Team Luton’s swimmers gave an impressive display at the 2019 English National Masters Championships bringing home two gold, three silver and three bronze individual medals in addition to one silver relay medal.
With a further 25 top ten finishes – that included four 4th and four 5th places – the thirteen swimmers who competed set numerous personal best times whilst establishing four new Beds County Masters records.
Laura Smith was one of four making their National Masters’ debut. She was very unlucky to miss out on a medal, finishing 4th = in the 25 – 29 years’ 100m Breaststroke in a time of 1:23.04, a personal Masters best by over a second and an agonising 0.02 outside of the bronze medal position. Laura’s time was also just 0.2 seconds slower than her best ever short course time recorded over ten years ago! Laura swam personal best Masters times in four other races and ended the meet finishing 5th in her 50m Breaststroke.
Jodie Armstrong’s debut saw her come 5th in the 35 – 39 years’ 50m Backstroke, in a time of 35.29 seconds, one of two personal bests over the weekend.
Kelly Cooke, another Masters’ debutante, clearly had the bit between her teeth, smashing her personal best time in the 40 – 44 years’ 50m Freestyle by 1.14 seconds. Touching in 31 seconds, Kelly’s time was a new Beds County Masters record by 0.25 seconds. That record had been held by Karen Mackenzie who had the consolation of setting a new County record of 6:21.11 in her 45 – 49 years’ 400m IM, finishing in 7th place.
The 50m Freestyle event, swum in descending age group order, saw all our Ladies in fine sprinting form. Sharon Thompson set the pace in the 50 -54 years’ age group beating her best time for the year by 0.6 seconds, followed by Karen MacKenzie in a season’s best. Michelle Neal, aged 39, continued her habit of swimming faster each and every time she races over 50m; her time of 30.61 seconds was a further improvement by 0.63 seconds. Jodie then swam 31.66 to better her time by 0.15 seconds for Laura to follow with a 30.71 that beat her best by 0.38 seconds.
Alex Mason retained his 18-24 years’ 200 Individual Medley (“IM”) title and once again collected a silver medal for his 400m Freestyle. This year he also won the 200m Breaststroke, having only finished third in 2018. Alex picked up a further gold and bronze medal as part of two GB Police team relays.
Graham Powell missed the first half of the year due to ill-health. Undeterred, Graham still claimed a silver in the 60 -64 years’ 100m Backstroke and bronze in his 50m Backstroke, 100m Butterfly and 100m Freestyle whilst finishing 4th in his 50m Butterfly and 200m IM. Just for good measure Graham rounded off his programme of 7 individual and three relay races with a 10th place in the 50m Breaststroke.
For the second successive year Malcolm Barton achieved five top ten finishes in the 60 – 64 years’ age group, coming 11th in his other race. However, this time around and despite being at the oldest end of his age group Malcolm also won a silver medal for his 400m IM, emulating his achievement at the GB Masters back in June.
Colin Mayes also achieved 5 top ten finishes in the 60 – 64 years’ age group, his best placing being 5th in the 200m Breaststroke.
In the 55 – 59 years’ age group Dave Wright came 6th in the 400m Freestyle, 7th in the 400m IM and 8th in his 100m Butterfly. Despite his 2:48.73 in his 200m Butterfly being only 1.7seconds slower than his winning time the year before, Dave – now aged 58 – had to settle for 4th place behind three “young” 55 year olds.
The quartet of Dave Wright, Graham Powell, Malcolm Barton and Colin Mayes nevertheless set two new Beds County Masters records in the 240 – 279 years age group finishing fifth in both their 4 x 100m and 4 x 200m Freestyle relays. Their time of 5:14.45 in their 4 x 100m Medley relay to claim a silver medal was just 0.25 seconds ahead of the fast-finishing team from St Albans Masters. Entering the relays had principally been the idea of Masters Secretary, Alastair Gibb. Forced to miss out competing himself due to a heart condition diagnosed just two weeks before, the close finish did little to keep anyone’s heart rates in check. For Malcom, it transpired that his own takeover had literally been a “trunk- splitting” event!
John O’Rourke’s swam season best times in five of his six events. His best placings were 6th in the 50 -54 years’ 400m IM and 7th in his 400m Freestyle.
Sam Bradley also competed in six events in the 25-29 years’ age group, recording personal best times in both his 50m and 100m Backstroke and season best times in his other four races.
All in all it was once again a sterling team performance. Great camaraderie was in evidence both poolside and at the evening team dinners – despite arriving the first night as if everyone had all stepped fully clothed straight out of the Ponds Forge pool, such was the extent of the downpour on the “short” walk from the hotel.
With points awarded for each top three placing and all finishes, Team Luton were the 43rd highest points scoring club out of the 232 clubs that were represented at the English Nationals, many of which had far more competitors.