So, this is how 2019 ends.
From the initial mayhem of the Sutton Press Relay Gala, counties (and the drama of more relays), to victories in all of the Notts ASA Stage galas, a triumphant victory in the Derby & Notts League, great success at various open meets including another celebration of swimming at our own Tony Holmes Meet and our club championships and Regional and National success for our age-group swimmers, Masters and Water Poloists alike; through to record breaking swims, new coaches, more volunteers, swim camps, broken bones, new PBs, new goals, visits from Olympian swimmers to a cheeky game or two of Octopush.
We’ve welcomed new members and said goodbye to long standing friends who wish all the success in their future but will forever remain a Green Octopus. And yet, it all came down to Saturday night. An exclamation mark to finish off a phenomenal year by finishing strongly in the Arena National League.
We’ve built all year to this and tried to build a campaign under the grammatically challenged banner of #WeReady. And now we can say #WeToldYouSo.
Squad selection is never easy. Other commitments can take priority and illness and injury are never too far away as winter draws in and the effects of a long, hard training programme. But no excuses; NLSC must suit up and perform regardless.
But we are blessed with strength in depth and have a deep talent pool to draw upon from all our home-based squads, Masters and Nova-based swimmers and a collective spirit that binds us together. The number of Iron-Shifts swam on Saturday, forgoing individual glory for the benefit of the team marks the character of our people apart.
Yes, we are a proud, heritage club with a talent bank the envy of many but we are not a City Squad that can draw universally on an area like others such clubs can. But give us a fighting chance and we will always show what we can do.
This spirit is the definition of those who swam for B Squad on Saturday night at Wellingborough. Lead by stalwarts such as the great Tom Wells, Brad Francis, Jimi Knowles, Jess Collishaw, Emily Rickards, Lauren Shipley, Mia Lovell and Ella Gallagher they set the standard for others to follow. Not only great swimmers but becoming great people too and simply by being in their company, our younger squad members will have learnt a great deal.
Huge futures can be expected of swimmers like Charlie Maloney, Poppy Westmorland, Oscar Ferrer, Charlotte Seddon. Laurel Roberts-Burrell signed off his debut year in style and we cannot wait to see where a full year’s training will take him.
Young but experienced hands such as Ollie Coleman, Ben Sharp, Matthew Clark, Amelia Finch swam out of their skins again for the famous green and white hats and Abby Seddon facing her 100M Fly nemesis in great style too. Top marks as well to Billy Kielty for another PB in his 50M Fly.
The improvement seen from Dan McLeman, Ryan Banks, Maddie Brown and Will Francis is always a privilege to watch and last but by no means least Saturday saw a very welcome and pleasing return to the pool for Ted Bailey, a young man who can generate a smile in others from 1,000 miles away.
The swimming was tough, the swimming was hard but absolutely nothing was left in the pool and the team came together as one. One can only imagine the party on the bus both ways to and from Wellingborough but beyond proud would be an understatement.
Over in Corby A Squad had their own point to prove. Qualifying for the final in 6th place had been a great achievement. Maintaining that would be great, dropping down a disappointment but rising upwards would be a stretch.
But it’s all about the timing…
We’ve been lucky enough to do a bit of work with our friends at Speedo UK and with their launch of their new green GlowForIt Fastkin range of suits an opportunity arose. Especially as we’ve been glowing green since 1947…
Seeing many the squad decked out in matching kit and with glow-sticks, tattoos all in place (and at Wellingborough with B Squad) our bunch took to the water with points to prove and earn against the might of many City Squads and the noise from their large bands of supporters. But we’re Leander. This is what we do.
And we have what they don’t; Myleece Quirke being cheerleader in chief because she can walk into any room, any pool, any arena and make the whole place feel great. Extra special mention to Louis Konowalik too. Little guy, big voice, bigger smile. Team leader. Superstar.
A tough start against some stacked performances in the opening relays reinforced the size of the challenge until Evie Ferrer scored our fist Top-3 finish in the Girls 50M Backstroke. Then the floodgates opened.
