The Ross PGL League has always been a league close to my heart. My first ever gala as a nervous ten year old was a round of this league, and as a “B” grade swimmer it gave me the opportunity to shine in small and friendly galas. Some (ahem) years on…and here I am as team manager of the Stourbridge Ross PGL League team.
This league has changed somewhat over the years and is now at a much higher standard than it was when I competed in it; a reflection of the raised standards nationwide. As a result it is no longer a Stourbridge ‘B’ team that compete in the league but the best possible team we can put out. This year’s team consisted of a mix of usual ‘A’ and ‘B’ team swimmers. This created a great opportunity for our swimmers to swim alongside people that they might not do normally.
In the four rounds of this year’s league the team achieved great success, with many swimmers achieving personal bests in order to exceed the cut off times. This meant a lot of re-jigging as we went along in order to get the best possible combination of swimmers and as a result a couple of our faster competitors were unfortunately dropped from the team. This is a shame for any swimmer but it is not in the spirit of the league to swim competitors who are obviously too fast.
The team sheet for any Ross League gala is an absolute nightmare to produce, usually taking me around three to four hours to work out the best possible options, particularly as our swimmers are improving all the time. However, the team sheet for the final takes even longer. Whereas in the rounds you might be willing to take a chance on some swimmers or relay teams as it might only make a four point difference, with eight points up for grabs in each race in the final these were chances we just couldn’t afford to take.
So with the team sheet prepared and the sun shining we headed off down to Gloucester. In my first year as team manager we came fifth in this event, last year we came eighth, so any result bettering this was going to make me a very happy team manager. Our competition on the night came from Worcester, Ludlow, Wyre Forest, Bromsgrove, Cheltenham, Haden Hill and Ross.
There was a great atmosphere at Gloucester this year with lots of friendly banter on poolside and a fantastic crowd of spectators. I know I am biased but I have to say that I think the Stourbridge spectators win that little competition!
So, on with the gala! Fantastic swims from Stourbridge swimmers on this occasion with every single competitor getting right behind their team mates, who all swam their hearts out. In the first third of the gala Stourbridge achieved two first places; Becky Irwin (13/u 50m butterfly) and Tom Asprey (14/u 50m butterfly), and two second places; Jarryd Aston-Baugh (12/u 25m backstroke) and the boys 12/u medley relay team of Callum Faulkner, Ryan Spoor, Jake Knight and Jarryd Aston-Baugh. After 20 events Stourbridge were lying in third place behind Ludlow SC and Haden Hill, but there was a long way to go yet.
In the second third of the gala Stourbridge had three first places; the girls 13/u medley relay team Sophie Page, Kate Fletcher, Alice Maycock and Becky Irwin, David Birnie (9/10 25m freestyle) and Katie Gibbons (9/10 years 25m backstroke). There were also six second places in this section; Katie Gibbons (9/10 years 25m freestyle), Jarryd Aston-Baugh and Phillipa Watton (12/u 25m breaststroke), Tom Asprey (14/u 50m backstroke), Michael Sedgley (9/10 years 25m backstroke) and the girls 11/u medley relay team of Eva Cook, Beth Henderson, Hannah Irwin and Emily Bennett. After 40 events Stourbridge were in first place, but only seven points ahead of Wyre Forest so there was still everything to swim for and things were tense as we headed into the relays!
Unfortunately in this section of the gala Stourbridge achieved two speeding tickets (incidentally the least speeding tickets achieved by any team, alongside Ross SC). Jess Hickman got a PB in the girls 13/u 50m freestyle, swimming 32.82 and receiving a speeding ticket. Then the girls 14/u medley relay team also went too fast, but in a team best time of 01:06.32. This team included Becky Shaw, Alice Maycock, Kate Fletcher and Becky Irwin. There were two first places in this relay section of the gala; the boys 11/u freestyle relay team (Jake Knight, Callum Faulkner, George Hammersley and Adam Horton) and the girls 14/u freestyle relay team (Alice Maycock, Becky Shaw, Kate Fletcher and Sophie Page). There were also five second places; George Hammersley (12/u 25m fly), Callum Faulkner (11/u 25m backstroke), Rosie Buswell (9/10 25m breaststroke), the girls 13/u freestyle relay team (Sophie Page, Jess Hickman, Alice Maycock and Becky Irwin) and the girls 9/10 free relay team (Katie Gibbons, Jordan Ingamells, Amelia Faulkner and Aimee Sanders).
It had been a nail biting gala right to the end and I’m not sure anyone knew whether it was Stourbridge or Wyre Forest who had clinched victory. At this point in the evening I was very proud to be the Stourbridge team manager as I saw a really great team spirit from our competitors, all supporting each other.
I have to say that hearing that we had won this gala, when the final points were announced, has been the high point of my managerial “career”! Words cannot describe how proud I felt to be part of such a success for the club and such a justly deserved achievement for the swimmers who took part. I think I probably beat my own record for how high I jumped in the air when the announcement came through, but yes, Stourbridge had won the Ross PGL League 2008 with 313 points, a whole twenty points ahead of second placed Wyre Forest.
A fantastic achievement for everyone involved and brilliant to see the parents having something to shout about! The medal presentation was a great success this year with every other club being very courteous and sporting towards our swimmers as we paraded around the pool.
My thanks go to my poolside helpers Pete, Toni, “The Spoors” (particularly Dave – head cheerleader/master of the pompoms) and club captain Zoe; my officials (Sian Hickman, Steve Page and Jon Sanders), the parents for all their support and fantastic pompom shaking skills, Anne and Tony Seed for announcing, the other competing teams for a great atmosphere and a competitive gala and Julie Chamberlain who has organised this year’s league and final. A great job done by all and a fantastic night of swimming. The first time Stourbridge SC has won this league since it began in 1990.
I give you the best Ross PGL League team Stourbridge SC has ever had:
Micheal Sedgley, David Birnie, Adam Horton, Greg Dimmock, George Hammersley, Jake Knight, Callum Faulkner, Ryan Spoor, Jarryd Aston-Baugh, Tom Asprey, Joe Birnie, Jake Seed, Jack Henderson, Matt Jones, Dan Sheppard, Amelia Faulkner, Jordan Ingamells, Aimee Sanders, Katie Gibbons, Rosie Buswell, Beth Henderson, Kay Bennett, Emily Bennett, Eva Cook, Hannah Irwin, Emily Sheppard, Phillipa Watton, Alice Maycock, Jess Hickman, Kate Fletcher, Sophie Page, Becky Irwin and Becky Shaw.
ROSS LEAGUE FINAL 2008