February was a very busy month for Grimsby Aquatics Swim Team, with three weekends of high-level competition as the Yorkshire County Championships were held at the John Charles Centre for Sport in Leeds and Ponds Forge International Sports Centre in Sheffield.
Grimsby travelled to these top Yorkshire venues with a contingent of over 30 qualifying swimmers entered into 206 individual events and 10 relays, all ready to take on the best talent from across the highly competitive county.
The first two weekends of competition were held in Leeds and saw the swimmers compete across a range of distances from 100 to 1500 metres. And as the competition got underway, it wasn’t long before it became clear that GAST were in for a good County Championships, with swimmers from across the age groups setting many new personal best times.
During the first weekend, Grimsby’s strong performance saw them reach an impressive total of 26 finals (top 10 finishes) with a haul of 4 medals, including Bronze for 12 year-olds Libby Munday and Callum Nurse in the 100m backstroke and 200m breaststroke respectively and Silver for 12 year-old Sarah Hedges in the 100m breaststroke, before 16 year-old Oliver Duckworth topped off the weekend by storming home in the 200m Freestyle to be crowned County Champion.
After such a strong showing, GAST went back to Leeds the following weekend in high spirits, looking to build upon their early performance. It quickly became obvious that their strong form was continuing as they set a host of new personal-bests, reached a further 16 finals and gained an impressive haul of medals once more.
Oliver Duckworth was in the medals again, gaining Silver in the 100m Butterfly and 1500m Freestyle with 12 year-old Tilly Newson achieving Bronze in the highly technical and physically demanding 200m Butterfly. 15 year-old Alex Woods won silver in the 400m Individual Medley, Sarah Hedges gained her second breaststroke medal of the championships in the 200m event and Oliver Duckworth then added to his County Championship titles, by taking gold in the 100m Freestyle with a truly impressive display.
So with the first two weekends completed and with the Aquatics stars riding high on success, the swimmers went into the two-week championship break and back into training in Grimsby to prepare for the sprints and relays at Sheffield’s Ponds Forge at the end of the month.
The sprints day at Ponds Forge is always an exciting affair, with an international standard 50 metre / 10 lane pool and over 1000 spectators, there’s always a great atmosphere for the swimmers to compete in. Determined to finish off the championships in style, Grimsby’s young stars set about their task by reaching 12 finals across all 4 stroke disciplines. Libby Munday added to her medal count by winning Silver in the 50m backstroke and Bronze in the 50m Freestyle, before Eve Linton (14) gave a superb performance in the 50m breaststroke final, winning by over 1.5 seconds to gain her first County Championship title. 12 year-old Sarah Hedges completed her trio of Breaststroke medals by taking Gold and becoming County Champion in the 50m event, adding to her 100m and 200m medal-winning performances.
Now that the individual events were complete, it was time for the relay teams to go into action. The Sunday morning saw teams from across the county arrive bright and early to test themselves against their peers in a tough team competition. Grimsby were represented in both the freestyle and medley relay events by 5 teams in total, including 3 teams of 11/12 year old girls, and teams in both 11/12 year old boys and 13/14 year old girls.
The heats were incredibly competitive, as teams including those from the big city clubs like Sheffield and Leeds battled it out to reach those all-important finals. Grimsby’s swimmers showed that they were not going to be intimidated and demonstrated their class by reaching six finals in total. Their results were impressive, with a creditable 10th place for the boys in the medley, 8th and 4th places for the 13/14 year old girls in the freestyle and medley events, 4th for the 11/12 year old girls in the freestyle and both 8th and 2nd places in the 11/12 year old girls medley with an incredible team swim which ended in a nail biting finish to split the two top Leeds teams and take home Silver for Grimsby.
At the end of a huge month of intense competition, Grimsby Head Coach Mark Sheldrick and Assistant Coach Callum Gladding were jubilant about the results of their swimmers at the Yorkshire Championships. Mark said, “These results are clearly impressive, but what’s most impressive for me is the way the swimmers have gone about it. Their attention to technical improvement across all four strokes and their application and commitment in training is what makes their results possible. I’m very proud of what they have achieved in these championships. This has been a superb display across the whole team and I’m looking forward to seeing these swimmers go from strength to strength as the season progresses.”