Guildford Gold for the new Golden Girl

After the melee of Worlds from Budapest, Masters Swimming came back down to earth somewhat with the regular South East Regional Short Course Championships, as always, held at The Spectrum Centre in Guildford.

It’s that ambivalent time of the competition calendar in which swimmers ponder whether, after a long summer break, is it worth getting back in the pool weeks’ ahead of Nationals or is it best just to wait and rest, then see what Ponds Forge brings? That was more the case for Southampton Masters in 2016, when just a duo of swimmers made the trip…. however, 2017 was re-ignited with the return of some familiar faces, and some very welcome new ones!

Jess Davies (18-24yrs) is certainly no stranger to high-end competition from her extensive career at Fareham Nomads, and came to Masters Regionals already holding two Records from an impressive display in 2015. Two years post, and a mix of new events saw the 20-year-old aiming for more glory – which was kick started with an impressive 50m Fly (00.30.21) and the first Gold/Record of the day. A sub-1-minute 100m F/C (00.59.92) saw off firm competition from Fleur Parker of Basingstoke Bluefins to take the second pole position and another Record. On more familiar territory, the 100m Back (01.05.31) was a comfortable title, with the 50m F/C (00.27.88) a shade off her Record from 2015.

Returning from the annus horribilis of 2016 was Jess Farmer (18-24yrs), stretching herself across a range of short to middle distances. A solid 200m F/C (02.37.57) earned the stalwart a Regional title, whilst the 100m F/C (01.14.53), 50m Breast (00.44.79) and 50m F/C (00.35.08) all came agonisingly close in 4th position. A redemption in the 100m Breast (01.37.92) had Farmer back on the final podium spot.

Sibling couple The Shaffords were competing together for the first time in almost 12 years – with Kay (25-29yrs) starting strong on the 50m Fly (00.35.12) to take another Gold for the Reds. The less-preferred 100m F/C (01.12.57) was enough for bridesmaid position, ahead of a gruelling turnaround swim in the 100m Fly (01.19.40) to take the second Silver. A Bronze in the 50m F/C (00.33.35) and Silver in 50m Back (00.37.50) concluded a successful event for the now Mrs Howells. Brother Gary (25-29yrs) stepped up to the mark for the first time as a Master with Bronze in the 100m Fly (01.16.98) and Silver in the 100m F/C (01.08.50) battling in arguably the hardest of male age-divisions.

Anthony Blake (30-34yrs) continued his run of improvements across the Breaststroke races, with a season’s best in the 50m Breast (00.42.73) and 200m Breast (03.38.61), the latter enough to take home Silver. James MacTavish (35-39yrs) had it tough in the 200m F/C (02.12.78) despite taking fellow Hampshire scalp Hayden Burk, being undone by Brighton Dolphins veteran Andy Farrell by just over 2 seconds. It was a similar, silver-lined story in the 100m Fly (01.09.21) and 50m Fly (00.30.29) before the breakthrough came in an unexpected title-win in the 50m F/C (00.27.52). A sparse evening field lead to comfortable victories in the ill-favoured 50m Back (00.32.48) and 100m Back (01.14.82).

Finally, Duncan Lip (40-44yrs) offered a minimal programme of 100m F/C (01.09.83) for another season’s best, and a Bronze-winning swim in the 200m IM (03.07.96) by tenths of a second.

The team ready to begin the competition

There was no doubt that the hectic summer of 2017 did weigh heavy on this year’s competition – especially when you compared the initial entry list to that on the day (come the evening session, about a third of competitors had retired). In addition, the once glory days of The Spectrum Centre from the mid-90s seem a distant memory, with time-pads faltering, dive blocks wobbling, and a diving swim-down pool that may require a tetanus injection before entry. Still, camaraderie remains the same, and Southampton Masters will look to build on this not just for Nationals in Sheffield, but for the new season ahead.

Full results from the competition are available to view on the South-East Region website.

Medal Tally
GOLD : 9
TOTAL : 21

James MacTavish
CSSC Masters Coach