IN A SUPERB display of versatility across all the various swimming strokes and distances, 15-year-old local swimming ace Tazmin Pugh – formerly of Pershore Swimming Club and now of Ellesmere College Titans – qualified for nine events at the recent British Senior Championships and Junior selection trials.
The Junior trials were for the European Games in Baku, Azerbaijan, in June for 15 and 16-year-olds ages taken at the end of year and the European Youth Olympic Festival in Tbilisi, Georgia, in August for 13 and 14-year-olds.
To maximise her chances of finishing in the top two places for selection, Pugh entered seven of the nine events she had qualified or received a special invite for.
She said: “Although I am ranked first in the UK in my age group I knew at the trials it was going to be extremely tough against the older 16-year girls.”
Day one saw Pugh focussing immediately on the 200m butterfly event and setting a new personal best in one of her favoured events, qualifying for the evening finals in second seeded position where she would need to gain a top two placing to be considered for selection.
There was nothing to split Pugh and 16-year-old Holly Hibbott (Stockport Metro) coming into the final turn and in a nail-biting final ten metres it was Hibbott who took victory by 0.16 with Pugh second – half a second ahead of City of Leeds girl Amelia Clynes.
Pugh swam to yet another PB in setting a new regional record of 2:13.14 and climbing to fifth place in the European 15/16-year rankings. With Plymouth Leander girl Laura Stephens going even quicker in the senior Open Finals, effectively Pugh finished third in her 15/16 age group, thereby missing top two selection.
Pugh now sits in third place in the European rankings, knowing the only girls ahead of her were the ones she raced against herself.
Day two saw Pugh competing in the 400m freestyle event in which she is once again ranked first 15-year-old in the UK. Pugh finished fourth in the heats in another PB of 4:22.74, although unable to improve on this in the evening’s finals.
Day three marked Pugh’s busiest schedule – competing in three events in the same morning session. In the 200m individual medley Pugh narrowly missed racing to a new PB, as was the case in the 100m backstroke and the long distance 800m freestyle.
Day four saw Pugh swimming superb heats in the 100m butterfly in 1:01.78, marking a new PB and securing fourth seeding in the evening’s finals when once again she went even quicker in 1:01.54 to finish in third place, but climbing to eighth place in the European 15/16-year rankings with Clynes first, Stephens fourth and Hibbott fifth in Europe – all in the 16-year grouping.
On the final day five Pugh set about the gruelling 400m IM in determined style, setting a new PB in the heats of 4:55.57 and finishing third for the seeding in the finals.
Setting off at a steady pace during the first 100m of the butterfly leg, Pugh gradually built up the tempo to have a three-second lead at the 200m mark at the end of the backstroke leg.
Although her breaststroke has improved, it was no match for the specialist in the breaststroke – Abbie Wood from Derby’s elite club Derventio eXcel – who fought back and overhauled the field.
In the final 100m freestyle leg Pugh’s battle now transferred to holding on to second place against local rival from Redditch Isobel Griffiths, which she did in some style in racing to a new regional record of 4:53.24 and second placing.
Once again though there was a 16-year-old City of Leeds girl (Georgia Coates) who had made the Open Final who went even quicker than all of them, so again Pugh was effectively third. She climbs to ninth in the European 15/16 rankings with Coates first and Wood fifth.
Pugh, who is also ranked tenth in the 50m butterfly in Europe, said: “This was my first experience of competing at a trials for international selection against many of the girls who have been competing on the international stage for a year.
“Although it has been tough, I can take away many positives with securing still further my number one ranked position in the UK, breaking two regional records and setting seven PBs – some in the heats and going even better in the finals and only missing selection by a hair’s breadth.
“Most of all it is an experience I can learn from and hopefully put into practice when I travel to Lignano in Italy to compete for England juniors against teams from Russia, Germany and Italy on the second weekend of May.”