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Making a splash
Tuesday 31st October 2017 @ 10:23 by Mark Phillip

Ashton-under-Lyne Swimming Club embarked on their second event of a busy weekend, as they competed in the annual Manchester & District Gala at Broughton Pool, Salford. This was a gala Ashton had excelled in for many years having won several times previously and also finished runners-up 6 times in the last 8 years.

Hot on the heels of a brilliant win on Friday night, this gala saw many of those same young swimmers racing again for the Club, along with a number of less experienced swimmers too. Ashton had 24 swimmers (boys and girls) representing the Club from ages 9 to 12 years of age.

The format of the gala was 13 mixed relay races in a variety of strokes and in 4 age groups. There were seven swimming clubs in the event, with Ashton-under-Lyne the only club representing Tameside.

Due to there being more than six teams competing, Ashton had to negotiate a heat before they could qualify for the Final. In the heat, Ashton used this opportunity to experiment in a few races and employed a cautious approach, with the aim of securing enough points to race again in the afternoon’s Final.

In the day’s first race, the 12 years team of Poppy McCallum, Callum Shaw, Nyah Brennan and Ben Haughton raced over 4 lengths in a Freestyle Relay. This got the team some points on the board as they avoided any disqualifications to come home in just over a minute and twelve seconds. In the second event, it was the turn of the 11 years olds with Alyssa Schofield and Clayton Evison racing in their favoured Breaststroke, helping the team to a creditable 3rd place finish.

Clayton’s sister Kasey was the first swimmer in the third race and like her brother, she swam an excellent Breaststroke leg. In this relay race, Harry Trelfa raced in the first of his 8 races in the afternoon and Jake Parker anchored the relay and smashed his personal best time in the process.

The youngest members of the team were up next in the 9 years Freestyle Relay and they really did themselves proud. Calvin Giron swam a personal best time going second and this was followed up by Lauren Carey also bettering her best ever time going third. Ryan O Boye swam the quickest leg of all going last and the squad finished just two points behind the winners from Bolton.

It was in event five where Ashton got their first win if the afternoon in the 12 years Breaststroke to Front crawl squad. Lyra Holmes and Josh Barton set the tone with a quality first 50 metres and in doing so, narrowly edged out the team from Trafford to gain maximum points.

Jessica Senior made the most of her call up to swim as she recorded a personal best time in the next event, which helped the team to a fine 3rd place and this race was immediately followed up by the youngest swimmers again in another Breaststroke to Front crawl Relay in which Calvin recorded his second personal best time in as many races.

There then followed a succession of fine races, where Ashton picked up a glut of points, made noticeable due to some personal best times from Amber Webster and Chloe Calderbank and for Harry swimming two races back to back for the Club.

With just two races to go and a place in the final secure, the 9 years team once again swam a fine race and the Cannon Team (one Boy and Girl from each age group) also did well. Lead from the front by Ellie Barton and Ryan, this was a fine end to the heat, where Ashton was classified as the fourth quickest team.

After a short break, the final took place and Ashton were competing against team from Bolton, Trafford, Altrincham and Bury & Elton. Ranked fourth, the swimmers knew they were in with a chance but had to improve a little from the heat.

The order of the races was the same, so once again it was the turn of the 12 years squad in the first race. This did see an improvement in placing as the squad finished a decent 4th, as Altrincham picked up maximum points.

In event two, the team got their first win in the final. This was an excellent race in which Lily Smith swam a brilliant third leg (and recorded a personal best time too), leaving it to Max Parrott to complete the victory. This was a great performance from Max as he picked up what would be the first of two wins in the final.

Ashton only had to wait three more races until they got their second win as the 12 years squad of Lyra, Ben, Poppy and Josh improved on their time in the heat to gain the win and maximum points. A fine second place came in the next race and this was followed by another win in event seven. In this race, Lois Davies and Kyle Rohlandt got their first wins of the gala in a blisteringly quick race as Ashton took the lead in the contest.

A fifth win of the afternoon was achieved in race number nine, where Lily Smith recorded her fourth personal best time of the day in a quality Butterfly swim. This race also ensured Lyra and Ben were joint leading winners in the gala with three wins each.

The 10 years Freestyle team picked up an excellent 2nd place in the next race, in which the highlight was a brilliant third leg of Front crawl from Scarlett Cornwell, who in doing so picked up a great personal best time. This result gave Ashton a decent lead with just three races to go.

Another personal best time came from Amber in her Butterfly race as once again, Harry excelled in his favoured anchor leg of Front crawl. Ashton’s second youngest girl, Tamara Servan swam a textbook Backstroke leg in the penultimate relay race and with just one race to go, Ashton had a five point lead over Trafford with six points to go.

With a few changes from the heat, Ashton were putting out a very strong team in the Cannon race, hoping to avoid disqualification and pick up the two points needed to secure the trophy. Amazingly though, Ashton did pick up a disqualification and it appeared that Ashton may have snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. However, Trafford were also rightly disqualified which meant that the lead of five points remained intact and Ashton were the winners!

Team captains Poppy McCallum and Callum Shaw were overjoyed to be collecting the trophy from a number of dignitaries present and along with the rest of the team, they were all happy to pose for pictures on poolside.

This was a brilliant result, where the excellent team spirit and support from the parents shone through. Every swimmer played a key role in victory as the Club thankfully put a run of runners-up finishes behind them to be crowned champions of this coveted trophy. The girls were responsible for 17 of the 21 personal best times in the gala and Lily Smith recorded the most. It was the second major trophy in just three days as Ashton cemented their position as not just the best supported, but certainly the team to beat.

By Mark Clough