On Saturday 13th December TSC attempted the ambitious challenge of sending a squad of swimmers to the Four Seasons gala at GL1 on the same evening that swimmers swam in Round 3 of the Arena League in Witney, Oxfordshire.
It was a night of new opportunities, of stepping up to the challenge, of swimming up a category and of overcoming pre-race nerves for our swimmers. This they all achieved with distinction, proving to themselves and the club that they have the talent, focus and determination to continue their progression.
The squad who arrived at GL1 for the Four Seasons gala were shorn of several swimmers in older age groups, but this didn't phase the new recruits who showed wonderful spirit in racing against full-strength opposition.
The individual races saw Jazz Taylor come first in her 25m Freestyle, Archie Walsh finish second in the 50m Breaststroke (whilst swimming up an age group) and Izzy Quinn powering to a second place in the 50m Freestyle.
Oli Barley, a highly determined youngster, finished second in the 25m Butterfly and then fifth in the 50m Butterfly against swimmers three years older. Oli even raced on when he lost his goggles during the dive – something that even senior swimmers can struggle to do. Ben Powell lost his goggles too but that don't slow him down and his focus on finishing, combined with strong swimming, pulled him through.
Grace Nolan seemed to be never out of the pool as she covered both the 10-year-old and 11-year-old age groups in both relays and individual events. The boys also had to cover multiple age groups with some racing in three relays in less than 10 minutes, so big high-fives to Archie Walsh, Dylan Coxshall, Dylan Hill, Lewis Hill and Ben Powell for their sterling efforts.
During the girls' relays the starts were confident, changeovers were slick and technique was strong, with notable performances from Harriet Bethel, Lilly Willmott, Niamh Brady, Abbie Dallman, Leif Davidson and Libby Guthrie.
The 'senior' girls – Olivia Graffin, Grace Nolan, Izzy Quinn and Keeley Burton – looked particularly fluent in their Freestyle and Medley relays, remaining strong for the canon which followed soon after.
The club would like to thank Granger and Karen for their coaching, to Hayley for chaperone work (and reporting!), to Ken, Steve, Claire and Sarah for officiating, and to everyone who ensured that what could have been a daunting evening was in fact one that our youngsters will remember as a positive experience.
In Witney, the Arena League swimmers again performed admirably at the Round 3 meeting, especially when the calibre of opposition is considered. Derby, one of TSC's opponents, are a major force in UK club swimming and Witney called on a significantly larger squad of swimmers with some remaining fresh by only swimming one race during the evening.
The squad was virtually as Round 2, but was joined by Eli Gibney and Hannah Cook, who considerably strengthened the mens and womens races respectively. Many thanks to them and to other senior swimmers – Will, Alex, Joe, James – who generously gave their time to support the club that has developed their talents. Close on their heels, Chris Graffin and Josh O'Neill are progressing rapidly and have shown excellent form throughout this series of races.
Hannah Church, Matt Benson, Jess Lane, Sophie O'Neill and Oli Osborne swam multiple races with performances of true grit and pure class. The younger members – Sebastien Barley, Harry Quiney, Cora Brady and Eve Heeley – will benefit hugely from their participation in these contests and never looked out of place racing up a category.
Tonicha Taylor, Ethan Cooke, Becky Church, Ashleigh Holton, Molly Wilson and Jack Beazer now seem assured in the Arena League environment. Jordan Barnes, Alex Farnhill and Katie Francis looked to be thoroughly enjoying their races, and Harry Lane and Harry Willmott continued their recent good form.
Support during the event came from Craig and Laura (coaching), Dave, Rich and Steve (officials), and Ellie and Emma (chaperones). Thanks to all who contributed to the Arena League campaign – anyone who has been involved will testify that the talent is clear, the passion is well channeled and the team spirit is stronger than at any time in recent years.