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News October 2021

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

Our Traditional Early Season Meet in Hull

22 Sep 2021: Our first three day meet for a long time welcomed the arrival of October as we travelled to our good friends Kingston upon Hull for their Regional Qualifier meet. Friday night, as tradition demands, was dedicated to 400m racing. First up the Freestyle, followed by the big medley.

We wasted no time updating our rankings in those events. Gold medal in the Freestyle for Aimee Keefe (Spa) and Silvers for Greta Highfield (Ros), Molly Chambers (Drn) and Callum Broadhead (Arm), with a Bronze for Daniel Bailey (Tho).

As if one 400m race wasn't enough for the evening, Greta returned almost immediately for the toughest event of all - the 400m IM. We were to win three Golds in that event, Greta and Kiera Binns (Adw) for the girls, and rapidly improving Louie Nightingale (Spa) stepping up for the boys.

We wouldn't normally recommend racing two 400m events in the same session. We'd question the sense of even including two on the same day. However, when your previous best times are two years old and any performance is likely to bring those PB's up to a reasonable level, seeing what you can pull out on the day can sometimes work, for some people. It worked for Greta on this occasion, knocking nearly 20secs off her previous PB for both.

Over the course of the weekend, she amassed over 2,000m of racing across 11 events and won medals in half of them (a net improvement of over 1 min). Some athletes can do that, but it's rare. Greta was definitely flagging under the workload by the end of the weekend. For everyone else, we would recommend reading our guidance notes on which events to enter at a competition. Once the situation settles down and everyone's PB's are up to date, quality over quantity is the way to go. That guidance document will explain in more detail.

There are times when it makes sense to ramp up the entries for a meet. We hope Phase 4 and 5 will take part in a distance meet next month - that is one such occasion. Completing a 1500m and 800m Freestyle on the same day may sound insane, and indeed it will be very hard work. Many will probably only do one, but for those choosing to race the pair, it's an opportunity to try setting Yorkshire qualifying times in both events.

If you enter both though, be sure to race both. These events are like gold dust, so don't take up a spot someone else can use if you might drop out.

After the tough guys did their thing on the Friday night, reinforcements arrived in Hull for Saturday morning. Phoebe Weatherill (Edl) took the opposite approach to Greta and raced just two events over the weekend. Gold as soon as Saturday morning started in the 200m Freestyle and another to close the day with an outstanding first attempt at 200m Butterfly. The latter was named swim of the weekend by Coach Dave, among many excellent contenders.

Molly continued her strong start to the season with another 200m Freestyle Gold - the 200m IM Gold would follow to round out the morning. Fresh from her victory in 400m IM the night before, Kiera joined Molly in winning the 200m version too. She would go on to take the 100m later that day, plus the 200m Breaststroke and a couple of sprints to make it 6 Golds out of 6.

Of course, to keep swimming strong through a three day meet like this, process is important. After nearly two years away from serious competition, that process is a little rusty with some and completely new to everyone else. It starts with pre-pool and your dryland RAMP warm up. Then we're into the pool for a full water-based warm up.

You can read all about that, and learn the details on our Meet Protocol Information page.

But it doesn't end there. Because of all the waste produced by hard working muscles, it's important to swim down after each race too. If a swimmer is to continue racing well and recovering properly throughout the weekend, that process must be followed accurately and as soon after the race as possible. First stop after racing is debrief with the coach - not parents! Immediately following debrief, it's into the swim down pool - parents can wait a bit longer. The document above explains everything.

Saturday afternoon opened up with the sprint medley. We've already mentioned Kiera's Gold, but there were Silver medals for Millie Dey (Arm), Aimee Keefe (Spa), and Megan Wood (Arm) too.

The boys returned from lunch with the 200m Breaststroke and a 41sec PB for Callum to win Gold. Not quite the biggest PB this week, that honour goes to Connie Crowther (Drn) knocking a whopping 57sec off her 400m Freestyle time. Louie also returned for a Silver.

Closing the day was the girl's 200m Butterfly. This early season meet always sees Dartes dominating this event and 2021 was no different. Half of those taking part were from Doncaster. Phoebe's excellent Gold medal in the 10/11 was backed up by Chloe Dixon (Arm) taking Silver.

Up an age-group and our 12/13 year olds saw Isabelle Child (Arm) just miss the Gold, with Rose Keefe (Spa) hot on her heels for Bronze, and the rest of the gang taking 4th, 5th, and 6th. From Izzy's 2:40 Silver, to Greta's 2:44 in 6th, a nice tight collection of five Fly swims.

Megan also missed the Gold in the 14/15s by 0.11sec, but dropped her time dangerously close to the 2:30 mark where big things start happening. Her 2:32 bodes well heading into the Winter Championships.

The big question we often get asked is: "Why do we place so much emphasis on the 200m Butterfly?"

The simple answer is that it's the only event that you fear you won't finish! Out of all the Animal Squad events, the 200m Fly is the most daunting to start with, but it isn't the toughest. That honour goes to the 400m IM which is a proper brute of a race - but you do at least know you'll finish that one.

