British Champs 2019 - Day 6

Tom Dowden

Dodging the terrible heat wave happening back home in Dorset, where treating sunburn and munching Easter Eggs would be the order of the day for many people. The exciting final section of the British Champs meet was upon the Poole Swimming Club team and energy was high, with plenty of banter between the team.  Such had timings worked out that each athlete was ready to warm up exactly half an hour after the other and prepare for their morning heats.

Morning Heats

Jacob Peters was up first and for the third time in the week had been seeded next to the University of Stirling’s ever improving power house of Scott McClay. The pair who have hit similar times throughout the champs once again set off matching each other stroke for stroke, with Jacob gaining the touch on this one finishing in 24.25, just seven hundredth of a second ahead of McClay.  The pair qualified second and third respectively for the evening final just behind current World Champion Ben Proud.

Oli Fairman after a brilliant 200IM final the evening before stood up for the 200m Back stroke heat.  With positive splits of 61 and 63 he finished earning his second fastest time ever, a season best and qualified as sixth junior for this evenings final.  Similar to the 200IM, with four of the juniors making the Transition or Senior final Oli would be ranked second in the junior final.

Jasmine McCrea, was up in the 100m fly, after considering pulling out earlier in the week, did herself proud, found the character to continue and set out well at the start of the race, holding on to still swim a respectable time albeit away from her best.  Jasmine will leave the meet with lots to consider and lots of support to reflect and reset, still ranked in the top 40 females in Britain in multiple events. 

After the morning heats a final team lunch (nothing to with the Easter story) had been organized for the swimmers and their families, where the balance of proteins and carbs had been studied.  After Barry got over no-one ordered desserts, meaning he couldn't have one.  Oli and Jacob returned to their flats to rest, focus and prepare. for the finals.

Evening Finals

The evening finals kicked off with the ladies 1500m fastest heat featuring Emily Clarke who has been working purely under British Senior team coach Andi Manley at the University of Loughborough since finishing A Levels in 2017 remaining a member of Poole Swimming Club during holidays when she is rarely given the opportunity to return home to train.

Emily set off with intent and built a joint lead with Leah Crisp (800m Champion) from Leeds Swimming. The pair pushed each other throughout the race where it came down to the last 50m where Leah gained the touch and Emily went one better than her 800m result to claim the Silver Medal. 

Two finals later and Jacob Peters walked out for his final race of the champs in the 50m fly. Starting from lane 5, on what would normally be a strength of the race, an amatuer miss placing of the wedge cost some reaction time and speed on the underwater section, which was quickly gained back up to 25m.  By 35m race leader Ben Proud picked up his rate and steamed ahead further, with the rest of the pack stroke for stroke fighting for the medal places, Peters touched in third place with a season best, just five hundredth of second behind fellow 18-year-old Lewis Fraser of Swansea University.  Proud took Gold in 23.25.    

The competition leaves Jacob with a season best in the 200m and 50m fly and a lifetime best in the 100m fly which was the fastest time ever by an 18-year-olds Brit.  Although positive results, as a youngster stepping into the senior ranks with the ambition to make the Tokyo team in 12-months-time, the two qualifying events left Peters 3.4% outside of the 200m Fly standard and 2.4% outside of the 100m qualifying standard for the World Championships.  Where outright qualifying times were quite rightly worked on the standard of 6th position at the last World Championships.  The best Jacob can hope for with selection is for the heat swim in the medley relay, which has medal contention in the final.    This following finishing behind James Guy and Duncan Scott in the 100m fly who are both likely to have broader programmes across the week and be involved in the Medley Final.  There are many combinations possible for the selectors, with no free-rides to finals, so it all comes down to the best time combinations with the best athletes.  

The next set of finals were the 100m Breast-stroke where Kayla Van-Der-Merwe now full time at City of Winchester under the sole coaching of former World Record Holder Zoe Baker (and supported by Poole Swimming Club’s Youth Performance squad to top up sessions) had reached the senior final against a strong field. Kayla qualifying on a 1.09.09 and fought well improving her time down to 1.08.61 finishing 7th, but more importantly her second event under the World Junior Championship qualifying time. A bright future ahead.

With a strong night so far, it was now time for the ever-improving Oli Fairman to push for a European Junior team place in the 200m Back.  Whipping the laptop out following the morning swim, coach and swimmer had spent time analyzing the heat, pre-race model and agreed where the biggest of impacts would come for the final.  

The intelligent athlete prepared for the final and was fired up by his coach and team mates and walked out into lane 5 (the lane that had bought him success just 24 hours earlier). Scaring his coach by fiddling with his cap, race skins and goggles, Oli eventually jumped into the water and set off from the start signal.  He went slightly quicker than the heat turning in 5th place at the first turn, by the end of the second length he had moved himself up to third, a second behind the race leader. Then perfectly as planned opened the gates and upped his stroke rate into the last 75m hitting the last turn having reeled in the leader.  He was now two tenths of a second in the lead and battling through what he later described the painful sensation as ‘my legs were on bloody fire and I liked it’ held on to the lead and won the heat by half a second earning a lifetime best of 2.03.85.

Two finals later and his time was confirmed as the third fastest junior time which although outside the automatic qualifying time for the European Juniors team added to a decent 100m back and 200IM will place him on the selectors radar and keeps him well on track with his ongoing progress being a year younger than the age bracket for males.

The meet in terms of outcomes bought around 3 Medals, 1 British Record, 2 Dorset Senior and 3 Senior Club Records and the smaller hard-working club of Poole Swimming Club gaining more respect at the highest of domestic levels with present, associated and past swimmers.  Time over the next week will see if athletes have made teams. There is plenty to be excited about in the future.  The athletes will have a three-day break with one session a day for the remainder of the week.

A massive thank goes to Corinne of Holistic Sports Massage and Therapy who continues to provide a calm and focused approach to ensuring athletes recover effectively between events.

A further well done also goes to the athletes and coaches that performed so well at the Portsmouth North Sea meet over the four days of Easter.   The squad now focusses on tapering into the Regional Youth Championships.