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News May 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

Introducing the Dartes National Squad for 2022

12 May 2022: After an exhausting qualifying window with 8 meets in just two months, we can all breathe a sigh of relief and enjoy a quiet couple of months to the summer. With such a young squad it's been a massive learning curve for so many, and a lot of what we normally take for granted, has had to be relearned along the way. But a squad of ten is an excellent result, especially considering that six of them are in the first two age groups.

It's no surprise that our remaining pair of veteran campaigners are back again: Molly Chambers (Drn) and Madison Johnson (Arm). Although we think of Maddie in that way these days, it's worth noting that even she only has one summer spectacular under her belt so far - a very successful 2019. It's fantastic to see her return for all five events at British - better than 2019. For Molly, it's already been a breathtaking start to the year. Smashing out PB after PB and forcing herself in to the top flight for both 100m and 200m Butterfly - she's never qualified for British for both events previously. As a bonus, dipping beneath 29sec for the first time in April earned her a spot at English Nationals for the sprint event for the first time too.

Behind that pair are another couple with a story to tell. Up until the pandemic, Callum Broadhead (Arm) and Luke Gilliver (Drn) were our medal winning double act at Yorkshires and North East Regionals. Between them they boast 27 NER Gold medals (and exactly the same at Yorkshires). Before that two year enforced break, they both enjoyed at least one #1 British ranking and a flurry of others in the top 10 too. Alas, injury and illness have prevented both from serious training since. To date, Callum has endured one full week so far, whereas Luke has been back training at Dearne Valley under the watchful eye of Head Coach Chris Goddard.

We're piling no expectations on these two for the summer, just getting them both there is a bonus. For Callum, he heads to British for sprint Butterfly and Freestyle (the 100m of the latter too). He'll also be at English for the 100m Butterfly and 50m Breaststroke (that one was a surprise). That makes it five in total. Luke will contest the 100m Backstroke at English.

The qualifying window makes the process of selection for Nationals a painful and stressful experience. The Top X on rankings after the final weekend go to British, the Next Y go to English. We had another three in the running right up until the final pair of weekends. No one knows for sure until all the results are in the system and the final list is published. For Greta Highfield (Ros) who qualified for Commonwealth Games Trials in April only to later be rejected by a process we've never seen used before, it must have been particularly tough. She was on the list for a few events, we thought she'd added the 200m IM last weekend as well, but that final weekend of racing brings out fast times across the country. She will be heading to English for the 1500m and 800m Freestyle though, after some truly fabulous progression in both events since Yorkshires.

Joining her in those big Freestyle events will be the girl who chased her through every heat along the way. Cazia Martin (Arm) seemed to be in the lane next door to Greta every time they raced (if not quite next door, then definitely in the same heat). It's not clear who this helped the most, but having someone to push you along is always welcome. In the youngest age group, Cazia also added the 400m Freestyle and 200m Backstroke, setting new club records in all three Freestyle events to get there.

Another at the younger end, and still in Performance 4, was Jenson Owen (Edl). A solid four events for him after many medal winning performances at NER Championships. Let this lead the way for the rest of P4 in subsequent years. It shouldn't be just P5 qualifying for Nationals, spots in the 12/13 years age group at English are yours for the taking. It's a wide range of events for Jenson, his favoured Backstroke earned him the 50m and 100m, also the 200m Butterfly, and both those strokes combined to help get him the 400m IM too. A great job by Coach Rob to make that happen.

We also need to give a nod towards our previous age-group coach at this point too. Coach Jordan, if you're out there reading this, you played a major part in getting most of the eight first timers ready for this, and they've done you proud.

Another of those is Louie Nightingale (Spa). All three Butterfly events, two at British and the 100m at English. There are other events being primed for next year, but we'll settle for three this time round. Lots of skills and technique points for him to work on over the next few months should give him some more big improvements by the time the championships arrive. Grace Burton (Arm) leads the charge for our young 200m Butterfly girls too. A berth at English for her, but it was so close for a small bunch to be joining her. A couple of months of serious graft await her, and for the group who just missed out, it's now their job to push her through it.

Finally, the newcomer to the team. Nathan Massam (Ros) arrived as a Butterfly/Freestyle swimmer with no intention of racing his dreaded Backstroke. He didn't even have a 200m long course time on rankings and his short course time was approaching 3min (admittedly it was quite old). A dislocated shoulder put paid to his Butterfly ambitions for most of the season, but that just gave us time to work on his Backstroke. A return to limited competition after the injury, and a surprisingly good 100m time at Yorkshires (4th place) suggested he was in with a shot heading into the window.

His 100m time would eventually fall within 1sec of qualifying for English (5th at NER's), but we had no 200m time for him and without one he couldn't enter the qualifying meets. We rushed him into the only Level 3 remaining before the NER entry deadline. That 2:22 short course earned him his first long course entry to take place on the penultimate day of national qualifying. A 2:27 heat swim squeezed him into the NER final 7th fastest, but no where near the standard required for Nationals.

Then the final.
From lane 1 he turned at 50m in 3rd.
At half way he was still 3rd.
The final turn was close, 1:46.90 to 1:47.08, but Nathan was still in Bronze medal position.
A lack of fitness due to the injury earlier in the season cost him the medal down the final 50m, but 2:24.85 would leave him 4th and on his way to English Nationals - his first ever pair of long course 200m Backstroke swims, just 24 hours before the window closed. Quite the roller coaster.

Between those ten qualifiers, they will be contesting a spread of 29 events from the 50m sprints all the way to a couple of 1500m Freestyles. The youngest, Cazia, will have just turned 13 and the oldest will be nearly 20. After such a difficult year it's an excellent achievement, but definitely one to build on going forwards.

One of those building blocks was on show during the middle weekend of NER's. We had a speculative shot at the teams, entering a very young boys Freestyle and Medley team last month. Usually that competition struggles to fill one full heat. Returning from the pandemic appears to have triggered everyone's interest with two heats being fielded.

Our team of two 14 year olds and two 15 year olds will still be eligible next year, and to be fair, qualifying such a young team for Nationals was always unlikely. It didn't help that the whole of Northumberland and Durham had merged together (12 clubs) to submit three teams between them. It was always an outside shot, but our Freestyle team was within the range where the slowest qualifiers usually sit for Nationals (3:56-4:10 - we went 3:58). Teams haven't been selected for the event yet, but with so many from the North East it's unlikely for this year's gamble to pay off.

Of course, the hard work starts now. Simply qualifying isn't enough. Arriving at either of these championships and challenging for the finals and then the medals is the order of the day. To achieve that will require big PB's on the day, no matter what your ranking heading into it. Reaching finals will be very difficult for everyone - so heads down, bank as much hard work as possible before the big day(s) arrives.

And for those just missing out this year, let's get a head start for 2023.