VALE swimmers Tazmin Pugh and Harry Bamforth did Ellesmere College Titans proud when their club founded only six years ago enjoyed their best ever results at the combined Midlands (West & East) Age Group Swimming Championships comprising nine counties in Coventry’s 50m long course pool.
The club had 18 swimmers making the tough qualifying grade against some of the UK’s best known elite county and city squads.
Pugh won five golds, three silver and two bronze – including a medal in every event to be crowned top girl in her 14-year age group – her best result ever in five years of competing in the Midlands Championships.
The Titans proved their dominance of their own West Midlands region time and time again by winning 22 gold medals and, with their haul of silver and bronze, they won a total of 45 medals in all, more than any opther in the West Midlands.
With such a small though highly talented squad they still finished second in the combined Midlands behind the Nottingham county’s 80-strong ‘Nova Centurion’, with only one gold less but well ahead of all the other 73 clubs including the elite clubs with approaching 40 swimmers each, including City of Birmingham, City of Coventry, Derbyshire’s elite club ‘Derventio eXcel’, Royal Wolverhampton, Warwickshire’s Team Mercia and Northampton SC.
Titans’ reign at the top was emphasised still further with the head count in the British Age Group Category (BAGcat) Fina points totals, accumulating the single best result from each stroke discipline and distance throughout the two weekends.
With the boys’ divisions sporting 50-65 competitors and the girls 80-90, the ‘Mighty Titans’ as they have become known finished with four of their swimmers taking the prestigious first place from the ten categories and 13 thirteen of their swimmers in the top ten – another phenomenal achievement.
Pugh’s best ever results
ONLY the top clubs entered the team relays and for the Ellesmere girls Pugh (14) took the responsibility of leading her team off in the 4x200m freestyle (800m), improving on their fifth seeded position to take silver in a time of 8:47.99 – one of the top ten team in the UK and winning their place into the National Age Group Championships in July/August.
The girls went on to record a fourth place (4:07.82) in the 4x100m freestyle with the fastest 100m leg recorded by Pugh and in the 4x100m medley they took fifth place in 4:30.42, with Pugh again recording the quickest butterfly leg.
With both teams well within the top 4- times throughout the UK, it should be good enough to make the National Championships where they would hope to go even quicker.
Medal in every event
WITH a good run-up to the championships, Pugh rewarded her top grade coaching team (Director of Swimming Jon Pardoe, Head Coach Alan Bircher, together with Steffi Bircher and Tim Hastie) in some style by winning a medal in every one of her ten events.
Her first of five golds came in the finals of the 100m butterfly in a new long course PB in 1:03.75, consolidating her position as first in the UK rankings. Pugh also went on to take gold from being seeded eighth from the heats in the 200m IM (2:24.69 and rising to sixth in the UK).
Pugh takes Five Midland Championship titles
WITH a titanic determination, Pugh took gold in the long distance 800m freestyle at the end of a hectic first day, fighting back from ten metres behind at the halfway stage to win by just one tenth of a second.
In the gruelling 400m IM (100m each stroke) Pugh recorded a great new personal best of 4:56.98, beating an English international by over three seconds and rising to first in the UK in the December 31 rankings.
Sealing her domination in the heats, Pugh went on to record another PB in the finals of the 200m fly in 2:17.98 and once again rose to first in the rankings.
Three silver medals came in quick succession in the finals of the 200m backstroke – 2:24.17 and ninth in UK, 200m freestyle, 2:07.47, and second in UK and in the 100m backstroke with a new long course PB of 1:07.85.
Pugh completed her medal haul with a bronze in the 100m freestyle, improving from seventh place in the heats to record 1:01.08 in the final and another bronze in the 400m freestyle, climbing from her 20th seeded position from her qualifying entry time to seventh in the UK.
Pugh went on to win the overall BAGcat title with 2,806 points, over 100 ahead of her nearest rival, having always finished in the top seven having competed in the championships since 2010.
Meanwhile, Bamforth (13), set many PBs with the first weekend seeing him record 2.28.04 in the 200m backstroke and gain another two PBs in 100m freestyle (1.01.86) and 4.34.39 for 400m freestyle.
Under the weather somewhat during the second weekend, it came at the wrong time for Bamforth as, although getting close to his PBs in the 400m IM, 100m backstroke and 200m freestyle, his main hope of making the National Qualifying time for the Nationals in the gruelling 1,500m freestyle drifted away.
Summoning one last effort for his final race on the concluding day, however, he still managed to get a PB in the 200m IM of 2.35.42.
Eighteen Titans go to National Championships
WHEN they head for the National Championships, Pugh and ten of her Titans age group (aged 11-14) team-mates and seven youth (aged 15-18) swimmers will make the biggest group yet going forward.
They will need to make yet another enormous leap in performance to be competitive, such is the difference in scale between the District and National stages. Ellesmere’s success has already had the very top swimmers from around the country signing up for the waiting list to take the club on even further forward.
Jubilant head coach Bircher stated: “This is why I love the sport, it’s David and Goliath and the Titans just keep stepping up and knocking down the big clubs!
“The swimmers now have six weeks to prepare for the nationals or four weeks to prepare for the end of season meet, so we’ll continue to work hard and see what the season end holds.”