Daniel Oyaide-Nicholls won his 100M Breaststroke, Emma Erskine placed highly in the 100M Back and then finished 2nd shortly afterwards in the 100M Fly – not bad for someone who’s legs were giving her jip all night.
Rosie Dickerson, confidence buoyed from delivering a stupidly daft split in the medley relay then smashed to victory in the 100M Backstroke with a huge PB. Kallum Quirke underscored his value to the Octopus again with lynchpin swims – he truly is the Mailman because he always delivers.
Andrew Hall, Luke Derivan, Will Soden Barton, Toby Brown, Chris Lambert all stood tall. Annie Person, Jess Li, Gisele De Ponte and Sam Coleman did likewise, and Katherine Hewing scored two huge PBs in the 100 Breast and 100 Fly.
Gil Bailey, Harrison Howes, Gautham Lakshmipathy and Josh Jeacock can keep any party going and could powerthe Corby pool with their energy. And Ermita Balnyte and Marissa Li again showed the glut of riches we have in the 2008 girls age group with some stellar swimming.
Special mention must go to our Masters contingent because their support in this year’s campaign has been truly outstanding and inspirational. On Saturday night we welcomed the latest member of the Masters contingent Andrew Raine deliver a Fly masterclass (serious wingspan and killer underwater work) alongside Amy Konowalik, Georgia Hohmann and Jonny Higham. These four, alongside all the Masters, have been there, seen it, done it. You want to swim with class and enjoy your swimming in an open-age group? Watch and learn – and these guys have literal fandom from the age-groups swimmers.
Point after point was won and earned. The spirt that has run through the club throughout the year came to force again with everyone pulling together. But like so many times this year it came down to two relays.
Against the odds we were up to fifth, but we needed to hang on and finish ahead of West Suffolk wherever we could. Earlier in the evening, Alex Tomlinson (another standout of our class of 2008) suffered the recurrence of a long-standing knee problem. Standing let alone bending the knee was a serious issue but with time and rest can be overcome.
You cannot explain the guts it took for Alex to fight through the pain and will her knee back into place. The tears were real and the concern paramount. But once again, the spirit of Pele from Escape to Victory was channelled and Alex was cleared to get on the block for 11-year-old girls medley relay as the freestyle anchor.
Evie, Ermita and Marissa had fought nip and tuck to get us into 4th place for Alex on the final leg but it was tight. On the block Alex stood tall and then took off. Her knee held up.
It was more than holding up as it kicked like a mule and drove Alex forward. We were closing.
Hold up on the turn. Please let her knee hold up on turn…Then the explosion happened.
Alex simply blasted the final 25 and got quicker and quicker and quicker. 4th place had been burned off by the turn and 3rd place had said goodbye with around 15 metres to go. Two old men who’ve been to more football games than they care to remember let out guttural roars of delight as a massive 2nd place was achieved. Swim of the evening by a country mile and game well and truly on.
Last event. Men’s 6x50 freestyle relay. Two points in it. Must beat Suffolk. Must beat Suffolk.
Andy Raine led off into Toby Brown and then into Josh Skinner. Timekeepers and Stroke Judges alike taking cover and fighting a losing battle to stay dry. These guys were good but so was everyone else but there was so much splash you couldn’t see. Andrew Hall steps into the 4th leg and it’s nip and tuck again with Suffolk.
The it’s Jonny time. 5th leg. Eagle dive into a 23.7 split. Made the others look as if they were swimming backstroke. Then for the final time this year, Face of the Place and Mr Showstopper himself, Chris Lambert brings the team home in 3rd.
Job done. We’re 5th. We’ve beaten Northampton too. Job done.
We said we were ready. We said we swim happy. We said we can get back to the high standards our history demands of us.
We said we’ve got some talented swimmers. We said we know how to compete. We said we’d have fun.
This is for everyone that was a part of squads in 2019. This is for everyone who volunteered or gave up their time to get our swimmers where they needed to be in 2019.
We’ve done all of this in 2019 together. We’ve glowed green throughout and we’ll grow Green together to.
Leander in 2020? That’s a perfect vision and we’ll see you poolside.