Portsmouth Northsea completed a successful weekend of Hampshire Championships action and moved into pole position to be crowned the county’s finest swimmers.
Medal-winning performances, final placings and a host of new personal bests were recorded by the city club as they proved their strength and depth in front of their rivals at the prestigious event.
Swim club’s throughout the county descended on the Mountbatten Centre on Saturday and Sunday for the opening weekend of the popular championships.
But none will have been more pleased with their overall contributions to an exhilarating two days of action-packed drama than Northsea.
Competing in their home pool, they thrived in the conditions, with a host of their youngsters proving their class in the water.
Among those to catch the eye was the outstanding Alaina Ward, who claimed individual gold medals in the girls’ age 11 400m individual medley (5mins, 50.53secs), 800m freestyle (10.38.76) and 400m freestyle (5.07.74).
Twelve-year-old Dominic Johnston claimed double firsts in the 400m freestyle (4.45.92) and 400m individual medley (5.28.68), before securing a second place in the age nine-to-12 200m freestyle relay final alongside team-mates Aaron Crockford and William Barnes.
Luke Robins was also amongst the gold medals in the boys’ age 13 400m freestyle (4.32.92) and 1500m freestyle (18.00.27), while Oliver Kincart showed his quality with a first place in the 14 boys’ 1500m freestyle juniors (17.13.35) and two runners-up spots in the 400m freestyle and individual medley respectively.
Sixteen-year-old Bethany Lynch (800m freestyle) and Barnes (boys’ 12 1500m freestyle) also reached the heady heights of top of the podium, with 14-year-old Kelly Small also proving her worth throughout the two days with numerous medals.
That left Northsea head coach praising his charges’ efforts and targeting the prestige of being named the best club in Hampshire for 2013.
‘The kids have swum absolutely brilliant,’ said Hogg.
‘Not just the fact that they’ve got in and got medals – it’s the huge improvements that they’ve made, too.
‘The coaches have done a great job, really, as well as the swimmers.
‘I can’t think of any swimmer who hasn’t went into the pool and performed.
‘They’ve all swam out of their skins and I’m just over the moon with them.
‘If they’ve given 100 per cent and improved on their best time, you can’t ask for more. If that’s first place, then fantastic. If it’s 10th then still fantastic because they’ve improved and that’s what it’s all about.
‘The expectations for us really are that we come out as the top club, both at age groups and at the senior levels.
‘That’s what we’re aiming for.
‘If it happens it happens. If it doesn’t, then we’ll look where our weaknesses are and pick up again next year.
‘But that’s what are expectations are – to be the best club in Hampshire.’
With many of his swimmers also gaining qualification times for regionals later this year, Hogg knows his members can’t afford to rest on their laurels after one successful weekend.
On Saturday, the championships move to Southampton, with another action-packed programme on the cards, before returning to Portsmouth on the weekend of March 16-17.
Hogg will once again go through the process of preparing his young swimmers for the heat of battle.
But he insists no extra pressure will be put on them, with the emphasis being on the kids going out and enjoying themselves.
‘Obviously there are coaches who try to gee up their swimmers and say “come on, let’s perform here” but there’s no-one going in saying “right, we should win the gold or we should medal, or get into a final,’ added Hogg.
‘We just go into each meet asking them to swim as best as they can.
‘You can’t ask for more than that.
‘I’m happy with the start we’ve made so far.
‘We’ve won golds but we’ve got people stacked in the other placings and scoring points, too.
‘It’s that strength and depth, which is key, and enjoying it all.’