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News April 2022

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

Highlights from British Championships

10 Apr 2022: The first week in April proved to be a busy one at Dartes. We had already planned to be attending two competitions: British Championships during the week (Commonwealth Games Trials), and the Hull Easter meet at the weekend. What wasn't expected until quite recently was a pool closure and dryland sessions to replace the lost pool time.

April's British Championships is the flagship domestic swimming competition. It usually doubles up as a qualifying event for the major meet of the year, usually one or more of Olympic Games, World Championships, or as in this case Birmingham's Commonwealth Games. It usually has more demanding qualifying requirements than Summer Nationals and is geared squarely at the seniors - juniors qualify purely by dint of being extremely good, they still have to meet the same qualifying times as the seniors.

As an indication of the standard of racing at the meet, the final final of the final night of finals resulted in a top three of:

Gold: Duncan Scott (Olympic Gold medallist - plus 3 Silvers)
Silver: Thomas Dean (Double Olympic Gold medallist)
Bronze: James Guy (Olympic Gold medallist)

On day one there was also a certain gentleman by the name of Adam swimming in the 100m Breaststroke too. It'll come as no surprise to hear that he won that evening's finals.

Coming out of the pandemic of course, we're short of older athletes at Dartes which limited our exposure this week. Our usual pairing of Molly Chambers (Drn) and Madison Johnson (Arm) were on hand to compete throughout the week. Alongside them making his Championships debut was Callum Broadhead (Arm). Also qualifying for the meet, but unfortunately suffering from British Swimming's realisation that they'd invited too many athletes, was Greta Highfield (Ros) after her superb 50m Breaststroke Gold at Yorkshires. In the end she missed the cut by just 0.1sec.

A bunch of younger swimmers from P4 popped down on the opening day to watch (no doubt to pester the aforementioned gentleman called Adam), and our pair of older girls dropped in with Coach Dave for a mid-day training session in the big pool.

Then on Wednesday morning, bright and early, the real fun began.

The 50m Butterfly saw Madison lower her own club record by 0.1sec in the Block A heats. Her 28.77 finished the morning session sitting in 8th place for the junior final.

Major meets restrict finalists to just 8 places, British Championships is no different. So after the first session containing the fastest 7 heats, Madison owned the last spot in the junior final. Due to the high numbers of competitors, there was a 2nd session each day containing the slower Block B heats. Slower those heats might be on paper, but it was still possible to drop chunks of time in those and qualify for finals (as Madison would prove herself on the last day).

In the fastest of those slower Block B heats on Wednesday was Molly.

Now Molly has a habit of getting to the point of breaking into a new second, and then stalling. Her 50m PB from last month's Sheffield Premier meet was exactly 29.00. Since Yorkshires in February she's gone: 29.08, 29.03, 29.00. She did similar with her short course PB during Level X last year. In fact, she does it quite a lot. Wednesday's heat was no exception, touching the wall in 29.05. A solid performance, and the 28's will come, just not this week.

It's probably testament to her consistency in racing that she can knock out race after race so close to her limit. Most athletes' performance curves look like a particularly violent roller coaster, not so Molly's - consistency is her hallmark except for a sudden dip into seriously fast times this season. Another block of training should see that long awaited jump into the 28s.

Unfortunately, those last couple of Block B heats following Molly also pushed Madison out of the junior final. Her new Dartes record would end the week in the top 10 on British Rankings for 2022 though - that looks safe to qualify for British Summer Nationals which requires a top 25 ranking.

In all there were four finals to fight over, let's explain the differences. The A final (top 8) is where you find the Olympians hunting the various home nation berths for Commonwealth Games. The next 8 would contest the B final. Those were mostly made up of university aged athletes at one of the National Centres (Loughborough or Bath), or university cities trying to compete at the same level (Stirling, Aberdeen Performance, Sheffield, or Edinburgh for instance).

The third final on the list of priorities was the Priority Paris final for the under 21's - essentially those likely to be in the running for Olympic selection in 2024. Finally there was the junior final for the under 18s. Junior girls can just about compete with the seniors if they're very, very good; it's unlikely junior boys can compete with the men though - the size difference is extreme.

After Maddie's missed final on Wednesday, Thursday's 200m Butterfly was Molly's turn. Her 2:19 best was from Premier meet last month where she went 31, 35, 36, 36 (a 1:06.92 100m split). Holding 36 down the last two 50m laps was a milestone and encouraged us to consider pushing the front end a little harder (the same approach was taken for the short course equivalent at Winter Nationals to set a 2:18 club record).

