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Students swim at Olympic stadium at ESSA national finals

On Saturday 21st November 2 Priory swimming teams went to compete at the ESSA National Finals at the London Olympic Aquatic Centre. Just driving up to the Olympic aquatic centre captivated us. The awesome setting and shape of the building started to instil a sense of wonder.  As we walked in to the viewing balcony over the competition pool it suddenly made us realise how fantastic it was that we were going to swim in this magnificent venue.

The top 20 teams in the country were about to compete over two heats and the top 10 would race again in an all-out final.  Many of these teams are schools with 25 or 50m pools in their back yard to train in. There we were, coolly swimming in the fastest seeded lane (lane 4) during our warm up! ( psychological sign perhaps?

The Priory Academy senior girls National Freestyle relay squad:

Abigail Burr, Tara Haworth, Lucy Porter and Gabrielle Vickers.
Qualified as 12th fastest in the country. Team target: to get in to the top 10 and make the final.
The girl’s event was early on, so after team captains Gabi and Will had represented us in the parade it was straight on to race preparation. I reminded them that they had agreed it was 'fast water' during warm up and told them to go out there and do what they do best and enjoy.

Event 3
At the last minute the heats were changed due to technical problems some lanes, suddenly they were in the toughest heat (with Millfield, Plymouth and co.) and in a different lane.  Drawing on all their experience they held their nerve and produced a super swim with polished changeovers finishing fourth in the heat!  1.55.64 (Abi 28.19/Tara 27.74/Lucy 30.81/Gabi 28.90) They were very happy. Back at base with Mr B we nervously waited for the finalists to be confirmed.  I didn't actually get to hear the qualifiers announcement just loud shrill squeals in my ear from the girls stood next to me! They had qualified 9th fastest and were in the final!  Calming down they gathered their selves together and settled their thoughts for their final race.

Event 9
The senior girls freestyle National Finalists lined up and we were formally introduced in lane 0.
Abi to Tara, Tara to Lucy, Lucy to Gabi in swift precise motions, each one putting absolutely everything into each length. They were rewarded with a fabulous 1.55.53 finishing 7th overall.
We were overjoyed and so very proud.  The girls smiles says it all. They knew they had done their best and we're thrilled at their finished result.  To show improvement again was amazing.

The Priory Academy Junior Boys National Freestyle swimming squad:

Matthew Broughton, Seweryn Sewell, Zachary Puetrill and William Barber.
Qualified 19th fastest in the country with 2.09.
Team target: to improve on their overall standings and enjoy it!
The boys had an immense delay before their race to deal with.  They were in the marshalling area so I couldn't even be with them.  Eventually after 3 medal ceremonies and technical delays it was their time.

Event 14/ heat 2
Matty stepped up showing no evidence of nerves now as he exploded off the blocks and tore through the water to release Sev. Then poor Sev had a goggle malfunction! Drawing on all his previous swimming experience he dug deep to produce the length of his life! Zachary nailed his changeover and swiftly unleashed Will. The race finished and I saw we had finished 4th in the heat.  A bit bewildered we all met up at a frantic Mr B trying to work out the splits.  Matty 30.75/Sev 32.61/Zach 32.48/Will 28.81

"Are you sure it was 2.03.77 Mr B?" We all asked in disbelief!
This time it was my turn to squeal and shriek as it was announced we had not only swam into the final but had qualified 5th fastest! We were stunned! The other schools must have done a double take at the sight of us in the final!
Gathering ourselves we knew the final would be tough as three teams were well under 2 minutes (6 ft Millfield, Whitgift and Winterbourne) we decided we would just go for it, we had nothing to lose as we had won our place here.

Event 20
The junior boys freestyle national finalist lined up and we were announced in lane 2.
The boys swam their hearts out to a fantastic 2.05.14.  It flashed up 6th on the board.  After official results we find out our suspicions of maybe risky takeovers meant we were DQ.  However, we did not dwell on this as the lads knew they had also tried their best and we're delighted to actually achieve what we had from qualifying 19th to 5th fastest in the country, with a heat  time only four teams beat even in the final.

Mr Brazinskas and I felt very privileged to be the ones to come to such an amazing event visually, in such a stunning venue with our awesome students who were impeccable throughout the weekend in every way.
We may not have been on the podium but they made sure all the other schools took notice. Suddenly Millfield, Plymouth, Mount Kelly, Whitgift and co are not so far away.
I absolutely cannot wait until next year!

A huge thank you to the parent support both at the event and via text/telephone. All comments were shared with the teams and I'm sure helped to spur them on.

Mrs E French


    The Priory Federation of Academies, Lincoln