Norwich Swan Swimming Club played host to the National Arena Swimming League East Midlands Division Two Final at Wymondham Leisure Centre. Having won both of the two previous rounds, Swan were tied at the top of the league table on maximum points with Calverton and Bingham and St Ives so the stage was set for an extremely tight and competitive gala. This was the third year in succession that Swan had made the final. They finished fourth in 2014 and third last year so they were hopeful of gaining promotion into the Premier League this time.
The past few years have seen the welcome resurgence of the Norwich Club, believed to be the oldest swimming club in the East Region. For decades Swan has been one of the largest providers of swimming lessons in Norfolk with 900 youngsters currently in the Club's "Learn to Swim" section. Many of whom make natural progression into Swan's improver and development squads. From there they dive into competitive swimming and ultimately into the performance squads, targeting regional and national events. A dedicated team of ASA qualified teachers and coaches have ensured that swimming talent is nurtured and developed producing a strength in depth that is rapidly increasing, meaning that this year's Arena League team is the strongest that Swan has produced for a number of years.
Swan began their campaign strongly with Laura Marzolini claiming maximum points in the Ladies open individual medley. A series of eight relays followed in which Swan, with adrenaline pumping, won four claiming club records in all but one. This meant that after ten events Swan were only one point adrift from Calverton and Bingham with Melton Mowbray in third. Swan continued to consolidate second position with a series of second and third places until Tilly Anema emerged triumphant after a titanic battle with Amy Mead of Calverton, in the girls 15 years 100m backstroke. Carmelo Almadin, who had made the long trip from Buckinghamshire to swim for Swan, was rewarded with a convincing victory in the boys 11 years and under 50m breaststroke. After twenty events Swan were still holding on to second place but Melton Mowbray were only a point behind in third and pushing hard.
To be sure of promotion the Swan swimmers knew they had to up their game. Head coach John Digby had briefed them all to fight for every point and swim personal bests if possible. Next to the block was junior boys captain Ben Woodhouse in the 12/13 years 100m backstroke. Ben fought stroke to stroke with Jack Edis from Calverton for the entire four length distance but lost out on the touch by a fingertip, swimming a massive PB in the process. Gusty performances from Open age swimmers Ellie Ronen and Jordan Mann in the 100m
backstroke resulted in two more vital second places. 13 year old Rebecca Smith had an outstanding swim in the 100m butterfly. Clocking 1:10.85 she decimated the field finishing four seconds ahead of her nearest rival.
Performance swimmer, Laura Marzolini who is back in Norwich for a gap year before heading to university, swam superbly to win the Open 100m breaststroke. With studies on hold for this season, her sights are firmly set on qualification for the British Championships and Summer Nationals in 2017.
With a sudden flurry of first places, Swan began to believe that they could consolidate second position and indeed after 36 races they were beginning to pull away from Melton Mowbray but only by eight points. Spurred on 11 year olds, Lily Ashwell and Mitchell Tamlin were determined to beat all opposition and pelted flat out over the 50m freestyle distance to touch
first. In her second individual event of the day, Rebecca Smith battled relentlessly with Charlotte O'Dell from Biggleswade in the 13 years 200m freestyle, to out touch her rival by a mere five hundredths of a second.
The race of the evening was the 14/15 years boys 100m breaststroke. Swan's Tommy Chandler, Will Graham from Melton Mowbray and Mal Staff from City of Norwich were neck and neck turning into the final length. All three boys powered to the wall, the score board showing that only 18 hundredths of a second separated them at the finish with Mal touching first followed closely by Tommy in third and Will in fourth.
With a twenty point buffer between Swan and Melton Mowbray, the home club were still hungry for every point going into the final eight relay events. Again Swan club relay records fell thick and fast until going into the last two open relay events the realisation that their second place could not be overhauled began to dawn on the swimmers. Similarly Calverton and Bingham knew that the league trophy was theirs. The noise from the spectators and swimmers as they cheered on their teams was deafening and still crescendoed as the open men's relay teams accelerated into the final touch on the electronic timing pads. Congratulations to League winners Calverton and Bingham and to runners-up Norwich Swan on their promotion to the East Midlands Premier League.
Final points: Calverton and Bingham 241, Norwich Swan 210, Melton Mowbray 176, St Ives 152, Biggleswade 132, City of Norwich B 130
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