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News December 2010

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

Congratulations Phil Hughes

Phil with Level 3 Assessor Terry Dennison 27 Dec: We've just heard that Phil Hughes has received confirmation that he has passed his Level 3, Senior Coach Qualification. During the last year or so Phil has been a regular on deck at Dartes. The UKCC level 3 course takes up close to 3 years of effort if the candidate is also acting in a Senior Coaching role. There's a great deal of coursework involved and much of it draws from experience and personal reflection from coaching athletes to regional or national level.

On behalf of everyone at Dartes we'd like to pass on our congratulations to Phil.

The Level 3 UKCC Coaching Certificate is a nationally recognised standard for coach and teacher education spear-headed by Sports Coach UK. It's predominately, a cross-sport qualification with a few sport specific modules.

At Dartes we already have two coaches qualified as Level 3 Senior Coaches (albeit the old, non UKCC level 3). Head Coach Andrew Wallace and Head of our JDS programme Kevin Nicholas both completed the old course a number of years ago. Assistant Coach Dave Cuthbert is also working towards the UKCC level 3 and should complete it sometime in the new year.

No Cup Final for Dartes

14 Dec: Well it looks like we missed out on an appearance at the Arena National Swimming League Cup Final this year. We have the final list of 20 teams: 7 regional winners, 7 regional runners-up, plus the 6 wild card entries from the virtual final. The list isn't cast in stone just yet, there may be teams pulling out - but it's not likely.

To put things in perspective, one region looks very dominant with 5 teams representing. The arrow head seeding has placed our region's teams towards the outside lanes; suggesting they're going to have their hands full to achieve anything in the Cup Finals this year. Also worth noting that over half the teams taking part are big City teams!

Not to worry, it was always going to be a tall order, but train hard in the new year and we can have another try in 2011.

Arena League: Regional Final

12 Dec: A slight change of format for the Regional Final of the Arena League. Whereas all the other rounds were contested Short Course, every regional final up and down the country is held in a 50m pool - Long Course. We believe the other regions settled their leagues yesterday, the North East always has to be different though. We saved our final until today (Sunday).

Dartes on the Podium League competitions are a bit different to what we at Dartes are used to. Obviously they're shorter than weekend open meets. When they're as close as today's, they're also nail biting right down to the wire. Those are the obvious differences, but the important one is rather more subtle and hard for many to appreciate.

It's no longer about fast times, it's about head-to-head racing!

What's the difference you ask?
Surely if you touch the wall in your fastest time, you'll get the results, won't you? Very true, but what if two swimmers are set to swim very similar times, who gets the points then?

There's an art form to finishing, and it needs to be practiced.

Countless times you watch swimming on TV and wonder how on earth did the winner touch out whoever looked set to win with 1m or 1 stroke to go. You'll remember the Beijing Olympics and Phelps' win over Cavic in the 100m Butterfly. If you watch enough tight races you start to realise that the same people always seem to get the touch! It's not an accident, it's not left to chance, it's a skill that needs to be developed and honed just like all the others.

Pay attention in future - which swimmers always snatch victory, and which ones always miss out! It's a racing skill like any other. If you regularly miss out, change how you finish:
Be more aggressive in the last 5m.
No breathing in the last 5m.
Increase your stroke rate in the last 5m.
Break a timing pad or two.
And certainly break your competitors heart!
Practice finishing hard on every swim you do in training, and encourage your team mates to do the same.

Unfortunately, finishing seems to be a weak point at Dartes. Blame it on a lack of head to head racing if you like; too much emphasis on hitting best times and not enough thought about placings! Time after time this afternoon, we had the edge over the competition going in to the final 5m, but dropped a place in the last stroke or two. Finishing skills are massively important.

Quote of the day:

"Is it like stealing somebody else's chocolate?" asked Oswald Hood (Adw).

That's exactly right. You've got to be mean, nasty, almost evil. Lesson firmly bouncing around in his brain, Os went on to snatch 2nd in a very close Breaststroke race. He returned with a grin: "I stole the baby's candy!"

On With The Racing

Caught on camera: is Shannon's arm really that long? There were multiple competitions taking place on finals day; some official, one less so. The regional league table still needed completing and although City of Leeds A were always likely to win, with City of Sheffield A odds on favourites for 2nd, things weren't quite that simple. We knew Sheffield could only field a weak team (a few of their seniors were away on other duties) and we sensed an opportunity! There was also the matter of honour for 3rd place overall in the league to take care of too: Harrogate would be a challenge, but after their exploits in round 2, we weren't entirely sure what City of Leeds B had up their sleeves either. Throw in to the mix the added incentive of 6 wild card places for the National Cup Final and we were set for an exciting afternoon.