Attempting the 200 for the first time is frightening - get that first attempt out of the way and we can start racing it just like any other 200m and we've had a lot of success from it over the years.

So let's have a look at what racing a 200m event should look like. For years we've drummed out the mantra: "Push the 3rd 50m". Coming off two years in the wilderness though, let's look at that in more detail.

Sunday morning opened up with the boys racing 200m Freestyle. We'll quickly skip over Callum's Gold, and Bronze for Archie Ainslie (Ros) and jump into the girls 200m Backstroke, because here we have a young lady taking pacing to perfection.

Once Lily Cattlin (Edl) had sorted the backstroke wedge to her satisfaction (it took a lot of pointing and asking) she was off on probably the best paced race of the weekend (lap times from Coach Dave's stopwatch below).


We aim to be within 100m PB +3sec at the half way turn. Any slower than that and the end result is going to be way outside of what you're capable of; you have to commit early. Obviously with younger athletes, those PB's move on very quickly and as in Lily's case here, you can often smash your 100m PB during the 200m if it isn't a mature time. Don't get used to that happening though, it'll stop soon enough!

Next, look at the spread. The start gives you a 3sec advantage - you can see that clearly here, going from 45 to 48. With the less brave, that can also go flying out to 5sec or more which makes PB +3 at the half way turn very unlikely. Here Lily nailed it, well done.

The last three 50m lap times should all be very similar. You can't get much more similar than .30, .39, and .34 - outstanding! Bet she can't do that again.

So now you're left scratching your head and thinking "where is the pushed 3rd 50m?" Well, you're staring at it.

Mentally everything in your body is screaming at you to slow down coming out of that half way turn (assuming you've gone PB +3 or faster). If you're not prepared for that, adding 2 or 3sec on the 3rd 50m lap time is not uncommon. Coach Dave's notebook is full of circled third 50m lap times annotated with the words: "must push harder" or "be braver".

The inexperienced think they're saving something for a sprint finish. The reality is, that sprint finish will not get them back on terms with the guys who paced it properly. Unless you're a 13 year old Callum of course, in which case the rule book flies out the window and 25m can be reclaimed in the final 50m of a 400m IM; but that's an extreme example and not one to emulate.

Watch many elite senior 200m races, and you quickly realise that the guys who hold their pace through the third tend to pull away and can't be caught. Those who let their third add time, don't get back on terms.

So push the third 50m and drop your competition by keeping your splits nice and tight - just like Lily!

We won't mention all the 50m sprints, but one of note saw Callum claim another Dartes age-group record in Butterfly.

We had a few others playing around with breathing patterns on the sprints too. There's a balancing act to consider here. You need to breathe to fuel the muscles, but every turn of the head costs you time. Breathing out of starts and turns costs you a lot of time - it's where you're fastest but most unstable. Turn your head before starting the stroke and you knock yourself out of line and waste the speed you've carried off the wall.

So what's the optimum breathing pattern for a 50m sprint?

The fastest and oldest can probably cope with just 1 breath - a few strokes into the second 25m. The younger athletes will be best served with 5 stroke breathing, so start there and take it out further with practice. Standard racing protocol dictates no breathing on first strokes, no breathing on last strokes into turns, and definitely no breathing in the last 5m!

Sunday morning was closed off with the boys 200m IM. Silver for big Dan and a Bronze for little Theo. Then a photographer arrived for team photos over the lunch break.

The final session saw the boys contest the sprint Medley. Maciej Banas (Adw) touched out Harrison Maskrey (Adw) for the Silver medal; Bronze for H. Callum shaved more time off his Dartes age-group record for the Gold, and Dan picked up another medal, this time the Bronze.

The girls started with the 200m Breaststroke and a dominating 24sec win for Kiera that we've already mentioned. Up an age-group and high-volume Greta led the Dartes girls to Silver and Bronze for Cazia Martin (Arm), Kennedy Matthews (Arm) finished 4th. We were rather dominant in that age group.

Which leaves us with just one final question. How can you make a three day meet even more exhausting? Just when everyone's really tired, they've raced hard all weekend, how can you make sure you've squeezed every last bit of energy out of them? Easy, you put the 200m Butterfly as the last event on Sunday afternoon of course. You see why we like the guys at Hull so much, they're as evil as we are.

Two first timers were looking forward to this moment all weekend. Up stepped 10 year old Archie and 11 year old Theo Kearsley (Adw) to rise to the rank of super heroes.

A Gold and Bronze were their respective rewards.

Finishing things off in the 12/13 age group, Louie went on the attack from the gun. A few panicky looks between coach and team manager proved unnecessary as he held things together nicely for an 8sec PB and Silver. Just behind him Jenson Owen (Edl) showed his digust at a mere 8sec PB, dropping 32sec for the Bronze.

Overall another excellent weekend of racing. PB ratios are still quite high at 76%, but they're slowly returning to normal levels now that everyone has brought times up to date for most events.

Next stop: Yorkshires and NERs.