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News March 2013

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

Premier Meet

31 Mar: The finest in Phase 5 and the fastest of Phase 4 popped down for an action packed weekend at the sweat box (otherwise known as Ponds Forge). Friday night kicked off this gruelling action packed weekend with just two of our girls Caitlin Dixon (Arm) and Georgia Wright (Arm) braving the awesome animal distance 800m event. Both fine tuned their pacing skills and knocked out PBs, Caitlin got a Bronze medal for her gutsy swim.

Three of the boys attempted another of the animal events, the 1500m Freestyle. Mathew Jubb (Adw) knocked over 9 seconds of his previous attempt at Yorkshires, looking a lot slicker and more controlled. This swim left him just under 10 seconds from NQT and at the tender age of 12 that's pretty awesome.

Jamie Clarke (Arm) recently recovered from injury made this tough event look like a walk in the park to grab Gold in the 15-16 year age group, and his first of 5 NQTs of the weekend. Max Litchfield (Spa) was our final boy to attempt this swim and got himself a Silver medal finishing more than 1min under the National Qualifying Time - Go Max!

Premier meet is one of those meets where athletes from all over the country come to swim for NQTs. The competition was very tough and reaching finals is a great honour. To qualify for a final it was either 13 years and under or 14 years and over for the girls. For the boys it was 14 years and under or 15 and over. To put that into perspective, even our own T-Rex didn't reach the final in either 100m or 200m Backstroke (she was 2nd reserve). To reiterate, you know the competition is tough when even legend Max doesn't medal in everything! Nevertheless it was a great weekend of swimming and we didn't disappoint.

Star man at Sheffield Premier Meet with 5 NQT Jamie was the star of the weekend with his fantastic achievement of 5 NQTs. We have already sung his praises in the 1500m Freestyle, he also adds to his summer program 200m Backstroke (for which he also won the Gold medal), 400m Freestyle (and a Bronze medal), 200m Butterfly, and last but not least 100m Backstroke. That's the way to do it Jamie, awesome stuff!

Little sister Gillian Clarke (Arm) achieved a full set of big PBs from all the events she raced. She also managed to gain 3 new NER times. As well as Caitlin's Bronze medal in the 800m Freestyle, she also won a Silver in the half distance 400m version.

Jarvis Parkinson (Arm) finalled in every event he swam, for a total of 9. He won 2 Golds in 100m and 200m Freestyle, a Silver in the 200m IM, and 3 Bronze medals in 100m and 200m Breaststroke plus the 200m butterfly. Joe Litchfield (Spa) had a very busy weekend too, finalling in 7 out of 8 events. He won 5 Gold medals in both the 200m and 400m Individual Medley, 100m and 200m Backstroke, and finally the 200m Butterfly. Older brother Max finalled in 7 out of 9 events, winning 3 Silver medals in 200m Backstroke, 400m Freestyle and as already mentioned the big 15. He also recorded an NQT in 200m Butterfly, to give him the full program of Olympic events.

As ever at this stage of the season, there were plenty of near misses worthy of a mention as well. Natasha Crow (Arm) missed out on NQT in 100m Butterfly needing 1:07.40 and swimming 1:07.54 - out by just 0.14. Jamie needed 54.49 in 100m Freestyle and hit the pads in 54.80 - out by 0.31. George Scatchard (Spa) swimming 100m Backstroke in 1:02.89 when he needed 1:02.23 - out by 0.66. Shannon Dodson (Adw) swimming 200m Freestyle in 2:09.40 and needing 2:08.74 missing out by 0.66. Joe swimming 100m Butterfly in 1:00.64 and needing 59.77 missing out by 0.83. Last but not least Georgia swimming 400m Freestyle in 4:36.48 but needing 4:35.59, to miss by just 0.89.

So near yet so far!
All awesome swims nevertheless.
And NER Championships left to go.

Easter Raffle Winners

30 Mar: Easter Raffle This morning saw the Easter raffle winners drawn from the hat. The swimmers got to train in the pool while extravagant baskets of easter chocolates stared at them from the top of the balcony.

Every breath they took towards the balcony filled their thoughts with tasty delights to get them in the mood for easter. So much so that half way through the session Lucy Clarke (Min) could take no more, and jumped out to nibble on a chocolate covered protein bar. Alas, she wasn't destined to win!

