Regional Hat-Trick for Aldridge as Coach mixes it up!
After the melee of Masters activity leading up to the Summer, it seemed just to enjoy the quieter period of a few months to recharge, regroup, and (for some at least) retrain!
Kicking off the new Masters season is always the South East Regionals at Guildford, and a popular pit-stop for many competitors ahead of the Short Course Showdown at Nationals towards the end of October. However, this year, Regionals experienced an uncharacteristic drought of entries - surprising following the elevated attendance at Counties in June. Was this mis-calculation from many a Masters Club? Or simply Post-Euro Fatigue starting to show? Who knows….but one thing was certain, Southampton Masters were suffering as much as their rivals.
Only two representatives for the Reds made it on the day, but, quality not quantity was very much the phrase! Sarah Aldridge (45-49yrs) very much hit her acme earlier this year when the Mixed 4 x 50 Medley Relay (160yrs+) broke a long-standing British Record in the London Aquatics Centre no less – fair to say anything after was going to feel a touch anticlimactic for the 45-year-old. That said, Aldridge had a National Podium finish in her sights, and took every opportunity to experiment amongst some fierce competition. A solid, if aberrational swim in the 50m Breast (00.41.45) was enough to see off her nearest rival by two clear seconds, ahead of a slick 50m Fly (00.36.61) winning by a more comfortable margin. Then back on familiar territory, the 50m F/C (00.30.62) was perhaps a little under-par for the now regular sub-30 second Master, but nonetheless, granted the Doctor her third Gold medal of the event.
Then came the tag-teaming, as Aldridge left after the first session, in came Coach James MacTavish (30-34yrs), making the most of his last year in the younger 30-years division. Suffice to say, in terms of ‘experimenting’, Aldridge’s trio of events compared to MacTavish’s was somewhat akin to comparing GCSE science to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein! The Coach targeted two races he’d not swum in almost 15 years as the 200m Back (02.36.81) and 200m Breast (02.58.58) followed in swift succession. Seizing on a limited turnout, the 34-year-old comfortably took the Backstroke Crown to add to title tally, although more seasoned breaststrokers in the shape of Leon Smith of Teddington denied any repeat of triumph in the latter. However, a quick 50m Back (00.32.39) again was enough to pip a weak field to return with Southampton’s fifth Gold of the day.
Whilst it’s fair to say the focus for Southampton Masters is always performance on the largest of stages, this event does serve as a sober warning to all regional clubs that just because domestic enthusiasm for the sport appears strong, making that all-important leap into the world of the competitive elite can be challenging – both physically and mentally for some athletes. Whilst I will do all I can to encourage Southampton Masters to play their part in the upkeep of Regionals, that same message must be delivered across the entire South Coast to secure its survival.
Full results are available to view on the South-East Region website. Next stop – Nationals!
GOLD : 5
SILVER : 0
BRONZE : 1
CSSC Masters Coach