One of the greatest things about any sport is the stories that can be told. From the highest of the highs of individual and team glory to the lessons learned from disappointment but to rise and rise again. The 2019 East Midlands ASA Regional Championships, now consigned to history, delivered once again and everyone connected to the Green Octopus can reflect with enormous pride at how our home and Nova-based contingent performed.

Let’s be clear. Just qualifying for any regional championship is a massive achievement, endorsing an individual’s talent and hard work throughout the year. Those that qualify are in the top 1% of their peers and that context will keep them all in a warm glow many, many years later.

The first weekend, on 27/28 April at Corby International, focussed on the events for the 12 and 13 years age groups. And what a way to start.
Straight off the bat we have to recognise one of the newest members of the Green Octopus, Evie Johnson. Six golds, two silvers and one bronze from her nine events marks her out as true talent for the national stage. We’re looking forward to being part of your ongoing journey.

Rose Dickerson also cemented her place as one of the region’s leading lights with two golds and one silver from her five finals and Kallum Quirke knocking on the door marked ‘medals’ in the 100M and 200M freestyle events before kicking it down with a great second place in the 400M.

In terms of guts and resolve you can’t look further than the dynamic duo of Daniel Oyaide-Nicholls and Ted Bailey. Ted’s development over the past year has been phenomenal and had a real chance of making the final in the 50M Breaststroke. But sport can be cruel and was disappointed to miss out mainly due to some brilliant swimming by the competition in the heats. But how you bounce back is what defines you so the huge PB’s in the 100M Breaststroke and Freestyle respectively are testament to his resolve and character.

Daniel too has been churning out PB after PB for recent months and went in to the 50M Fly as one of the favourites. Another PB in the heat was followed by another in the final where a blanket finish saw him come 4th, 0.11 seconds behind the gold. Again, sport can be cruel but to go faster than ever before is all you can ask for, especially when that’s backed up by another two huge PB’s in the 100M and 200M Breaststroke.

Special mentions to George Cummings for making three out of three Breaststroke finals, Heaven Harris-Burton for continuing to charge back from injury, Hannah Edwards for a great portfolio of swims, Amy Aboutorab’s regional debut and our other qualifiers, Aaron Johnson, Grace Howes and Sophia Fidler. The benchmark these guys set for the older members of the Octopus at Ponds Forge was very high indeed.

The second session of the regionals was on Monday 6th May and focussed on the 50M sprint events in the main.

The morning session had the women’s 50M Butterfly and Backstroke and the men’s Breaststroke and freestyle respectively with the events reversed for the afternoon. From the Green Octopus we had Jess Li, Emma Erskine, Courtney Price, Jamie Danson, McKenzie Matthews, Finn Ellis, Luke Derivan, Henry Pawson, Andrew Hall, Chris Lambert and Bradley Francis.
Before the sprint finals both Annie Pearson and Evie Johnson carried the NLSC spirit into the women’s 800M Free with Evie picking up another silver medal in the process.

Out the blocks first into the final were Luke Derivan and Gabriel Oyaide-Nicholls making their finals of the 50M Breaststroke and both bringing home 6th place. Jamie Danson and Chris Lambert both made the final of the 50M Free with Chris suffering the same fate as Daniel Oyaide-Nicholls by missing out on a medal on the touch in a blanket finish.

Jess Li qualified for both the Fly and Backstroke finals. A fifth place in the Fly was quickly (in every sense of the word) backed up by gold in the 50M Back. Emma Erskine and Courtney Price then followed that with silvers in the 15 years and open finals.

Into the afternoon and the squad was joined by Connor Byron, am Coleman, Holly Bramwell-Ward, Lauren Shipley and Holly Lockton and the same high standards were delivered again.

In the men’s 1,500M Kallum Quirke bagged his second silver of the championships along with Josh Skinner also picking up silver to complement his bronze from the 800M in Corby. Connor’s 8th place in highly competitive field was also worthy of a great round of applause.

Jess Li just missed out on a medal in the 50M free with Finn Ellis putting his market down for things to come by qualifying for the 50M Backstroke final too. Josh picked up a bronze in his Backstroke final to wrap up another satisfying day with many PB’s being set.

After a couple of weeks break, the championships reconvened over 18th and 19th May with a clean slate for all but also a tint of sadness as this marked the final time Scott Shelton would wear the famous Green Octopus cap.

Scott has been a great representative of the club and it’s been a pleasure to see his development over the years. He’s a true role model within the club as he always swims fast and with a smile on his face. He’s shown others around him how to train hard and how to strike a balance between studies and training. So as he goes to concentrate on his studies and training for a marathon he signed off in style by bouncing back from a tough 100M Breaststroke to deliver a season’s best in the 200M event. Thank you Scott and good luck for the future from all of us at NLSC.

Finn Ellis and Jamie Danson deserve a round of applause. Finn decided the East Mids Championships at Ponds Forge was the best place to drop a cheeky five seconds off his 100M Back PB going from 1.11 down to 1.06 in the space of ten days… Hopefully this will secure him a Nationals entry for the first time ever. Backing this up with more PB’s in the 100M Free and the 200M Back, his second final of the weekend, makes it a meet to remember.

Jamie also set more huge PB’s in the 100M Breast and Free alongside another PB in the 200M IM and also qualifying for the 100M Backstroke final.
It was a tough weekend for some but how they overcame disappointment to respond in other events was amazing. Jess Li missing out on a medal in the 100M Back was hopefully offset by a great PB in the 200M event.

Luke Derivan’s progress over the past year has been nothing short of outstanding to extent where there was a real hope for a medal in the 100M Breast. For a 5th Place in a 1.11 to almost be a disappointment marks how far he’s come but then to deliver PB’s and finals in the 200M Breast and 200M IM (especially a huge PB in the IM) shows the depth of his burgeoning talent and character. Plus his 100M Breaststroke time should also get him into Nationals for the first time too.

But for grit and character Connor Byron’s efforts over the weekend truly stand out and define the spirit of the club. Connor is an amazing young swimmer and will continue to develop greatly back home at Leander and he stood out for special recognition from our Senior Squad coach, Jonny Higham, for his performances across the board on Sunday.
Over the weekend Connor was back in hot form in 200M Free, 200 IM, 400 IM and a huge PB in his 200 Fly. But his Sunday schedule consisted of the 400M Free, 200M IM, 200M Fly (heat and final) and 100 Free. We’ve got a feeling he slept well Sunday night!

Other standouts include Courtney Price’s two silvers from the backstroke events and Emma Erskine’s continued elegance within the pool by bringing home another three golds and one silver from her four races. Josh Skinner mirrored this ongoing high standard of swimming with 1st and 2nd in the backstroke events and rounding off with a good PB in his 100M Free.

Ditto for McKenzie Matthews who delivered another portfolio of quality topped off with a big PB in his 100M Backstroke and for Gabriel Oyaide-Nicholls who secured another PB in his 100M Breaststroke which surely would have been replicated in his 200M Breaststroke but for injury to rob him of the chance.

Finally to represent our Masters community, and to prove once again they’ve all still got it, Kieran Smith knocked in a 2 second PB in the 100M Fly and another PB in his 100 Free!
Huge thanks as always to all of our coaches and volunteers who have enabled the Green Octopus to take part behind the scenes and supported them throughout on the days of competition too.

So the cycle begins again. Times will be chased and qualifications will be made and missed. Joy will be matched by disappointment and the hope and belief to be better, faster, stronger will never fade.

But the goals remain the same; be the best you can be and don’t worry about the expectations people place on you for what you should be. Concentrate on who are you are and swim with a smile and we’ll see you at the 2020 events where more history will be made.

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