16 Mar 2020

At the time of writing there’s a very large and obvious cloud hanging over the world from which our swimming, personal and professional lives cannot ignore. And yet despite all our collective concerns for our loved ones, friends, neighbours, colleagues and the rest of the world we must always recognise what brings us together and gives joy to so many.

The Notts ASA County Championships are always a celebration of the best in our sport across our great county. And the 2020 edition was no different with the same old stories of highs, lows, excitement, disappointment and achievement being told once again in a whole new way.

Spread over three weekends between mid-January into late February the 2020 iteration saw many new, nervous debutants take to the water against gnarled, seasoned veterans who were perhaps making their final championship bow. For many Notts ASA Counties will be the pinnacle of their individual swimming year, a whole twelve months in the making. For others it’s a stepping stone into the wider long-course season with at least one eye on the upcoming regional and national events.

But most importantly is the chance to share time with friends and enjoy their company; celebrating their successes, supporting their disappointments and then showcasing their talent in this wonderful sport. Whatever the result, whatever the outcome each and every Green Octopus wore our famous green and white cap with pride and great honour.

The impressive numbers tell only part of the story. With the Green Octopus taking largest squad of swimmers (70+) taking part in well over 500 individual races against the very best of from our fellow clubs. From that we returned 348 top ten places and a medal haul of 62 gold, 38 silver and 53 bronze spread across the individual events, Junior and Senior Age Group awards and FINA points categories as well as having PB’s raining down across the whole club.

The individual success isn’t limited to medals or times. For Abby Seddon to reach multiple finals on her debut alongside Laurel Roberts-Burrell marks out two homegrown talents making huge steps forward.

For Katherine Hewing, Hannah Edwards and Emma Demandt in winning their first County medals in style across the butterfly and distance IM and freestyle events respectively.

For Mia Lovell to continue her long awaited return to form in the 100 Fly showing multi-skilled brilliance alongside her call up England’s U17 Water Polo squad.

To Sam Coleman and her consistency being rewarded as it should with a great medal in the 50M Breaststroke. 

For Rosie Dickerson swimming through injury and adversity and still delivering quality results and being at the forefront of team morale.

For Dan McLennan to show the massive steps forward taken with massive PB’s across all his events and to Gisele de Ponte for being the ever-smiling breathe of fresh air.

For George Cummings taking the triple crown in the boys U13 breaststroke events and Evie Ferrer repeating her 2019 successes in the U12 backstroke events.

To seeing the successes of new Octopus Millie King, Ermita Balnyte and Luke Jeal alongside those swimming under the colours of their previous clubs such as Ruby Wetherell, Emily Wright and Toby Hughes.

To the ongoing excellence of Luke Derivan, Emma Erskine, Courteney Price, Annie Pearson, Jess Li, Finn Ellis and Henry Pawson.

To Kallum Quirke for showing proper Iron Man skills in bringing home gold in the 1,500M free alongside brilliant sprinting skills to get to the podium for the age group presentation for the 200M free without breaking sweat.

To Mark Shipston for showing age is just a number in the 50M Fly showing the age group swimmers just how it’s done. And to fellow Masters Jonny Higham and Adam Jeacock for making individual finals.

To Lissi Bowen for an outstanding display in U/11 girls’ events and to Sophia Fidler for finishing off the championships in brilliant style in the U/14’s 50M Free.

To Heaven Harris-Burton who’s 2020 championship success was a long way off when missing 2019’s event with a broken leg in plaster.

To Myleece Quirke, Jess Collishaw, Andrew Hall, McKenzie Matthews, Jamie Danson, Chris Lambert, Jimi Knowles, Lauren Shipley, Ella Gallagher, Edie Syrett, Ryan Banks and Will Soden-Barton for showing their skills inside and outside of the water as example for our youngest swimmers to follow and aspire to.

And finally to the outstanding Evie Johnson whose personal success can only be described as ‘Phelp-esque’. What a talent.

It was three weekends where a blur of green and white shone through. The noise and spirit at poolside was reaffirming and reassuring. The coaches, team managers, officials and volunteers were superb as was our permanent cheer squad up in the stands. It was good once again to be green.

