Golden girls shine as Southampton Masters make County history. 

For seven years, the lauded title of Top Masters Club has been bathed in blue, with Basingstoke dominating both in terms of quality and, arguably more relevant, quantity of athletes. It came as some relief to the remaining 20-odd Masters contingents this year that the Bluefins would not attend in regular numbers due to a club championship clash…but threw open the question, which Club would take the mantle for the 22nd Hampshire Masters Championships?

Several deserved names had thrown their caps and googles into the ring – Fareham Nomads phenomenal success over the past few months (World Record holders from the LC Nationals only weeks before) were certainly considered favourites heading to The Mountbatten Centre, but previous three-time champions Havant and Waterlooville brought strong numbers, whereas hosts Portsmouth Northsea had been making inroads (especially in the lower age-divisions) into the discipline of late carrying heavyweights such as Senior National regulars the Redman brothers.

Southampton of course had reason to be optimistic – twice a runner-up in Championship and always out in force, whilst trying not to fall into the ‘aquathon’ approach of having swimmers enter every race purely to generate points. 2018 saw the Reds bring one of their largest delegations (24-strong), evenly spread across distances and age divisions with a welcome mixture of seasoned competitors and newcomers. That said, a few key names missing (Bakker, Davis, Brindley) would have an impact, so every podium place counted!

Brooke Wilkinson (18-24yrs) was a new name to make the transition from Senior to Masters level racing, making a impressive debut taking three County Titles from the 50m F/C (00.29.51), 50m Fly (00.32.36) and 200m F/C (02.19.16), whilst age-group compatriot Jess Farmer (18-24yrs) continued her return to form with Gold in the 100m Breast (01.36.41) and 50m Breast (00.48.61).  Kay Howells (25-29yrs) was also recovering from a recent back injury, but that didn’t stop the young veteran claiming a quartet of golds from across the 25m races, and the 50m Fly (00.35.91). Hannah Dicker (25-29yrs) neatly punctuated a successful season with Personal Bests in the 50m Back (00.34.56) and 100m IM (01.18.68) to swell the golden tally.

Siri Froystad (30-34yrs) jumped into the 30yrs category with a County Title in the 25m Back (00.20.90) amongst a hattrick of Bronze from 50m Back (00.45.11), 100m Breast (01.29.40) and 25m Fly (00.20.63). Returning from maternity, Tamsyn Scoritino (30-34yrs) judged her finish well to claim the final podium place in the 50m Breast (00.40.64) , whereas Rachel White (35-39yrs) took double silver with solid performances in 100m Back (01.17.33) and 100m IM (01.19.24).

Susanne Van Leuwen (45-49yrs) only regained her taste for chlorine earlier this year, but already made a statement in the 25m events with another double silver in the 25m Back (00.20.79) and 25m Fly (00.19.52) amongst stern opposition. Cathy Willcocks (40-44yrs) enjoyed her most successful Counties to date with a trio of titles including 100m Back (01.23.78), 100m IM (01.23.61) and 25m Back (00.17.81).

Towards the business-end now….Sarah Aldridge (45-49yrs) saw fit to capitalise on an absent World Champion Jo Corben of Fareham Nomads to dominate all nine of her races. The Midas touch spread for the 47-year-old from 25m to 100m events, and the squad’s only County Record in the 50m F/C (00.29.40). Success was clearly contagious, with Amanda Rush (50-54yrs) extending the title run with five golds, including a feisty 50m F/C (00.33.04) showdown with Winchester’s Sascha Thorne. Natasha Bye-Brookes (50-54yrs) took bridesmaid position behind Rush in several events, before turning the tables on the final race of the afternoon, the 25m Breast (00.20.93).