For the benefit of those racing at Sheffield this morning who missed early training, here are the winners as pulled from the hat by the coaches poolside. Remember for next time: you've got to be in it to win it, and the more entries you have, the more chances you get!

  1. Andrea Hill
  2. Rebecca Christmas
  3. Julia Crow
  4. Sharron Allen
  5. Robert Kirk
  6. Gary Casson
  7. Mandy Gatus
  8. Charlotte Howard
  9. Max Litchfield
  10. Holly Fish
  11. Helen Reasbeck
  12. Grace Litchfield
  13. Sue Brookes
  14. Lauren Christmas

As ever, a huge thank you to Katie T for doing such a fabulous job preparing the baskets. You've done us proud as always.

Double Selection for Euro Juniors

23 Mar: Max looking much taller than normal! Off the back of performances at the British Open earlier this month, we fully expected Max Litchfield (Spa) to earn selection to the GB squad for European Junior Championships in Poland later in the year. He qualified for 4 individual events (200m IM, 400m IM, 200m Freestyle, and 400m Freestyle) and will no doubt be handed a berth on a relay or two as well. What happened next however, came as a bit of a surprise.

Not only has Max's selection been confirmed, but late this week Coach Andy was offered a spot on the GB coaching team for the meet. An opportunity we're happy to say, that was snapped up immediately.

According to Mark Perry (Technical Lead for British Swimming), the team for 2013 is smaller than normal, but much more medal focused. It's a team of young people who are considered capable of making the team for Rio 2016. The other two Yorkshire swimmers among the squad of 24 heading for Poznan in July are Matthew Johnson (CoSheffield) and Linda Shaw (CoLeeds).

Ooops We Did it Again!

The B&I Trophy for Most Improved Club at Yorkshire Championships 21 Mar: On the day it was presented to Cleethorpes, but after they pointed out a mistake with the counting, the B&I trophy for Most Improved Club was once again awarded to Doncaster DARTES. We're making a habit of it.

Often this award is won by a club after a relatively weak previous year, or during an especially strong year. Once won, it's rare to win it again for a few years. Back in 2009, that's how we won it. 2008 saw Dartes win just 16 medals at Spring Championships; in 2009 that jumped to 42! Result: a massive improvement and an easy win in the B&I contest.

Since then though, we've been steadily improving each year. This is the 5th year in a row where we've been in the running for the B&I, and the third time we've won it in 5 years (2009, 2011, 2013). It's an awesome achievement, so pat yourselves on the back and feel proud. This year's win comes after amassing an enormous 62 individual medals!

1Co Leeds50119%
2Co Sheffield201
3Donc Dartes18234%
4Bo Kirklees121-16%
Top 5 overall at 2013 Yorkshires

Those aren't the only occasions we've won the trophy either. It came to Doncaster first in 1987, the year before Pamela Trickett (Drn) won our first National Gold medal. Then again in 1991, the year before our biggest ever haul of National medals (5 Gold, 1 Silver, and 4 Bronze). It arrived for a third time in 2003. The key this time, is to continue the hard work in the training pool, set your individual goals high, and see if we can't beat that total of 62 medals again next season.

Positive Meeting with DCLT

19 Mar: Tuesday evening before training, Dartes Coaches, Chairman, and Secretary met with Jon Whiteley from DCLT (the people operating the town's leisure centres) to discuss how the new Strategy for Swimming in Doncaster would affect us operationally. As usual, it was a very positive meeting, with ideas flowing freely across the table for raising the profile of the swimming pathway (learn to swim, competitive clubs, and the performance programme).

As we have done in previous meetings, we stressed the importance of ensuring young swimmers arrive at clubs at the right age and with a sound skill base. We discussed ways of making sure those clubs are able to continue providing a strong base for the sport in the borough - a key objective for both parties.

In order to build on swimming's recent success in Doncaster, there's a commitment to hold quarterly strategy meetings between DCLT and key people from the swimming community, in addition to monthly meetings for more day to day operational concerns. Those quarterly strategy meetings will be focused on building the aquatic sports through joint ventures including marketing and PR opportunities, retention of leisure centre users, volunteer workforce development, and joint funding/sponsorship strategies. Those joint marketing opportunities designed to increase the profile of the entire swimming pathway were first put to the test last year with a low-key joint DCLT/Dartes press release. Moving forwards that is expected to pick up steam.

