Tom Watson v Jack Nicklaus in 1977. Dennis Taylor v Steve Davis in 1985. Liverpool v Arsenal in 1989. Rosie Gaines in 1995. All things that live long in memory for being closer than close. Perhaps the Stage Three trophy final result won’t be as widely acknowledged as any of the above but there’s no doubting it was a close as two coats of paint.


The final round saw the top six scoring teams from the first two rounds come together in one last showdown for overall glory and any one of four clubs had a realistic chance of taking home the trophy. Calverton & Bingham SC lead the way with seventeen points and a gala total of 361. Next came the Green Octopus and Arnold SC with sixteen points (and gala points of 355 and 346 respectively) with Sutton SC’s A team making up the quartet on 15 points and 346 gala total.


Even though the final was placed in the middle of the East Midlands regionals, all squads sent out strength and quality; there wasn’t going to be any gimme’s here – it was going to be the highest quality competition that Nottinghamshire swimming could provide.


The Green Octopus took to Saturday night in great confidence. A convincing victory in Round 2 had seen us overtake Arnold and be close on the coattails of CABs. Bolstered by the presence of some of Nova based swimmers alongside squad members in a rich vein of form, confidence was high as Saturday morning’s rallying call from Senior Squad coach Jonny Higham rang in their ears; “Let’s do this”.


The Open Freestyle relay team of Andrew Hall, Annie Pearson, Mia Lovell and Chris Lambert got the team off the perfect start with victory in the first event. Then it became all about utilising Leander’s strength in depth and grinding out point after point after point. Each start, each turn, each stroke, each touch became more and more important as the consistency in scoring throughout the events became key.


As the results came in, the spirit began to grow as the Green Octopus congregated en masse at the shallow end alongside Jonny and Steph to cheer on their teammates.


Jess Li, Annie Pearson and Chris Lambert did what they’ve done for the club for years with impressive victories. But the 2nd’s, the 3rds achieved against the odds against best in the county with over 15 new PBs being set was amazing and inspiring.(Take a bow Sophia Fidler for putting in an excellent shift throughout the night, Grace Howes for a confidence building huge step forward and Mckenzie Matthews for setting 3 from 3 new PB’s). The relay teams were also tight and competitive.


Grinding out the results as CABs were taking points off Arnold and Sutton respectively and vice versa because the quality standard was that high. Plus the swimmers from both Carlton Forum and Radford SC’s weren’t there to make up the numbers either – each race was a battle with no quarter being given.


But as no scores were given out during the night, everyone assumed it was close and you just felt it would come down to the cannon. Like in Round 1, the canon ebbed and flowed with the lead changing hands from Leander to Sutton to CABs. Coming to the last two lengths, it looked unlikely it was going to be successful as CABs looked too far in front…


Metres were eaten down quicker than pizza at a kids party. Metres became centimetres and the water seemed thicker in lane 5 than it did lane 4. The centimetres became millimetres and in the deluge of splash and spray at the end the collective ‘ooooh’ from the crowd and the officials drowned out the pained looks across the faces of the place judges – good luck with that one.


There was nothing more that could be done in the water. Each and every one of the swimmers had given their all for their club. Now came the wait for the scores.


The wait carried on. The wait grew. The rules were checked and checked again. The scores were checked again. The wait carried on.


Sutton A were deserved winners of the gala on 162 points with NLSC in second place on 153 points and CABs in third with 140. Sutton’s victory gave them six points and a final total of 21 points, which was matched by CABs four points for coming third. The Green Octopus had started the night on sixteen points. Five points for coming second on the night saw us join the happy triumvirate at 21 points. If Elmo and Big Bird from Sesame Street had made a guest appearance and told us that the gala had been brought to them by the number 21, you wouldn’t have been surprised.


Because of the tie it went back to countback of the total gala points achieved over the three rounds. Summoning the combined spirit of Rachel Riley and Carol Vorderman, the officials thanked the invention of smartphones for easy access to a calculator.


CABs’ original six point lead over NLSC was wiped out as they finished on 504 points, four behind us on 508. Therefore we needed to have lost to Sutton A by eight points or less in order to be crowned champions. Once again Rosie Gaines’ dulcet tones were prophetic, “closer than close”.


Sutton’s victory total of 162 on the night was nine more than our 153. A tie. And on balance an apt result that reflected the quality throughout and huge rounds of applause and congratulations to all clubs and all swimmers throughout.


However, due to a 2-0 drubbing at Rock, Paper, Scissors (nice one Annie) the Stage 3 Trophy came home with the Green Octopus once again.


We probably could have saved a lot of time and effort if we’d just done that right back at the start of the Stage 3 series in January but it wouldn’t have been as much fun. We wouldn’t have enjoyed the progression our swimmers and our club have made and the history made wouldn’t have been created.


Our success is down to our collective spirit and the huge strength in depth NLSC is able to draw upon from our talent pool. Each and every member of the three squads that took part in the three galas should be very proud of what they have helped to achieve. It couldn’t have happened without any of you.


Job done.

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swimming, Stage 3