It was a brave plan with eyes firmly set on achieving a 2:18 (or faster) at summer nationals (or maybe even this week if it went well).

Now Molly is tough - very, very tough. There are things she's done in training over the years that would scare you. So when the plan is for her to go out a little harder than last time, bet your house on it happening, and we know she'll dig in deep down the final 50m to make it stick.

That said, opening up nearly 1.5sec faster than last time might be a bit much (1:05.48 compared to 1:06.92 - pretty much where she finished short course season). She was leading her heat at half way. The third 50 she pushed again, also harder than last time. Her hands again touched in first place - a touch so light the timing pads only registered when her feet hit. On Coach Dave's watch 36.55 compared to her PB pace of 36.65.

An outstanding 150m Butterfly. Had she been able to hang on to the same pace for another 50m she would have missed the B final by just 0.02sec (2:18.72 was the 8th person). Unfortunately, the wheels came off and the clock kept on ticking through to 2:20. After the morning Block A heats that was good enough to make the cut for the Priority Paris final, with only two additional heats in Block B. She was to miss out by just half a second and two places, but swam faster than 8th place managed in the final itself.

Another block of training and that final 50m will hold together. So close, but the training wasn't quite enough to do that in April, but it's definitely on the way. Consider that her PB prior to July's Festival of Swimming was a 2:24, she's made massive drops this season.

Saturday came around and it was time for Madison's 200m IM. Now this one hasn't been going well of late. Coach Dave's theory is that it's due to a lack of race practice at the individual strokes - but mention that to Maddie and watch as her nose scews up at the thought. Heading into 2019 NER's she was regularly racing 100m Freestyle, Backstroke, and 100m/200m Breaststroke. Lots of race practice at all four strokes.

By contrast, coming out of the pandemic she's had zero Backstroke races, a solitary long course breaststroke, and just two 100m Freestyles. You just don't find top class Medley swimmers who don't race each of those strokes at a high level too. It should probably be no surprise therefore, that her Medley of late has looked a bit rusty after the opening quarter.

Let that be a lesson to all our young swimmers: don't focus on single events before you're 16!

Race everything.
Learn to race them all.
Do so often.

So she went in to the heats looking to return to her 2019 standout performance of 2:25.71 which won a surprise NER Gold medal, and remains a good second faster than her other performances.

She smashed the Butterfly - but that's par for the course these days. The Backstroke was the pre-race worry, it's been looking far too flat recently, with a stroke rate to match a windmill on a calm day. But not this time. Her second best ever Backstroke split kept the ball rolling. So far so good, comfortably ahead of PB pace.

Molly at the start of her 50m Butterfly heats Breaststroke was another concern. Her stroke rate is too slow for a sprint 50m and took a lot of racing to get it right in 2019; the kick happens a little too late in the stroke. A stroke rate of 1.7sec instead of her optimal 1.5.sec dropped her back to 2019 pace, but pulled her up to the leaders in the heat. The Freestyle held on to touch in 2:25.72 - practically bang on her PB for the first time in 3 years, and the weak areas now clearly shown.

She missed the junior final by just half a second - 4 places. It also leaves her 17th on the 2022 rankings. The top 25 at the beginning of May will be invited to British Summer Nationals.

The final day saw Callum join the girls to keep up the Butterfly theme of the week. He had qualified for the Freestyle as well, but just like Greta, he'd suffered at the hands of the British Swimming cull.

You could call this "The Season from Hell" for Callum. He should have been smashing records across the board and leading the rankings in numerous events. Instead, unable to train for most of the past year due to illness and injury he's limited to 50m sprinting without even daring to step foot in the warm up pool. It's a status that leaves his competition in a state of surprise when they realise his lack of preparation, his sheer speed is phenomenal.

His 50m Butterfly on Sunday might only have been good enough for 34th place (out of 38 juniors), but he was the only 15 year old competing. His 26.50 places him a lowly 2nd on the 2022 British rankings - his 50m Freestyle still sits in first place. If only he could train, we could find out what he can truly achieve.

The girls were back for the 100m Butterfly too. Remember back to December and Winter Nationals. The Dartes club record changed hands three times in one day during this event short course. Molly has been the undisputed long course queen of the 100m this season, Madison has been struggling in this one too. Then a PB at ESSA set the ball rolling for her with a 1:04, and at Premier Meet two weeks later, she finally pulled out a 1:03 that we knew she'd been capable of all along. That kept the pressure on her older training partner and set things up nicely for Sunday.