Potentially this should increase the success of Doncaster's swimming pathway even more. By seamlessly integrating a much larger learn to swim base (1,000s instead of the current 100s), the clubs should be able to grow larger and offer a wider range of activities (water polo, lifesaving, maybe even synchro down the line), which in turn should strengthen the squads at Dartes. While all of that happens, usage of Doncaster's swimming pools should increase, making them more financially secure for the future at a time when under used pools up and down the country are being closed at a quick rate.

Exciting times.
Here's hoping it can be made to work.

Joe: Yorkshire Record Breaker

23 Mar: Yorkshire sprints is typically the busiest weekend ever at Ponds Forge, with cars queuing back to the parkway roundabout just to get into the car park, thank goodness for Victoria Quays. The queues just to get onto the spectator balcony were right back to the huge entrance doors, and that's before anyone makes it to poolside.

It's a very fast paced and extremely busy day and as usual Dartes brought home plenty of silverware.

We'll start off with an absolute cracker of a day for Joe Litchfield (Spa) grabbing Gold in 3 events (Backstroke, Butterfly and Freestyle), Silver also in Breaststroke. Joe's Backstroke was so fast he broke the Yorkshire Junior record (under 16yrs - he's still 14) in a time of 27.93. The previous record was set in 1999 by M O'Brien from City of Leeds with a time of 28.11. On top of that, he was only 0.33s away from the British Junior record - awesome stuff from middle Litchfield and long may his success continue!

Older brother Max Litchfield (Spa), who still owns 4 Yorkshire Junior Records - but all of them short course - brought home a few medals himself. Two Golds in Backstroke and Freestyle, and a Bronze in Butterfly.

Jarvis Parkinson (Arm) also brought home some bling, 4 was his tally with a Gold in Breaststroke, 2 Silvers in Freestyle and butterfly, and a Bronze in Backstroke. For those who missed the subtle point there, our two 14 year old boys came home with 4 Golds, 3 Silvers, and a Bronze. But for Jarv's relatively weaker Backstroke (Bronze) they cleaned up in every sprint event. Awesome stuff boys well done!

Other Phase 5 successes included Shannon Dodson (Adw) dominating the 14/15 years Backstroke to bring home Gold. In the same event Georgia Wright (Arm) (last year's 13 years champion) maintained her top 14 year old status in the double age group. She came away with a Bronze medal content with a PB and the fact that Gold and Silver went to two 15 year olds. Well done Ladies!

Now for the younger end of Dartes where there was plenty of success too. Gillian Clarke (Arm) had another fabulous day, cementing her position as top 10 year old with Golds for Butterfly and Backstroke, and a Bronze for Freestyle. She walked away with the BAGCATs prize from the 3 weekends.

In the boys equivalent Robbie Casson (Adw) and Bradley Hurdiss (Drn) took the top two spots in the BAGCATs contest and in case there was any doubt, they took Gold and Silver in the Backstroke sprint too. Bradders then backed that up by winning Gold in the Breaststroke.

Down an age group, and we won yet another BAGCATs award. Oliver Vodden (Adw) with his awesome whip kick nailed the 9 year old boys 50m Breaststroke to win Gold. Well done Oliver!

In the boys 11 year old events Harvey Williamson (Arm) won Silver in 50m Backstroke and Simon Kliment (Arm) won Bronze in 50m Butterfly. Final special mention goes to the girls and boys in the youngest age group, as they all did fabulous. Holly Fish (Adw) won shiny Silver in 50m Breaststroke and finalled in 50m Butterfly, Casey Waugh (Arm) also finalled in 50m Butterfly and 50m Breaststroke and came away from the 3 weekends as runner up in the BAGCATs.

From the boys William Gatus (Spa) finalled in all four events and won a Bronze medal in 50m Backstroke. Last but not least Ben Wright (Arm) finalled in both of his events: 50m backstroke and 50m freestyle. Those last two boys also made the top 10 in BAGCATs despite only just turning old enough to compete and being up against Oliver!

British Gas International Swim Meet

7 Mar: The inaugural British Gas International Swimming Meet is being held at John Charles in Leeds. It's a sell out, but the British Swimming website has live streaming and the usual live results service. The big non-GB contingent is from Holland, with Olympic Champion Ranomi Kromowidjojo the big star name, alongside most of the top British swimmers.

