From Thursday June 30th to Sunday July 3rd Caitlin Dixon, Heidi Smith and Jamie Clarke were north of the border, in Glasgow, competing in the Long Course Scottish Gas National Swimming Open Championships. These are not the National Age Group Championships, oh no... these are the real deal senior championships, racing Olympians, Commonwealth medalists, national record holders and 2012 hopefuls from England, Scotland, Wales, Spain, Brazil, Venezuela and I'm sure a couple more countries that I've missed off! It's one of the few galas each year that allows athletes to really prepare for the end of season target meet, being over 4 days. You all know how exhausted you are after a 3 hour league gala, or the 6 hours marathon METS... well imagine a 4 day, 7am to 7pm gala and how mentally and physically taxing that could be if you weren't prepared for it! That's one of the reasons the DARTES elite took the trip to Scotland, to prepare for their end of season target, Summer Nationals.
Of the three Armthorpe swimmers, Caitlin had the busiest schedule, swimming on all 4 days in 7 different events. Day 1 saw thrown in at the deep end (sorry about the pun) in the same event as the fastest woman in the world so far in 2011 in the 400m Individual Medley, Mireia Belmonte of Spain and 2 of the top 10 fastest British women this year in the 100m Butterfly! Cait swam to a 1:12.34 in the fly and 5:26.96 in the 400IM, placing 60th and 38th respectively. On day 2 Caitlin showed her versatility by dropped down in distances to the 200IM (2:34.05, 55th place) and 50m freestyle (29.95, 66th place). The highlight day for Caitlin had to have been day 3 though, just one swim and in one of her strongest events, the 400m free - and what a swim it was. She was right on track with her current PB and once she got into a rhythm she churned out 36 second split for each 50m like it was no problem, even having enough left in the tank for a 33 second last 50m. I think that means 35second 50's or faster are in order in summer!?!? Finishing with a time of 4:39.99 was good enough for 25th place and just shy of a place in the B final! So all that was left for Caitlin to do was round out her 4 day meet with a couple of sprints on the final day, the 100m free (1:03.28, 70th place) and 50m fly (32.53, 64th place).
Caitlin's friend and relay team mate Heidi had a slightly less mixed bag of swims, but still showed that she is ready to compete on the senior national level. Her first swims were on day 2 of the championships, the 100 breaststroke (1:24.85, 55th), 200 backstroke (2:30.97, 40th her highest placing of the meet) and 50m freestyle (29.44, 55th) - yes, that's 3 strokes, over 3 distances in one session... very tough! Day 2 was Heidi's only day without a 200m swim, so will have felt like a real splash and dash day. The 100m back was first up and Heidi swam an almost perfectly split race to come home in 1:11.26 for 56th place. This was followed up by probably the most technically difficult 50m event there is, 50m breast. If you rush your stroke, you go slow and lose. If you stretch out and take your time, you go slow and lose! There is a very fine middle ground in there somewhere that produces fast swimming, and I think Heidi is finding it! while 38.93 was just a tad slower than the PB she set in March, it was good enough for 57th place and cements her as the fastest DARTES sprint breaststroker and one of the top 14 year olds in Yorkshire. Heidi's final day was taken up by the 100m free (1:02.90, 61st) and 200 breast (3:02.14, 52nd). Interestingly, her 100 free was very well split, but the halfway stage of the 100 free was only 0.8 of a second slower than her 50m sprint on day 2!! That's some great sprint endurance.
The lone Armthorpe boy at this gala was Jamie Clarke. He may have only swum in 4 events compared to Heidi's and Caitlin's 7 a piece, but he produced the highest placing of all and the only swim that qualified for a final. Jamie started out on day 2 of the championships, just like Heidi. He swam the 100 back (1:04.23, 37th) and 200 fly (2:24.88) but his star performance would come the day after that in the 200m back. This was his only swim of the day and Jamie didn't let it go to waste blasting out a 2:17.51, this may be almost a full second slower than his PB which he set last month, but to do it on a big stage on dat 3 of a meet is great news! Initially this placed Jamie 23rd overall, but a few swimmers withdrew and Jamie was into the B final! To top that off, Jamie improved his time in the final and picked up 8th place (18th overall). That just left a 50m backstroke sprint (30.51, 31st) on the final day to round off a successful meet.
A huge congratulations to all 3 Armthorpe swimmers involved and a note to those who would love to swim in these kinds of galas... you can see all 3 of these superstars swimming the next Pocklington League gala (Saturday July 9th) at Armthorpe, so watch and learn!!!! oh, and train very, very hard!