City of Norwich hold their nerve

UEA City of Norwich Swimming Club underlined their growing reputation by winning the Southern Area Speedo Junior League final at Ipswich and in doing so qualified for the their third British final in four years.

UEA City of Norwich Swimming Club underlined their growing reputation by winning the Southern Area Speedo Junior League final at Ipswich and in doing so qualified for the their third British final in four years.

Facing stiff competition from some of the top clubs in the country, notably City of Derby and Northampton, City of Norwich made their intentions clear right from the start, winning the first three events, the 12yrs boys, the girls 100m medley relay team and the girls 9yrs 100m medley team.

Northampton, Thurrock, Bournemouth and City of Derby hit back by winning the next four events respectively and the scene was set for a thrilling final.

Anouska Nichols settled City of Norwich nerves by winning the 9yrs 25m freestyle and this was further consolidated by consecutive podium finishes from Alice Oakley, Jack Chapman, Holly Bateman, Alex Shreeve and Laura Marzolini.

Event 25, the girls 9yrs 25m backstroke marked the halfway stage and this was duly won by UEA City of Norwich swimmer Sophie Alden in a time of 20.46. This resulted in City of Norwich leading Northampton by two-and-a-half points.

Northampton and Derby then hit back and it was not until event 30 that UEA started to reassert themselves with Nick Fitch claiming a gutsy third place in the boys 11yrs 50m freestyle.

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This proved to be the inspiration for Kim Anastasiou to claim second in the girls 12yrs 50m backstroke and Alex Shreeve first in the 12yrs boys 50m backstroke.

But City of Norwich now found themselves trailing to a strong Northampton team as the final entered its most crucial stage, the remaining nine relays.

The squad responded, winning the girls 9yrs medley and the 12yrs freestyle relays plus gaining second places in the girls 10yrs freestyle relay and the boys 12yrs freestyle relay.

Going into the final event, City of Norwich still found themselves trailing Northampton by one-and-a-half points. Despite the pressure cooker environment, the squad overcame Northampton to win the Southern Area Trophy and a place in the national final to be competed at Wolverhampton in November.

Senior coach James Freezer said: "This was an amazing afternoon of swimming with every team and their fans contributing to a terrific atmosphere.

"This was a hard fought win that the team fully deserved and after leading for a considerable amount of the competition and then to lose it close to the end, it showed great mental strength and determination to come back and take the victory out of Northampton's grasp.

"We now need to step up another level if we are to compete at the national final in November."

n Following Lewis Mattin's success at the nationals championships, where he won a bronze in the men's 3,000 metres freestyle event in a time 33:12 and Claire Barron's success over the season, they have both been selected by British Swimming for the advanced apprenticeship in sporting excellence (AASE).

AASE is a Government-funded initiative that has been designed to meet the needs of young people, aged 16 to 18, who have the realistic potential to achieve excellence in their sport and are seeking to perform at the highest level as their main career goal, while continuing with their education.

The AASE framework will provide for the first time a structured national training and development route, across all sports, for talented young athletes, many of who may go on to represent their country on the world stage.

The apprenticeship is the first to offer elite and potentially elite athletes recognition of the skills, knowledge and understanding they are developing in their quest for excellence.

Employers and universities such as Loughborough, Bath, Manchester Metropolitan and Leeds Metropolitan have signed up to recognise the AASE programme when considering individuals for places on courses.

Many other universities will have an AASE recognition scheme within the next two years.