There's another important message there for younger athletes. What you're capable of delivering and what you actual achieve in the pool aren't always in sync. Maddie has had a bit of a barren spell for most of this season (that's a long time), but things are now starting to go right - don't get frustrated when things don't go well, learn from it. By contrast, Molly has been very consistently improving since we returned from the pandemic, but suffered significantly for a few years leading into it. It's normal, it happens to everyone. During those difficult times, learn how to race and don't panic about times.

Heading in to the heats, Molly's club record was 1:03.16, Maddie was catching her on 1:03.89. The Block A heats came first with Molly in the 4th of 7. She hit the wall at the half way turn and the board said 30.47.

Happy smiles as Maddie qualifies for 100m Butterfly Junior final "Too slow," Coach Dave grimaced, this wasn't going to plan.

Half way down the next 50m she'd overhauled most of the early speedsters, and was beating a path to the leading pair.

"Odd," thought Coach Dave "she can't be challenging the leaders in this heat turning on a 30 point, unless they're all swimming slow." They weren't.

She pushed hard down the final 25m, getting closer and closer to the two girls at the front. By the time the wall arrived, and her very aggressive finish stopped the clock, she was practically level with them. The board said 1:02.81 - a big PB and 3rd spot but not far behind.

"She can't have done that off a 30.47," a confused coach checked the splits on his watch. 29.43, the timing pads hadn't registered her hand touch again, now it all made sense. A turn should be about 1sec, ideally close to 0.8, so the difference between the pads registering a hand touch on 29.43 and the feet hitting the wall on 30.47 is about right.

At the end of the morning's heats, Molly once again sat in 8th place on the list for the Priority Paris final. The entry times for the four afternoon heats in Block B ranged from 1:05 to 1:04. Were any likely to drop to 1:02 territory? Doubtful. A quick look over the names identified only two likely threats: Madison Johnson (entered on a time from December) and Sheffield's Charlotte Berry who had finished between Molly and Maddie in February's Yorkshire final of this event.

Madison went in heat 2. We knew she should be leading her heat comfortably, even with former Dartes star Ella Bainbridge (Arm) in lane 9. It proved to be much like that except for a Glasgow girl challenging right to the end, but even with her annoying glide finish, she still got the touch.

Pre-race tactics included smiling for the camera after winning - yes the zoomed in close up was expected. In fact if you watch the live stream, it looks suspiciously like she's looking around for the cameraman who had been next to the blocks for the earlier heats and would return for the finals. Many hid from him and buried their faces in to the wall, we'd decided that wasn't the right way to do it. A few others got into the spirit too. A shame the cameraman wasn't there for the Block B heats.

A 1:03.01 was comfortably in to the junior final and hadn't dislodged Molly from the Paris final either. Job done.

The penultimate heat passed safely by as well, no one getting close to Molly's 1:02.

Then the final heat and the threat to Molly's final spot. The writing was on the wall from the very start. Charlotte Berry was a body length ahead of the field by half way. 29.22 was only 0.21 ahead of Molly's split though, and Molly came back very strong. But so did Charlotte, jumping way up the leaderboard and leaving everyone else in her wake.

Once again, Molly just missed the final, this time by an agonising 0.16.

It was made worse in the evening, when only 7 athletes turned up for the final. Alas, no reserves meant Molly still had to watch the live stream instead of compete.

Before that one however, was Maddie's junior final, and the return of the cameraman. Qualifying 2nd fastest, we had Lane 5. If anyone still doubts the importance of underwater dolphin kick, this final should provide ample evidence to convince you (watch the live stream). The race was won in the first 15m! The gap from the eventual winner to everyone else closed slightly down the last 50m - that first 15m of dolphin kick proved critical.

A solid performance from Madison throughout and an uncharacteristically well judged finish earned her 3rd place at the end. Had she allowed her usual glide finish to re-appear she would have been well down the placings. Race skills are massively important and need to be practised on every swim, every day.

When things go well, the big times roll. A 1:02.67 did the same as her finals performance at Winter Nationals and claimed the club record. It also leaves her at number 2 on the British Rankings for 17 year olds, but it's a tightly packed top 4.

After this week, the girls might return to hard training to get a head start on the last cycle through to Summer Nationals. Hopefully a big block of work for Molly will give her the extra boost she needs to perform even better at her swansong in July.