Up first was Katie Johnson (Spa) in the 200m IM. Blasting down the first 50m she set the pace touching first. On the Backstroke she was challenged by City of Sheffield, but Harrogate's strong Breaststroker, Lucy Budimir, also drew level down the 3rd 50m. Katie did enough to keep herself in the race at the last turn, and charged home on Freestyle to touch 2nd, just behind Sheffield.

We knew there was to be a strong challenge coming from Harrogate. A few weeks before, they'd posted on their website the need for the strongest possible team and they seemed to have brought just that.
Their stated intent: to beat Dartes!
We were the target.
First blood in our little tussle though, to Katie of Dartes!

Out of the first 10 events, 8 were won by City of Leeds A. Those 8 were all team events. They certainly didn't get things their own way in the opening IMs. They were 4th in event 1, and the Loud and Proud also had plenty to cheer in event 2. Max Litchfield (Spa) attacked early, taking out the 50m Butterfly in a similar fashion to Katie before him. His Backstroke finished off the competition, and he held the gap all the way home for the win. Already more wins than we enjoyed in round 2!

Coach Wallace made the decision a few weeks ago to go for maximum points in the final. It sounds obvious, but do you achieve that by winning your strongest age groups, or by using your stronger, young swimmers to strengthen the older age groups? Is it best to push for 3rd rather than 5th, or 1st rather than 3rd? The points difference is the same but which are you most likely to pull off? For today we gambled on going for wins!

Shannon Dodson (Adw) led out our 13yr girls touching about 1st or 2nd alongside City of Leeds A. Jessica Gillatt (SAS) consolidated 2nd place by the 100m mark. Caitlin Dixon (Arm) challenged the Leeds girls again to set Heidi Smith (Spa) off with half a chance of dragging them back. In the end we had to settle for 2nd.

Then on to our Mens team. We call them our Mens team, but really they're 15/16 and 28! Max once again went out strong to give Nik Grainger (Spa) a small lead. Nik hung on as best he could to touch 4th - the top 4 were all practically level. Then in went Shirley on the Butterfly, Dave Holmes (Arm) kept us in the game alongside Leeds and Sheffield, but worryingly Harrogate were right up there too. Elliot Trofimowicz (Spa) couldn't quite hold them off and got touched out in to 4th.

The first round of individuals saw Mark Beech (Spa) blast his way down the 50m Backstroke. The result was in no doubt from the moment he surfaced from his big underwater Dolphin kick, already chest ahead of everyone else.

We sent our old couple down for the Open Butterfly. First up was Katie, level with the spring chickens from Leeds and Sheffield. She tired inside the last 5m to finish 3rd (again a tight finish). Dave made full use of his outstanding underwaters to surface slightly ahead - then lose ground to turn fractionally 3rd. Underwater again he reclaimed the lead, only to lose it again by a similarly small margin finishing 3rd. Oh if only it were Short Course! A couple of extra turns the possible difference between 1st and 3rd.

Then a little drama unfolded. Feedback from the starting system caused a faulty start for the 11yrs boys Butterfly. Joseph Gatus (Spa) was the only boy to hear the false start whistle - he stopped - looked around - then continued to finish 2nd. The race was restarted and he still finished second - but much closer to the winner.

Inspired by Joseph's near miss, Shannon and Joe Litchfield (Spa) dominated their Backstroke for maximum points. Max did the same a few events later, helped in no small amount by 12m underwater turns.

After Oswald snatched 2nd, Caitlin went out to emulate Shannon with another 13yr win. At the half way point of her 100m Butterfly she was just being edged by the Leeds girl. A much stronger 2nd 50m pushed her in to a commanding lead and another win. Joe returned for the boys version and also pushed the 2nd 50m hard. Remember the lesson for the day: thou must touch out the opposition! Joe finished 4th, 3rd place was a mere 0.01sec ahead! A painfully small gap.

Cheer Team By the time the final points check was announced before the teams, things were getting very exciting. Harrogate had been trailling City of Leeds B at the half way point (4th and 5th), we thought we were home dry. Then the speakers crackled:

In 4th place with 214 points Harrogate.
In 3rd place with 217 points Doncaster Dartes.