Over to the Men – Terrance Holness-Wright (25-29yrs) put his sprint-style to good use in the 50m Back (00.33.05) to take his solo title of the day. Rob Langan (30-34yrs) equally played to strengths on the 50m Back (00.31.16) and 50m F/C (00.27.64) to claim silver behind a seemingly indefatigable John Molyneux. Luke Sammut (30-34yrs) took his single chance to medal in the 100m IM (01.21.76) and claimed Bronze for his efforts, whereas Anthony Blake (30-34yrs) diversified across eight races, peaking at Gold for the lesser favoured 25m Back (00.25.71), and a pocket of silvers for the remainder.

The 35-39yrs age division was proving to be a crowded affair for Southampton, with Chris Osman, Marco Montanari and coach James MacTavish all battling out for honours. Osman ultimately came out on top with five County titles utilising spring specialism in the 25m F/C (00.12.64), 25m Breast (00.15.51) and 50m F/C (00.26.30). Montanari battled through the 100m Fly to take Gold (01.10.34), swiftly following up with the complete butterfly set with victory in the 50m (00.29.91) and 25m (00.14.03). MacTavish was the most frequent Sotonian on the blocks, with a total of 10 individual races, earning triple gold in the less favoured Backstroke and Breaststroke events, taking a surprise title in the 50m Back (00.32.86) against common rival Portsmouth’s Ryan Clay.

Kevin Greenhough (35-39yrs) found the going tough in the same age-division despite some successful swims – a peak position of silver came in the 100m F/C (01.08.22). Duncan Lip (40-44yrs) recovered from a tepid Nationals to deliver Season’s Bests in the 200m F/C (02.36.71) and 100m IM (01.23.71) picking up Bronze for both. Relative newcomer Mike Harding (45-49yrs) improved on his performance from the Fareham Masters Meet in April to lower his 100m F/C (01.06.97) and 50m F/C (00.29.08) times, with a silver lining in the 25m F/C (00.14.20) making up for the earlier 4th place finishes.

Finally, Southampton’s oldest representative, Richard Osman (60-64yrs) held his own against Basingstoke’s Mark Straw and Steve Canning to claim gold in 50m Back (00.51.05) and 25m Fly (00.26.00).

The perpetually-entertaining 4 x 50 relays was very much an open field on paper – although all eyes were on recent World Record breakers Fareham Nomads in the 120yrs+ division. The absence of core member Martin Bennell through injury did little to dent their enthusiasm for success, comfortably winning both the F/C and Medley titles ahead of Southampton (Dicker/C.Osman/MacTavish/Aldridge), who claimed a noteworthy victory over long-standing rivals Portsmouth for silver. This was overturned in the 72yrs+ division, where the Red quartet (Langan/Farmer/Holness-Wright/Wilkinson) were overpowered by the Northsea’s A and B teams – led out by the Redmans – and pipped for podium by Nomads. The 200yrs+ division (Rush/Bye-Brookes/Lip/R.Osman) experienced similar near-misses against Rushmoor and Havant, relegated to 4th by fractions of seconds.

When the final Club points were announced, it was a genuine shock to all, given the first half of the afternoon had very much been a Portsmouth / Fareham dominated affair (or so it appeared), but clearly the rallying of Southampton’s entries in the 25m and 50m events swung the tide through both numbers and race positions. On the latter point, it has to be said that each ‘final touch’, each ‘snappier start’ and each ‘grit and determination’ from Southampton Masters that pushed placings from 6th to 3rd made a real difference, given going into the event, races and attendees were about level between at least four of the 16 clubs. A final winning margin of over 40 points also proved that had key Nomads names been in attendance, their presence would not have likely affected the outcome.

Whilst it is true that I for one, do still consider the Top Club Trophy calculation an anachronism of a time when County Masters Swimming consisted of only a handful of competitors from each club, and fails to reflect the reality that today, it’s become very much a ‘quantity over quality’ regieme….that cannot detract from the fact that on the day, it was Southampton that fought for the right to be top of the pile. Changes may be coming next year, and no doubt the return of the formidable Basingstoke will shake things up once again, but for now, we’ll settle for our unprecedented, historic success!

GOLD : 46 
SILVER : 35 
BRONZE : 19 
TOTAL : 100 


James MacTavish
CSSC Masters Coach