And then finally to the relays. Much had changed since the final individual events and a decision to compete was taken after much consultation across the committee on the Saturday beforehand.

Yes, we want to compete and showcase our talent in the best possible way as we always do. But it was recognised that we could not and would not make demands of anyone giving the heightening concerns. But following the leadership form Swim England in place at the time and offering people a personal choice without any prejudice and with on-going respect was believed to be the best thing to do.

It was a muted, strange atmosphere at Harvey Hadden; a world away from the raucousness of 2019’s Ibiza foam party reunion event but the quality of swimming was undiminished from all clubs and from our A and B squads in each event. And besides, we’re NLSC and we love a good relay – just ask Masters' Coach Alex Thurston…

From the 26 events in total (ten mixed events, ten female, ten male) a grand total of 48 finals were achieved. Seven bronze, eight silver and seventeen golds only tell part of the story. Apologies to any races overlooked here but four stood out for different reasons.

The Male Open 4x100 Freestyle relay looked on paper to be a Leander lock-out and so it proved but local pride was at stake and caused much debate between NLSC’s chair and communications lead standing poolside as neither decided they fancied the job of team selection for this event very much . Impressive returns from eight incredibly talented swimmers.

Perhaps the guys had watched our youngest girls team compete in the 9/10 medley relay just beforehand. All four ladies were making their County Championship debut but had clearly carried through their form from the recent Stage 1 Trophy event as they brought home their first gold a cheeky fifteen seconds ahead of the second-place team. Statement well and truly made.

Comeback of the day was perhaps the girls 14/U Freestyle relay team. That age group across the county is stacked with talent, especially looking at Bramcote and Retford’s A squads respectively. Therefore, qualifying third for the final was no bad shakes but perhaps it wasn’t going to be. However, ‘perhaps’ is a funny, subjective word and nobody told Heaven, Katherine, Evie J or Sophia.

Three impressive legs had the ladies in green out in second trailing Reford by over a second but with rapid anchor legs all around could Sophia overhaul the gap and bring the team home at the same as holding Bramcote off? With 40 metres left the gap looked like it was reducing. By 25 it had almost gone and neither was tying up. By the end, Sophia touched home in first by almost 3/10ths of a second and a hard earned, well deserved gold was theirs.

But even that wasn’t the best race of the day and we’re calling here; the best race of 2020 took place just a few minutes before. On a weekend were the national and international sporting calendars were decimated due to global events, sport, pure sport, of the highest quality was delivered in the girls 12/U freestyle relay.

We’ve known for a very long time that NLSC is blessed with a depth of talent in our ladies within this age group for a very long time. And it was perfectly showcased in this event as our notional A and B teams went head to head.

You could chop and change members of each squad. You could bring in others not even in either team and still the quality would shine through. Again, on paper you would have had the A squad winning. They’d qualified ahead of the B team in second by three seconds. However, lets make it a Leander Lockout on the podium and well done to everyone involved.

It’s never that simple though. It never is.

Millie gave B team a 3/10th lead after the first leg which Marissa then reduced to 1/10th by the end of the second leg. Evie Ferrer then pulled back 3/100th on Rebeka Hodi on the third leg as Harriet and Emma took to the water together for the final leg.

A hush descends on the pool quickly broken by cheers for both teams. Stroke matched stroke. Kick matched kick and the wall remained tantalisingly away from them both. Bang. Chuck a towel over the pair of them and look to the electronic timing. That pregnant pause as the crowd and teammates looked to the scored board and tried to work out what had gone on.

Leander A 2.06.40
Leander B 2.06.56

An amazing race and a wonderful showcase of our talented group of swimmers. Five meters less or five metres more could have been a different result but everyone in attendance had seen something rather special and all eight ladies are a fantastic credit to our club.

So that is Counties for 2020 done. And if it is the last competitive swimming for a while depending on what advice comes down from the Government and Swim England, we finished on a high. Harvey Hadden was once again turned green and we see you again we’ll be ready.

We’re always ready.

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