Tigersharks took a team of swimmers to South West Regional championships at Bristol and Millfield over the weekends of 14/15 and 21/22 May where they raced the other top swimmers from 6 counties that make up the South West region.
Competition at this event is fierce and success is highly valued but the team were confident that they could deliver their best performances and grab some final places.
Gold medals at these champs are rare but James Andrew was first to take top honours in the boys 1500m Freestyle with a fine swim as he battled it out with Plymouth Leander’s David O’Loughlin. James was always in front but just couldn’t quite break the Leander swimmer and get away; the two boys kept pushing each other and James, who always looked in control, was able to put in new PB that won him the gold medal. James couldn’t rest there as he was involved in the final of the other boys event that session, the 50m Breaststroke in which he finished 8th as the efforts in the 1500m took their toll. At Millfield he continued his fine form taking bronze in the 400m FC as well as making finals of the 200m FC and the 200m Breaststroke.
Andrew Smith had a relatively light programme in the first weekend as he sought medals and times for National Qualification. Andrew specialises in the Fly and Freestyle events but had tough competition in both events. First up the 100m FC saw a very close race as Andrew was just pipped at the finish but went under the elusive 1 minute barrier long course for the first time. Andrew was then denied in the 100m Fly despite posting another huge PB and his first ever sub 65 second swim on this event. Both of these performances take Andrew into the top 8 in the UK in his age. The second weekend was always going to be a stronger one as Andrew sought to defend many of the title he won last year. A bit of an upset in what was his favoured 200m Fly saw Andrew just outside the medals. However, he learned from that race and in the 200m FC held back a bit to produce a stunning last length where he overhauled his rivals and took the title. Not content with that, 20 minutes later he was back in the water demonstrating how to sprint Fly as he smashed his PB going under 29 seconds for the first time as he took gold.
Gabriella Doughty was also looking to capitalise on some strong early season long course form as she took on her favoured shorter backstroke events. Gaby put in some fantastic performances taking 2 silver medals. On the 50m backstroke she appeared to be ahead but got caught in between 2 strokes at the end and despite finishing well was just touched out. Looking to make amends in the 100m Gaby was again denied having produced another big PB.
Dina Nejkic was rounding into form coming into these championships, despite a lot of time out the water in the Winter, and produced some brave swims on her preferred breaststroke events. Dina’s stroke lends itself to the 200m and she put in a great swim to take the bronze medal in a new PB. Over the 100m event Dina was agonisingly close to repeating this as she was just touched into 4th place by the narrowest of margins. The sprint was always going to be the toughest but again Dina showed her talent with a strong 5th place finish.
Marshall Fitchett swam well over both weekends recording 6 PB’s over both weekends culminating with a great 7th place finish in the 400 IM. Ryan Lawrence just missed out on his first regional final as he was 9th in the 200m backstroke but took great encouragement from his performance as these championships.
Leia Griffiths got her regional campaign off to a strong start with some great swimming in the in the Fc and Breaststroke events taking 5 PB’s in the process. Poppy Turner turned on the after burners in the sprint events and smashed her pre competition best times in both the 50m Fly and Backstroke.
There were also big PB’s from Sophie Walker, Grace Osman, Lauren Curtis, Sam Dubarry, Alex Reeves and Matilda Hart as every swimmer who qualified put in a top performance over the championships.
Overall it was another great effort from the swimmers who gave their all over 2 long weekends. For some, the focus will switch back to the short course event but Andrew and Gaby; they have the summer Nationals to aim for as their swims were among the fastest for their age in the country. Whatever the swimmers are taking on next we wish them well.