IN THE first Amateur Swimming Association National Short Course Championships since 1999, three swimmers from the Vale on swimming scholarships at Ellesmere College competed with distinction in Sheffield.
Once again 15-year-old Tazmin Pugh broke British, English and regional junior records, whilst 17-year-old Chloe Golding also broke a regional record of her own and 15-year-old Harry Bamforth also made the difficult qualifying standard for the 1,500m freestyle.
Between them Pugh and Golding fought their way through to seven Open Finals. On the first of the four-day meet Pugh made it through to the B Final in the 200m fly but, despite setting the fastest junior (15/under) time, a last-minute change to the meet conditions (with any junior in the A final taking precedence over the B final) saw her having to content herself with a silver medal, although her previous British record still keeps her as the first ranked 15/16-year woman in Europe.
In the next butterfly event – the 50m sprint – Pugh finished fifth in the heats and made the A final against the older university swimmers from Loughborough, Bath and other elite clubs.
In the final Pugh went even faster, finishing fourth overall, but she took the top junior trophy and title in a new British junior record and regional record time of 26.74 to rank second in Europe.
In her final butterfly event – the 100m – Pugh cruised through the heats, allowing her to set the turbos to full power in the B Final and take her second junior trophy and gold medal, only 0.09 short of breaking her own British junior record as she rose to first in Europe.
Pugh surpassed herself in the 200m backstroke event by making the A Final, recording 2:07.34 to set a new regional junior record and take the junior trophy and gold medal in rising to second place in Europe.
Her Titans team-mate Golding pipped Pugh to the post – just 0.04 ahead – to take the open bronze placing and also break the regional record in the senior division.
Golding also made the finals in the 50m (personal best, 28.34) and 100m (59.26) backstroke events, finishing seventh on each occasion.
For the boys, Bamforth narrowly missed ducking under his personal best in the 1,500m freestyle as he clocked 16:49.15.
During the year Bamforth reached new milestones, gaining his first open water national time in the 1,500m (17.20.70).
In April he competed in the Welsh Long Course Championships and won a silver medal in the 400m individual medley and a bronze in the 200m fly.
In June he won a silver medal in the 3km Midlands Open Water Championship, whilst in August he competed in the National Open Water Championship for the first time.
In November he competed in the 200m and 400m freestyle, 400m IM and 200m backstroke at the Midlands Short Course Championship as he achieved PBs in all events.
Both girls have enjoyed a hugely successful year, with 17-year-old Golding – who will be swimming as an 18-year-old throughout 2016 – being selected for the West Midlands team which competed in Luxembourg in February as well as now holding two regional senior short course records.
At the end of the short course season Golding sits in seventh place in Europe in one event and tenth in two more.
Meanwhile, Pugh also enjoyed success in Luxembourg as she won two gold and two silver medals for the West Midlands and followed this in Italy in June with three gold and one silver when representing the Team England Development Squad.
In September Pugh excelled when she represented Team England in Samoa in the Commonwealth Youth Games as she won two silver and four bronze medals, whilst selection for Team GB’s Podium Potential squad for the Ontario Junior International meet in Canada once again saw her win four individual bronze medals.
Next on the horizon for Pugh is the Austin leg (Texas, USA) of the Pro Swim US Grand Prix series and also competing for the Team GB Podium Potential team in the Flanders Cup in Antwerp, Belgium.
Pugh has finished the short course season sitting first in Europe in two events, second in two more and in the top ten in ten events.
Just entering the long course season, Pugh now holds nine individual West Midlands junior (under/16) short course records as well as one senior out of a possible 18, plus seven long course records, and in the last 12 months she has broken the regional records on 35 occasions.
In the last six months Pugh has convinced British Swimming to invite her on to their World Class Programme Podium Potential programme by breaking British junior records on six occasions, now holding four.