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SATURDAY

Ponds ForgeHaving travelled in the dark to reach Ponds Forge in Sheffield city centre for the Snow Frills Meet, competing in an Olympic sized ten lane pool with seating for 2,600 spectators was a daunting prospect for many of our swimmers, but an exciting one too, as they'd be swimming in the wake of many high profile names and Team GB members.

Parents felt energized at the sight of abundant seats. This huge hall would surely prove to be an airy oasis to spend the weekend? With hundreds of heats over many events, we had a great deal of swimming to fit in.

Session 1
Newly joined Portland member, Guy Farnsworth, swam in the first event of the day, the 200m freestyle. When his time appeared we knew he had managed a massive PB, but being a 50m pool, we would have to convert long course times to short course (25m). There was much talk about Android Apps, conversion websites and whether to choose the 'factors' or 'tables' option. Eventually, the equivalent 25m time was worked out – Guy had smashed his only recently set PB by 25 seconds, taking him 19 seconds under the County qualifying time! Ryan Pigott swam next and also impressed with a PB.

Introducing the Portland girls: Jaime Misiuda, Alice Mulligan, Olivia Misiuda, Rebecca Horne, Lizzie Mulligan and Jade Kennerell. They all got into the swing of things in the first 200-plus competitor event of the day, the girls' 200m freestyle. Olivia achieved a PB. Reports came back to the parents - a length of 50m seemed so much further than 2 x 25m.

A LONG hot wait preceded the 100m breaststroke heats of Holly McGarva, Alice, Lizzie, Jade and Emma Horne, in which Alice and Jade PB'd. By the lunchtime interval everyone felt famished. Entertainment was provided by the local diving club with some of its young 'no fear' divers somersaulting into Europe's deepest (5.85m!) diving pool, a Christmas CD playing in the background. Outside, people were Christmas shopping in Sheffield's freezing winter sun; inside, it was more like a humid summer's day. The light, cool look of the spacious arena was deceptive – it was a giant sauna.

Session 2
Isabelle Day and Connor Cruickshank arrived for the 100m freestyle, all 40 heats of them! Highlights of the girls' event were inspirational Isabelle swimming her first ever 100m race, Olivia with a PB and Jade with a PB & County time – a very special way to say 'Happy Birthday!' to Mum (yes, Lynn really did spend the whole of her birthday at a pool in Sheffield). For the boys, Connor took 4 seconds off his 100m front crawl time and Ryan got his second PB.

In the 200m Individual Medley, Emma swam her fastest ever, Holly knocked a whopping 13 seconds off her previous best to obtain a County time; Alice got 2 PBs in the one race, the 50m fly section counting because it was the first length!

Cue more tip-top times: Connor, Ryan, Jaime and Emma all swam bests in the 50m free, Connor and Emma qualifying for Counties. Also over 50m, Guy and Ryan backstroked to the Counties. ¡Arriba! ¡Arriba! Indeed. Yes, heard at previous galas, Señor No.1 Supporter made his presence known; a fitting end to the day's racing, since a siesta was just what we needed.

SUNDAY

So it was back to the big arena, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed...okay, maybe not, but back they were for a gruelling Sunday – and that was just in the balcony! Jo was ready with the technology and Dave with the pen to change the old money into new, so we could see what these 50m times meant.

Session 3
Mikey Pawluk joined the Saturday veterans and kick-started his day with a County time for the 200 backstroke. Connor's retirement from the Meet due to a shoulder injury, meant he missed seeing Jaime trounce her 200m back record by 11 seconds and, in the 200m breaststroke, Jade's PB and Guy's 20 second PB rout.

However, this Open Meet was not just about times but endurance and our swimmers demonstrated once again that, when the going gets tough, the tough can put their nerves to one side, grit their teeth and get going! This was never better illustrated than in the 100m butterfly where it would have been oh so nice to have a break at 25m, but they kept on going and can now claim that scalp – even if they also vowed never to do that again ... although, clearly, Ryan (aka 'Dash') was up for it, with another PB, warranting the comment from the Portland contingency on the balcony: 'Who's that in Lane 6? He can swim, can't he?' (Naming no names, but you know who you are ...). Alice's steely determination also won her a PB.

Session 4
Afternoon highs were best times by Alice (100m back), Guy (200m IM & 50m breast); strong swims by Ryan, Holly, Rebecca, Lizzie, Mikey and Emma; and Isabelle Day, whose away-day train trip, brought a PB just four hundredths outside a County time for 50m breast!

Well done to all the Portland swimmers for giving us thrills and spills at Snow Frills (I know you were waiting for that) with great swims all round, adding new long course distance times to your ever-growing portfolios.

Many thanks to Grant, Dom, Russ and Jo for giving such fantastic support and encouragement to our swimmers.

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