Newcastle out for a duck against Swans

Sports Editor Mark Sleightholm reports on the gala of 24 swimming races at Northumbria Sport Central

Mark Sleightholm
27th February 2018
Northumbria took all six Stan Calvert points despite many good performances from Newcastle. Image: Wikimedia Commons

Despite a valiant effort from Newcastle’s swimmers it was Northumbria that took home all six points on offer from the Stan Calvert swimming. In a sweltering pool at Sports Central Northumbria claimed the victory in 19 of the 24 races, with several strong performances from the Newcastle side unable to turn things around.

The competition kicked off with the women’s 200m freestyle, with Northumbria setting the tone for the rest of the afternoon by taking both first and second place, with Newcastle’s single entrant into the race, Beth Meer, forced to make do with third place.

It was a similar story in most of the opening races, with the sole exception of Maddie Fale’s outstanding performance in the women’s 100m individual medley, which gave Newcastle their first points on the scoreboard. Despite being the only Newcastle swimmer in a four-woman race Fale pulled ahead during the backstroke leg and fought off a challenge from Northumbria’s Laura Gillingham in the next lane to claim Newcastle’s first victory of the afternoon. With one of the six overall Stan Calvert points awarded to the winner of the majority of the 10 women’s individual races, Fale’s win was important in keeping Newcastle in the game.

In the men’s individual races the Newcastle swimmers could do little to stop the Northumbria onslaught, as race after race went the way of the hosts. Northumbria won all six men’s races in the first half of the session, ensuring they would take the overall men’s individual Stan Calvert point.

Fale's win was important in keeping Newcastle in the game

The women’s event, however, was kept alive by a second Newcastle victory in the women’s 100m freestyle, the first race of the afternoon with all six lanes in use. All six women remained fairly level for the first length of the pool, but Newcastle’s Siobhan Durcan was able to pull ahead by the halfway point. Irene Kyza fought back hard for Northumbria, however, and ultimately Durcan reached the finish line just milliseconds ahead of her rival.

At the end of the first session of individual races Northumbria were leading 6-0 in the men’s and 4-2 in the women’s.

Northumbria continued their dominance into the first two relay races – the men’s and women’s 4x50m medley relays. Newcastle’s teams put in solid performances but this was not enough to catch the much stronger Northumbria teams, and Newcastle had to make do with second place in both races, unrewarded with points. The two relay wins gave Northumbria a further two points in the overall Stan Calvert score.

Maddie Fale once more proved to be Newcastle’s saving grace as attention turned to the 50m races; narrowly winning the 50m butterfly.

The Newcastle men’s team followed this with their only win of the afternoon, also in the 50m butterfly. With just one swimmer competing from each university it was the quietest race of the second half, and yet also the closest, as Newcastle’s Jordan Macdonald went head to head against Alex Rossetto from Northumbria.

This double victory at the start of the second half seemed to give the Newcastle team a much needed boost after their first-half battering

The two swimmers remained almost neck and neck right up until the finish line, with less than half a second ultimately separating the victorious Macdonald from his Northumbria rival.

The noise from the mostly Northumbria crowd was testament to the importance of the race to the hosts, with Macdonald’s win depriving them of a men’s clean sweep.

This double victory at the start of the second half seemed to give the Newcastle team a much needed boost after their first-half battering, and Newcastle swimmers managed to claim a string of second place finishes. While this did nothing to adjust the overall score it demonstrated the talent of the Newcastle team, who were competing against one of the best university swimming teams in the country. As the results drew closer and Northumbria wins no longer looked so certain the crowd grew ever more animated as the tension rose.

Another very close finish saw Newcastle’s Durcan take another win for the women’s team, but this was not enough to balance Northumbria’s earlier dominance, and in the final individual scores stood at 6-4 for the women and 9-1 for the men, meaning Northumbria could take both individual points for the overall Stan Calvert tally, in addition to their two earlier relay wins.

As Northumbria wins no longer looked so certain the crowd grew more animated as the tension rose

The afternoon concluded with a second round of 4x50m relays, this time in freestyle. The highly talented Laura Gillingham gave Northumbria an early lead in the women’s race, but Newcastle’s Meer was able to make up a lot of ground in the first 25m the third leg.

By the time the final racers reached their midway point, however, Northumbria had a convincing lead and despite Durcan’s best efforts Northumbria took the win, and another Stan Calvert point.

The men’s race which brought the afternoon’s swimming to a close saw complete domination from the Northumbria side from the off, with Alex Rossetto, Charlie Spencer, Joel O’Hallaran and Tom Howley powering ahead of Newcastle’s team.

Newcastle swimming president Adam Sayedi had hosed down any hopes of a Newcastle win, pointing out Northumbria’s traditional Stan Calvert dominance in the sport. His fears were proved to be right as Northumbria took all six of the Stan Calvert points, Newcastle’s string of second places ultimately counting for nothing.

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