18 November 2021

The first swimming fixture of the second half of term was against some stiff competition, Stowe, Oundle, Oakham, Gresham’s, Uppingham, Stamford, Bradfield, Eton and Warwick. The journey to Stowe was an absolute delight, swimming coach, Amanda Ford’s navigation was flawless, the Sat Nav didn’t chime in with the expected ‘make a legal U-turn when safe to do so’ and we arrived to a sun setting over the beautiful Stowe campus. Having made good time we took in the sights and took a few photos of the historic main school building and it’s exquisitely manicured lawn.

Warmups began and the opposition were scoped out. We had entered the U16 and U18 Boys Medley and Freestyle 4 x 50 relays. Six teams would qualify from 2 heats to the final. The U16 medley team stepped up in the first heat and from the outside lane, bombed home in a very smart 2:00.72. Splits were as follows: Ralph Allen 32.19 on the backstroke, Can Tugcetin 32.14 on the breaststroke, Ethan Richards-Knight 28.04 on the butterfly and Chung Nam Tam with a 28.25 on the front crawl. We qualified with an almost identical time to Eton to enter the final later on.

The U18 Boys Medley team watched the first heat closely, Oakham romped home in a time under 2 minutes. In their heat, Warwick finished in a time of 1:56.62, narrowly edging out the Abingdon squad. Chris Skelton swam a 30.06 on the backstroke (definitely not his favourite stroke), Joe Watkiss a 32.57 on the breaststroke, Alex Cooper Marcos with a fine 27.97 on the butterfly and Rory King with a 26.18 on the front crawl. Rory gracing the team yet again by coming out of short term retirement when he would rather have been attending a Maths lesson of course. The team qualified second fastest for the final. At this point Amanda and Mr Mason started keeping a closer eye on Warwick and Oakham, both squads had multiple capable swimmers and were sorting out what seemed to be new orders or swapping to faster swimmers for the final.

The U16 medley final was an incredibly close race and went down to the final few metres. Eton finished in a time of 1:59.84, Abingdon in a 1:59.91. A few tiny errors in technique here and there had cost Abingdon the win. Ralph put in a great effort against an older and larger backstroker who got Eton out to an early lead. Can clawed it back with a valiant 31.57 on the breaststroke, Ethan then took his opportunity to carve out a small lead on the fly leg although with the slippy walls he lost a little time on the turn. Chung Nam went into the final leg with a tiny lead, but the Eton swimmer pipped him even though Chung Nam swum a storming 27.75 on the front crawl. Eton were deserved winners but Abingdon had shown real class finishing second by a hand’s length.

The seniors knew they were in for a tough one with seemingly more of the Warwick swimmers wearing racing trunks for the final. Abingdon smashed out a fantastic 1:57.53, narrowly losing to Warwick’s 1:57.20 and Oakham’s 1:56.75. All three teams were swapping positions by half a body length all through the race and it was a thrilling final 25m. Alex’s fly time improved to a 27.65 and Rory edged his time down to a 26.17. Some great swims by all.

Next up was the U16 Freestyle relay heat. Abingdon were drawn against Warwick and Stamford – two strong squads. Abingdon’s team finished on a 1:50.81 winning the race narrowly against Warwick’s 1:52.53 and Stamford’s 1:54.14 – both teams came storming back in the final leg. Can’s lead out leg of 27.20, followed by Ethan’s ridiculously fast 25.44, then Ralph’s 28.86 finished with Chung Nam’s rather leisurely 29.50. Questions were asked and Chung Nam assured everyone that he had been taking it easy. There was a worry that although we were fastest going into the final, Warwick’s anchor swimmer could swap out to the three position and change the dynamic of the race, perhaps not leaving Chung Nam with as much of a lead.

The U16 final was an absolute epic. Roared on by all the swimmers the Abingdon team got out to a fine start with Can’s 27.16, Ethan then carved a lead out with another blazing time of 25.82, Warwick, Oundle and Eton had all changed their orders around and Ralph had to hold on as he was hunted down by much bigger racers. Ralph swam out of his skin with a 28.51, leaving Chung Nam with a tiny lead of half a body length. Chung Nam rocketed out on the first length, but a slippy turn later and he came to surface in line with the other teams. With his team mates screaming wildly, he edged his way back into contention and finished brilliantly, holding his form over the final 10m to win it. Chung Nam’s time of 28.25 has to be partially credited to whoever rustled up the milky way bar between the heat and the final. Abingdon finished with a time of 1:49.62, Oundle with 1:50.05, Warwick with 1:51.11 and Eton 1:51.72 – a close, well swum race by all four teams for sure.

As the U18 final came about we could not help but notice that the opposition swimmers who had cruised their final legs previously were much more focused, with far more leg and lat slapping than before. Alex led it out with a 25.45 opening leg, Joe went sub 26 with a 25.93, Rory held on for dear life with a 26.28, Chris took over with the narrowest of leads. Chris swam a very respectable 25.82 but it was simply not to be. The Warwick anchorman pulled away in the final 10, touching home just under a second ahead. For reference, the U18 heats Abingdon finished in 1:44.39, Warwick with a phenomenal 1:43.00. In the final Warwick produced a 1:42.86, with Abingdon’s 1:43.48 (split taken from Amanda not timing board).

After the races, the teams had a delicious burger and met in the ‘marble room’ as it was termed to applaud the podium finishers for all the events. The U16 teams received a silver for the Medley relay and a gold for their freestyle. The U18 team received a bronze for their Medley and a silver for their freestyle. All in all it was a hugely successful event against some great schools. We were really grateful for Stowe, who were excellent hosts as always. Warwick again proved tough opposition and it was nice to swim against Oundle again. Ethan Richards-Knight was definitely the swimmer of the day, with his laser fast 25.44 time on the front crawl (the fastest split of the day on the freestyle) – although Alex will probably point out that a relay split is going to be faster than his opening leg.

A huge thanks as always to Amanda for accompanying the team and ensuring they received sound tactical advice and guidance between races.

Next up for some of the swim team is a first ever home water polo game against Harrow at 2.45pm on Tuesday 23 November.


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