Among the Olympians and seasoned internationals are three from Dartes. Max Litchfield (Spa) went up against his old rival from Sheffield Matthew Johnson on the opening day, in addition to GB Olympians Robbie Renwick and Ieuan Lloyd in the 400m Freestyle. Jarvis Parkinson (Arm) was in the same event, albeit the juniors. Joe Litchfield (Spa) also went in the 200m Backstroke.

How did they do?
Here's Coach Andy with a summary.

An outstanding first day at British International Open with fantastic heat swims from all three boys this morning. A PB each for Jarvis (400m Freestyle) and Joe (200m Backstroke) and a strong swim from Max (400m Freestyle) marginally missing his PB by 0.2. That placed Max and Jarvis in an outside lane for the senior and junior finals respectively. Joe just missed out on a second swim, finishing as 2nd reserve.

Then this evening Jarvis showed a bit of quality. His ability to listen to, and then precisely follow instructions, proved the vital ingredient for him to make the required improvements between heats and final. Another huge drop to a 4:07.52 (almost a 5sec PB from his entry time set at Yorkshires last month). His last 100m split of 1:00.68 shows there's still more to come later in the season with a few more adjustments and lot of hard work. The youngest in the under 18 final, he touched 8th!

Max followed suit in the senior final with a strong field including two Olympians in the lanes next to him. Showing no fear he too made the changes to technique discussed following the heats, resulting in a more controlled and stronger paced swim through the tough middle section and a 3:54.16 (2sec PB) for 5th overall.

Hopefully all three boys can gain in confidence from this experience and continue there fine form over the rest of the competition this week.

And continue they did...

On Saturday's 400m IM heats Max set the headlines by qualifying fastest and claiming lane 4 for the senior final. Right behind him was Matthew Johnson, but behind the South Yorkshire pair was Olympian Roberto Pavoni. Around half a second separated the three. Jarvis also rose up for yet another junior final, shaving a sliver from his PB to edge ever closer to Max's 14 year old Dartes age-group record (Max's record: 4:39.60, Jarv's new PB: 4:40.68). The final promised plenty and didn't disappoint.

But before the finals, Joe was back to contest the 100m Backstroke. Although he and Jarvis are swimming for spots in the under 18s Junior final, both are among the youngest boys at this international meet. They're down on the programme as 15 (age at year's end) but in fact both are still 14. One of the other "15" year olds we're well familiar with from his tussles with Jarvis at Nationals in previous years is Frederick Cornwell from Barnet Copthall. He was up against Joe in the first heat of Backstroke. There was less than half a second between them at the end, Joe just getting the better of the two to finish 14th in the Junior category.

There was also the 200m Freestyle for Max and Jarv to contest too. No final this time for the younger man, but a small PB nonetheless. For Max (still technically a junior), another senior final after squeezing in equal 7th. A little over 1sec separating the 8 finalists.

Between heats and finals, Coach Andy has had plenty of time to look around and watch some of the finest swimmers in the world warming up and swimming down. Those of you watching the live streaming on British Swimming's website have had the pleasure of watching the likes of Olympic Champion Ranomi Kromowidjojo go head-to-head with Fran Halsall. Behind the scenes though the top stars are every bit as serious about swimming down as they look in the race pool.

At senior elite level, racing is serious business. You get just a few minutes to put together the perfect sequence of skills to get your hand on the wall first and in the time you want. To achieve that perfect sequence, preparation is essential. As Andy has seen time and time again this week, those performing best in the swim down pool, tend to be the ones winning the finals. Those warming up the most diligently are the ones pulling out that special something in their races.

A lesson for young swimmers everywhere.

The junior 400m IM final saw Jarvis finish 6th with a whopping 5sec PB to smash the Dartes AG record we mentioned earlier in 4:35.68 - he still has until Nationals to lower that further!

Having qualified fastest, we had high hopes for Max to do something special in the senior final; we had hopes of a medal, but cementing his place in the Euro Junior squad for later in the year was the priority. 2012 Olympian Roberto Pavoni led from the start, but Max pulled in to 2nd place through the Breaststroke, and held it until the final turn. At the wall Matthew Johnson took Silver, Max a well earned Bronze.