Strong Traditions at Hull Easter Meet

8 Apr 2022: The trip to the east coast at Easter is always one of the highlights for the younger end of the club. Ennerdale pool often encourages excellent performances, and coming as it does, in the middle of long course season, boosts confidence with a brief return to short course racing. For many, it's also a good excuse to stay over in the nearby Premier Inn and make happy memories of a 3 day away meet. This year followed those traditions and served up an outstanding set of results for our younger performance squads.

A 94% PB ratio speaks for itself. Included in that was the usual muddle of first time performances at some of the big, scary, "Animal" events.

So many times has the Hull Easter meet been used to introduce our younger athletes to the 200m Butterfly, it's become an Easter rite of passage. Dartes swimmers (especially the girls) tend to dominate and have done for a decade, 2022 was no different. Six age groups brought us four medals. Gold for one of our first-timers Brooke Dickinson (Arm) with a respectable 3:09.99.

Following her in the 11 years was fellow first-timer Darcy Nelson (Ros) for the Silver.

The next age group up saw our third first-timer claiming another Silver medal. Ruby Wakelin (Ros) braving a Butterfly double the hard way - 200m to close down Saturday afternoon and only taking on the 100m for the first time the day after. Has anyone else attempted the 200m before the 100m? Frightening!

For no other reason than everyone else got a mention, Jessica Eggitt (Ros) also did it and chopped nearly 5sec off her PB from January. Great job.

To round off the girls 200m Fly, veteran Violet Sykes (Adw) romped home for another Gold medal.

The next day, Harris Chapman (Ros) added himself to the 200m Butterfly club for another Gold medal.

As a first time event, the 200m Butterfly tends to be feared more than the 400m IM. Once you've done a few however, many quickly realise it's the longer race that hurts the most. No such fear for Brooke though, she was still to experience both when Friday night rolled around. Her 6:11.33 opened her big medley account with a Silver medal.

For the boys, it fell to Cohen Leonard (Adw) to fly the flag and attempt this grueller for the first time. A Bronze medal in 5:57.33 was his reward.

Friday nights are usually reserved for the bigger events at 3-day open meets. At the big level 1 qualifying meets that Performance 5 have attended recently, it's usually the 1500m/800m combo. At level 3 meets such as this one, it's often the pair of 400s. Our girls did their best to dominate the 400m Freestyle too.

In the 11 year olds we had three in action out of eleven competitors. None of them had attempted it before. The result was Gold at the first attempt for Phoebe Weatherill (Edl). Silver at the first attempt for Jessica Hubery (Drn). You can guess what's next. Bronze at the first attempt for Lexie Goddard (Drn).

Another trio took the 12 years age group by the scruff of the neck too. Grace-Lily Lazenby (Arm) smashed 24sec from her January PB for Gold. Ruby Wakelin (Ros) added another first time event to her repertoire, while Lily Cattlin (Edl) also returned and knocked off a big chunk of time.

It certainly wasn't her first 400m Freestyle, but Isabelle Child (Arm) picked up another Gold in the 14 years age group, ahead of Bronze medal winning Grace Blair (Adw).

Following them, the boys stepped up too. Adam Robinson (Ros) taking the Bronze medal at his first attempt. Lawrence Chapman (Ros) returned for a Silver, while his brother Harris and Noah Brown (Adw) also updated their previous bests.

There were plenty of other swimmers attempting races for the first time, and we encourage everyone to have a crack at every event over the course of the season. We can't possibly cover everything though, but those are the scary ones ticked off.

In all, 200 swims brought home 28 Gold medals, 41 Silver medals, and 26 Bronze.

Which brings us onto the swim of the weekend.

We've seen a lot of action this season involving our older girls. Club records have been smashed, passed around, re-claimed, and smashed some more between Molly Chambers (Drn) and Madison. Between them they seem to have sparked a Butterfly vibe around the younger girls.

In the 50m Fly on Sunday morning, three Golds went to our girls (out of 7). Emilia Keefe (Spa) led the way, and Millie Dey (Arm) followed suit.

Not only that, but Lexie, Grace-Lily, and Grace Blair followed up with matching Silver. Rose Keefe (Spa) also got her hands on a Bronze.

The eagle-eyed will have noticed a missing Gold up there. Nearly 2sec ahead of Lexie's Silver in the 11 year olds, was Phoebe in 33.40. What's so special about a 50m Gold you're wondering?

Well that swim knocked 0.46sec off her age-group's Dartes record that used to belong to our current senior girls record holder Madison Johnson (Arm). What more excuse did we need for an impromptu photo op?

Records are there to be beaten - great one Phoebe.