free Press Articles

Emma the Journalist 10 Jul: This week two more articles appear in the Free Press.

The first (page 70) is a celebration of our recent success at NER BAGCATS and a brief introduction to this month's Nationals. The second is a double page spread devoted to Emma Humphrey (Ros) due to her recent work experience with the newspaper (page 64/65).

Direct links to both articles on the Free Press website follow but the double page spread in the print edition has more photos:
- Swimming Success for Dartes
- Dedicated Emma Aims for the Top

Many thanks to Free Press reporter Paul Goodwin for these articles and his continued interest in the club and swimming in general.

The ASA Come to Visit

Carl Cooper makes a Visit 4 Jul: This morning saw the first of 3 annual visits by Carl Cooper, the ASA's Playground to Podium officer (Disability Swimming).

His role is to ensure the country's top disability swimmers have the training environment they need to succeed. In this case, the reason for his visit was to watch [Name Removed] (Drn), one of the top S14 swimmers in the country and a potential future paralympian. But that's off in the future, today Carl was here to make sure the environment was right, and to get to know her coaches and learn a little about the programme she trains within.

As Carl was good enough to bring along a stopwatch or two we also got him involved helping to run the morning's speed work.

It's not just [Name Removed] who stands to benefit from her inclusion in the North East Regional Talent Programme though. Carl's job takes him round many of the top clubs in the UK. He sees the good work they're all doing on a day to day basis and can then pass on suggestions for improvements we can make to our own programme.

Pretty much all the top programmes within British Swimming these days work together to help everyone improve (that's what Swim 21 is all about). The ethos is one of sharing and improving pathways between clubs to help swimmers find an appropriate environment for their needs and ambitions. The days of 'One Club Fits All' are well and truly gone (that approach never really worked anyway).

At Dartes we play our role at a local level. When invited, we're more than happy to work alongside our network of feeder clubs to help them and provide support where ever we can. Whether that takes the form of stroke clinics or just suggestions for ways to improve the training environment, we're always happy to play our part. A few weeks ago Assistant Coach Dave Cuthbert visited Dearne Valley to see how Karen Selman was turning around that club's fortunes. Two Dearne Valley swimmers, [Name Removed] and Leah Tierney (Drn), are now training within his Phase 4 squad, with more younger swimmers moving through Kevin's JDS groups. Over the next few years, the profile of this small club looks set to increase massively as they rise up through the lower divisions of our local leagues. Keep watching ...

Head Coach Andy Wallace This coming Tuesday, Head Coach Andrew Wallace will be making a first visit to the DMASA's newest affiliated club Minsthorpe Marlins. Similar to Carl's visit this morning, it's an opportunity for Andy to get to know the Minsthorpe coaches (and vice versa) and see how Dartes might help another of our small, up and coming clubs, climb its way up the Doncaster Swimming ladder.

Any of Doncaster's clubs who also want a visit should get in touch. Resources are limited though. For Andy to visit each club every month for example, would keep him away from his Phase 5 squad for 2 weeks in every 4. Clearly that's not feasible. It's much easier for interested coaches to pop down to a Dartes session every now and then to see what we do -- our doors are always open!

If your club would like a visit though, we will certainly squeeze you in somewhere.