Portland made a splash in Hucknall on Saturday 23 February – a vivid splash of colour. Eyes were drawn to a streak of purple in Lane 2 as our swimmers warmed up for the re-scheduled snow-hit sports centre gala, originally planned for January.
If the Club’s new purple hat wasn’t attention-grabbing enough, Jack Harmer made sure Portland was well and truly noticed with a commanding PB-time win in the first race of the night, the 15 & under 100m Individual Medley.
Setting the tone of things to come, Jack was succeeded by Anthony Tsolakis and Jade Kennerell beating their previous best times in the 13 & under 100m backstroke. Wait a minute! Not necessary – Alex Hammond only needed 59 seconds to take first place in 100m Open butterfly. Fabulous. Dahlia Brinklow took on the butterfly baton and set her fastest time ever in the same event for the girls – as a 13 year old in the Open category! Amazing.
On to the first relay of the evening: 4 x 25m freestyle. Portland 8 & 9 year olds, Dylan Hughes, Freya McGarva, Raj Malhi and Cecily Kay, still relatively new to galas, gave their all for the team, their energy knowing no bounds. Cecily was catching fast on the last length – if only the pool had been Portland-sized!
In 11/u 50m backstroke, another fabulous last length by Stanley Toplass who motored through the field to finish 2nd, slicing 2½ seconds off his former time! Olivia Misiuda won valuable points in third; similarly, Luke Farnsworth fought to third in 15/u 100m breaststroke; Esther Simmons set a PB in the same event. Ryan Pigott, ahead of the competition all the way, triumphed and PB’d in 13/u 50m fly and Dahlia flew again, this time in her own age group. Alex Donington then Hannah Simmons got off to a flying start in the Open 100m IM. Both finished convincingly in second place and Hannah bettered her previous time.
A bit of a points and PB fest ensued: Guy Farnsworth (2nd) and Holly McGarva (1st) in 11/u breaststroke (Holly’s by over 2 seconds!); Jack Harmer in 15/u 50m butterfly (1st); in 13/u 100m breaststroke, Mikey Pawluk (2nd) demonstrated ‘how to pace yourself’ with a thrilling last length and Jade (2nd) took a tremendous 3½ seconds off her time!
More wins were secured with power swims by Alex H and Jess Harvey in 100m Open freestyle and with Jack’s 15/u 100m backstroke lesson in smooth. There were so many close races and strong finishes: Lizzie Mulligan in 15/u 100m backstroke, Stan (PB) and Alice Mulligan in 11/u 50m free; Ryan (PB) and Dahlia in 13/u 100m IM, both, so good in all strokes, pulled away in the breaststroke and freestyle legs and got 2nd. Jack was back, in the Open 100m backstroke, leading the whole way to touch first. Jess followed with an impressive second. Luke, who went full throttle for the complete 100 metres of the 15/u freestyle, was beaten only by a whisker and rewarded with a PB. In 11/u 50m fly, Guy accomplished a 2 second PB and Jaime Misiuda’s smile said it all – sub 40 second PB! Best times too for Mikey and Olivia Wright in 13/u 100m freestyle. The individual events were rounded off with Open 100m breaststroke – a valuable win for Alex D and 2nd for Emma, who dived well all evening. Over half the individual races resulted in PBs for Portland swimmers.
The gala finale was provided by exciting relays: 2 mixed age medleys and the cannon. The boys 11/13 years boys were pushed into 3rd by the slimmest of margins and the girls stormed home – Holly’s resolute 25m breaststroke sprint taking the team from 3rd to 1st has to be mentioned, Dahlia continued in front – her 8th length of butterfly of the night! Olivia Wright stretched the lead further for a formidable first. Would the boys 15 years/Open team compare? They answered with a show of force. In a torrent of waves and wall of sound, they finished first. The 15/Open girls also put on a display of strength, touching in 2nd.
Last of all, everyone’s favourite, fun, chaotic and, this time, giant cannon relay of 20 x 25m freestyle sprints, from the very youngest to the (not-so-very-old) oldest. A fitting end to mark our overall gala position – second place (yes, best ever in this league), by only 3 points! Off the back of a week’s sponsored endurance training – an exceptional achievement! Well done team and a huge ‘thank you’ to all the swimmers, coaches and helpers.