This was the first of this years J C Dobb galas and took place at Lammas Leisure Centre, Sutton in Ashfield. I noted from the Portland website that this gala was described as ‘Spring Round 1’ but there was not much sign of spring on the M1, as we fought our way through the slush and spray or in the Leisure Centre car park, as we slid into our parking spot, skillfully avoiding sliding into the neighbouring cars.
Once inside the leisure centre, the atmosphere was a lot more tropical and unless you had arrived early, it was standing room only for a lot of parents and supporters. We had a programme of forty eight events to look forward to and our swimmers looked as if they were raring to go. They were shepherded as usual, by a competent poolside team and their team captain, Rebecca Phillips, who when not competing, was to be seen on lane end, putting ‘maximum effort’ into supporting her fellow competitors.
The evening got underway with the U10 freestyle relay and a first gala swim for Raj Malhi, who made a great contribution to the boys’ team. In the early part of the competition there were PBs for Tarun Mistry in the 14U 50m backstroke, Hannah Williams in the 12U 50m breaststroke, Dan Hardy in the 10U 25m backstroke and Connor Cruickshank in the 14U 50m breaststroke. Well done to Hannah in particular, who took first place in her race. There was also freestyle success for the boys’ U12 team of Archie Symes, Edward Roberts, Anthony and Andrew Tsolakis, who took second place in the 4×1 freestyle relay, with some very strong swimming. There were new times for Georgia Sillitoe in the girls’ 14U 50m backstroke and Annabelle Earps in the girls 14U 50m breaststroke.
Following on from this, Jade Kennerell took on the girls’ Open 50m breaststroke. This was her first swim for Portland and she did the club and herself proud, coming in first and achieving a PB. A cheer went up from her teammates on poolside and there were more whoops when Andrew de Boer, competing in the boys’ race, took second place in a very strong field. Matilda Larkin swam really well and recorded a new time in the girls’ 10U 25m freestyle.
At this point, I would like to give a mention to the U10 girls’ team(Cecily Kay,Erin Birney, Matilda Larkin and Orla Beaven), who showed great team spirit, both in the pool and out and contributed greatly to the cheering and whooping.
The middle stage seemed to go particularly well for Portland, with many swimmers gaining places within the top three. There were four very polished performances by the U14 mixed medley relay team of Connor Cruickshank, Jade Kennerell, Georgia Sillitoe and Tarun Mistry, bringing them home in second place. Molly Campbell and Mark Lowes powered into third and second place respectively in their races in the Open 50m freestyle. This was Molly’s first gala swim for Portland, so well done to her! Michael Tones recorded a new time and took third place in the boys 14U 50m fly and Georgia Sillitoe also took third place in the girls event, both swimmers looking very comfortable in the water. This was followed by a great swim and second place for Archie Symes in the boys 12U 50m backstroke, a closely fought race.
The concluding part of the gala brought a second PB for Jade Kennerell and a PB for Mark Lowes. Jade took second place in the girls’ 14U 50m freestyle and Mark was first in the boys’ Open 50m fly. Rebecca Phillips took third place in the girls’ Open 50m fly and there were some great swims from Jade Kennerell, Georgia Sillitoe, Annabelle Earps and Hannah Williams in the girls’ 14U 4×1 freestyle relay. Amelia Tsolakis also had a great swim in the girls’ Open 50m backstroke, coming in in third place. Mia Cunnison raced well and recorded a new time for the girls’ 12U 50m freestyle.
The last event was, as usual, the mixed 10×1 cannon relay. With sixty swimmers of very varying sizes thrashing back and forth in teams, fighting for the final points of the night and the remaining swimmers shouting from poolside, noise levels are always at a peak, even if energy levels might not be and it is always an exciting spectacle. After this, there was nothing to do but sit back and wait for the overall result. Happily, Portland came in in a very respectable fourth place and we could all disperse into the chilly night, with a warm glow of satisfaction from an evening well spent.