It’s that time of year again as the most colourful event in the domestic swimming calendar hits Ponds Forge. If you’ve never been to a County Team Champs, you don’t know what you’re missing!
Fiercely competitive but hugely fun, the event is a highlight for so many young swimmers and is the first major event of the domestic short course season.
So if you’re attending the event, or intending to watch on the live stream, here are five stories to watch in Division One of the 2016 County Team Champs.
War Of The Roses
Lancashire success at recent County Team Championships has become such a regular occurrence that it is easy to overlook quite how spectacular their achievement is.
The Red Rose has won the inter-county event for the past 14 years. Not a single swimmer in the youngest age group of this year’s Championships was born when a different county lifted the Division One trophy.
Which county won the title the year before Lancashire’s dominant run began? It was their border rivals Yorkshire, who won the crown in 2001.
The Yorkshire team is once again packed with individual stars, including junior international medallists Amelia Clynes and Layla Black, as well as multiple British Summer Champs gold medallists Tia Ward and Elliot Clogg.
But Lancashire’s dominance has been underpinned by their strength in depth. They won four out of the seven relays at last year’s event – all three age groups of boys’ medley relays as well as the ultimate mixed 6x50m Freestyle Relay.
Beware The Dragon’s Roar
They may not have the longest journey of all the teams to Ponds Forge, but it seems when they arrive in Sheffield, teams from Wales love sharing the same pool at the County Team Champs.
In fact, the last time two different Welsh teams were in different divisions was back in 2008 when the regions were North and South Wales rather than the West and East regions who compete now.
Having both been relegated from the top flight in 2013, the two Welsh regions both sealed their return to Division One as winners (Swim Wales West) and runners-up (Swim Wales East) in Division Two last year.
Swim Wales West were particularly impressive as they sealed the Division Two crown for the second time in four years, picking up six race victories – the most from either division last year.
The next challenge will be whether either team can consolidate their position in the top flight.
Swim Wales West’s team includes Bridgend County Swim Squad’s Ioan Evans, who won the 100m and 200m Back double at this year’s British Summer Champs, and claimed maximum points for 12/13 Yrs 100m Back last year.
Swim Wales East also have 2016 British Summer Champs gold medallists on their roster, in the form of City of Newport’s Megan Allison and City of Cardiff’s Kyle Booth.
Suffolk’s Fab Five
One of the stories of last year was Suffolk’s rollercoaster campaign as they picked up five race victories – tying with Lancashire for the most in Division One – but survived relegation by just one point, finishing in 16th.
Rebecca Sherwin and Mia Maspers both finished first while Amie Philpot added two race victories. The girls’ 4x50m Medley Relay also stormed home for victory number five.
All three of Suffolk’s individual winners from last year return to the squad for the 2016 Championships, and all three topped the podium at this year’s British Summer Championships.
In fact, two of them – Maspers and Philpot – topped the podium for the same event, tying for gold in the 13/14 Yrs 50m Freestyle.
While it will be a tall order for Suffolk to repeat their five victories from last year, they will surely be hoping for some more big points from their talented trio to boost their tally and secure top flight status before the final race this year.
Watching the British Junior record radar
While British records are kept across age groups in the long course pool, the short course records are kept for juniors only – swimmers who were under 16 on the day of the swim.
Although there may be a few exceptions, this narrows the record radar down to the 14/15 Yrs events.
In the girls’ events, three of the four current records were set at last year’s ASA National Winter Meet, while Jessica Lloyd’s 100m Freestyle record of 55.29 has stood from the 2010 County Team Champs.
It’s a similar story in the boys’ events, with Elliot Clogg having set the existing 100m Free and 100m Back records at the National Winter Meet, as well as Jacob Peters’ 100m Fly marker.
The existing British Junior 100m Breast record is 1:02.82, set by Alexander Murphy back in 2011.
Different division, same result
While it’s a badge of honour to win the same race in the same age group in back-to-back County Team Championships, it’s even more rare to complete the double in different divisions.
Only two swimmers have the chance to secure this unusual achievement at this year’s event and both swim for Nottinghamshire.
Lily Boseley swam to victory in the 13/14 Yrs 100m Backstroke in division two last year while Jade Kennerell won the 100m Breaststroke in the same age group as Notts finished fourth overall to seal the last promotion spot.
Both swimmers have maintained a high standard through the long course season, with Boseley breaking the British 14 Yrs Age Group 100m Backstroke in April this year.