With just 3 points between us we entered the final 8 team events. We traded points here and there: 7th for us, 5th for them (-2pts); 2nd for them, 3rd for us (-1pt). That must have brought them level. The 13 year girls' team again went for maximum points - we needed it by this time. Heidi touched level with the leaders, Jess again stayed with the Leeds girl on Breaststroke, and Caitlin challenged her on Butterfly to send in Shannon on equal terms. By the time she surfaced she had nearly a body length advantage, we thought it was won.

It wasn't!

Remember those tight finishes. T-Rex got touched out by less than 0.10sec! No matter what goes on in the middle of the pool, you still have to get your hand on the wall first. Easy to say - but make it a habit, all of you!

With just the Open 6x50m teams left to go we still didn't have 3rd spot in the bag. Harrogate were still challenging hard. Our over worked 13 year old girls were also looking decidedly tired by this point. Shannon and Caitlin managed to pull out 30sec Freestyle swims, as did Holly Lewis (SAS) and Shauna Parkin (Spa). Unfortunately, that was only good enough for 6th(ish) with 100m to go, and Harrogate were in the top 3. Precious points looked to be going their way.

Heidi pulled out a 29 to give Katie, on the anchor leg, a tiny chance of pulling us back to our rivals. Then suddenly, with one swimmer to go, the race changed.

A sensational take-over by the experienced Johno lifted us from nowhere to 4th by the time she surfaced. Harrogate appeared to swim their weakest swimmer last and dropped back to finish 7th. katie held on for 4th. A small points gap had opened up between us, with just the Men to go.

The Sheffield men went out fast.
Very fast!
Max was nearly a whole body length behind when he touched 2nd. It took a powerful counter attack by Dave to haul the team back up to the leaders. Even his 24 split was only good enough to hold on to 2nd. Nik flew down the 3rd leg to hold the position, with Harrogate hot on his heels. Leeds were right up there too. With beefy men climbing up on the blocks all around him, the writing was on the wall for poor Jamie Clarke (Arm) - the youngest member of the Mens team.

Jamie swam courageously though, losing a little ground, but only one place among the big guys from the other teams. He handed over to Luke Shpylka (SAS) in 3rd, and Luke pulled out a tiny amount of breathing space for Trof to relax a little on the way home. He touched 3rd, a smidgen ahead of the Harrogate challenger.

Presentation for 3rd place An exciting end to an enjoyable return to Arena League action for Dartes. Despite more 4th places than we care to remember, a lot of tough, fast swimming to be immensely proud of. In the end we hung on to 3rd place on the day by just 6 points (4 of them earned from the last two races). It was a close one!

1City of Leeds 'A'372
2City of Sheffield 'A'285
3Doncaster Dartes257
4Harrogate & District251
5City of Leeds 'B'237
6Gateshead & Wickham141
7City of Sheffield 'B'141

Overall in the League's three rounds we held off the challenge from Harrogate and City of Leeds B to finish 3rd. The extra number of 1st and 2nd places for Leeds B earning them 4th spot ahead of Harrogate. Another reminder of how important it is to get the touch in tight league racing.

Pos Team League Points
1City of Leeds A24
2City of Sheffield A21
3Donc Dartes17
4City of Leeds B14
5Harrogate Dist14
6Gateshead & Whickham8
6City of Sheffield B7

We'll have to wait and see what happens with the virtual meet for best of the rest. There are some big clubs waiting in the wings. As you'd expect, as soon as we hear one way or the other, you'll be the first to know.

Finally, a big thank you to all the teams taking part for making this year's league so enjoyable. Especially Gateshead & Whickham and Tynemouth for coming all the way down to Yorkshire for each round. A Merry Christmas to you all, and we hope to see you again next year.

Last Test Set of Cycle 1

11 Dec: Another Christmas meet and more depleted lanes for Phase 4. This morning was the last test set for Cycle 1 with the big meet next weekend at Leeds. So what more fitting way to see in the last week of training than a straight 2km time trial.

Natasha: Winner on the day with a 26sec improvement The leaders weren't here, which left Natasha Crow (SAS) and Chloe Hardy (Adw) to battle it out side by side. They went head to head until just before the 1200m mark when Chloe unfortunately got trapped and was unable to overtake. That allowed Gnat to press home her small advantage for a 26sec improvement on last time.

It's a tough swim though. The mental aspect of staying focused and maintaining a high pace for the 80 lengths is every bit as challenging as the distance. Loss of concentration at any point can easily add half a minute to the overall time.

This isn't just a test of strength and fitness, will power and determination is every bit as important.

Name Date 400m 800m 1200m 1600m 2000m
Natasha 11 Dec 5:28 11:01 16:35 22:15 27:54
25 Sep 28:20
Chloe 11 Dec 5:29 11:01 16:41 22:34 28:22
25 Sep 28:15
Kelly 11 Dec 5:43 11:33 17:32 23:32 29:20
25 Sep 29:00
Mark 11 Dec 6:02 12:01 18:09 24:22 30:23
25 Sep 30:48
Os 11 Dec 6:24 13:01 19:57 26:18 32:39
Tyler 11 Dec 6:37 13:40 20:37 28:34 35:15

Bradford Christmas Meet

A tiny team with many medals 6 Dec: The weather took its toll on the Yorkshire gala programme this weekend, with most cancelled (including our own Xmas meet). Not so the Bradford Xmas Open. Oh no, it was going to take much more to stop this one! So a number of our swimmers set off Saturday and Sunday mornings with spades, blankets and lots of furry hats and gloves (just in case)!

So how did DARTES get on?

First thing Saturday morning we got off to a cracking start, with Amber Hardy (Adw) dropping 7 seconds off her 200m Backstroke PB to take Gold. This was followed with Gold for big sister Chloe Hardy (Adw) in the same event. In fact both girls won rather a lot of medals over the weekend! Amber walked away with 9 Golds and Top Girl (across all age groups). Chloe took 2 Golds, a Silver, and a Bronze.

Oswald Hood (Adw) took Gold in all 3 Breaststroke events, and picked up a couple of Bronze medals. Whilst in the other sister act, Kelly Smith (Adw) rejoined the animal squad swimming 200m Butterfly, and we think repeating her Yorkshire Qualifying time. While Kim Smith (Adw) looks to have got her 200m Breaststroke Yorkshire QT too.

On Sunday our small team was joined by Kathryn Shepheard (Adw), Alex Pollard (Arm), and Katie Burton (Arm). Kathryn put in a cracking 200m IM swim for a PB, while Alex destroyed his 200m Backstroke time to take Silver. Katie put in some good swims getting PBs in 200m Breaststroke and 200m IM.

Overall a fantastic weekend of quality Doncaster swimming; albeit a very small team. Thanks to John Smith for his poolside help on both days. Finally, highlight of my weekend was watching Alex and Oswald dancing to Boot Scootin Baby!

I have the evidence boys!

A big thank you to Louise Hood for her review of the meet.

Kick Set Number 2

5 Dec: Due to snow and meets it was a very quiet Saturday morning for Phase 4, but nevertheless they got stuck in to the second kick test set. With the absence of the current kick set leader, Chloe Hardy (Adw) the others had a chance to jump to the top of the leader board.

Kathryn: Winner on the day It's the average time from the four rounds that counts of course, not just the fstest rep, but it's not really surprising that those with the fastest reps also have the fastest average. Winner on the day, and only a smidgen behind the overall lead was Kathryn Shepheard (Adw) She overtakes Natasha Crow (SAS) for 2nd overall. A big 3-way battle looks set for next time.

Going strong down the other end of the table was Josh Reasbeck. Going strong that is until disaster struck on the last rep and he limped home.

NameDateRnd 1Rnd 2Rnd 3Rnd 4Avg
Kathryn 4 Dec 2010 6:51 6:49 6:51 6:53 6:51
30 Oct 2010 6:54 7:21 7:12 7:21 7:12
Natasha 4 Dec 2010 6:54 7:01 7:14 6:57 7:01
30 Oct 2010 6:49 6:48 6:59 7:02 6:54
Holly 4 Dec 2010 7:25 7:34 7:56 7:42 7:39
30 Oct 2010 7:41 7:32 7:23 7:17 7:28
Beth 4 Dec 2010 7:46 7:58 7:58 8:09 7:57
Jarvis 4 Dec 2010 7:27 8:23 8:40 8:39 8:17
30 Oct 2010 8:43 7:27 7:48 7:39 7:54
Alex 4 Dec 2010 8:33 8:53 8:44 8:25 8:38
Josh 4 Dec 2010 8:31 8:56 8:21 9:39 8:51
Aaron 4 Dec 2010 7:13 7:04 7:14 DNF

As ever, click the name to expand their history.