By Glen Byrom
ZIMBABWE’S team for the All-Africa Junior Swimming Championships, to be held in Cairo in December, will be named next week.
ustify>This will give the selectors a final chance to assess the nation’s best young swimmers this weekend at the opening major gala of the season, the National Sprint Championships, in Mutare.
There is just one event at 1730h today), the 200 metres individual medley, with a full programme of events featuring all the provinces on tomorrow.
This is also another opportunity for Zimbabwe’s leading young swimmers to achieve qualifying standards for various regional competitions, the pinnacle being South Africa’s premier age-group gala, Prestige Level 3, in East London in March, that demands two arduous times to achieve selection for the national Zimbabwe team.
So far, after the first two galas of the new season, Moira Fraser (16), Amy Bond (13), Samantha Welch, Jessie Byrom (all of Chisipite Senior School) and James Lawson (Pirates) have breached the standards — Welch hitting three in the 50m, 100m and 200m breaststroke events for the 12-year-olds group.
Fraser, who is the country’s top locally based female swimmer, recorded 1 minute 03,01 seconds without tough competition in the 100m freestyle in last Friday night’s seeded gala at Harare’s Les Brown Pool. She has set her sights on cracking the magic 60s barrier this season.
Also last Friday lanky Amy Bond snatched an exciting 50m breaststroke victory (38,95s) over Jessie Byrom (39,22) and Samantha Welch (40,00) in the 13 years group to give her the first rung of a place at Prestige.
Many swimmers are also achieving qualifying standards for South Africa’s Level 2 gala to be held in Germiston early next year and this should ensure a strong Mashonaland team for this development gala.
Sue Bradshaw, head coach of Pirates and manager of Zimbabwe’s team for Level 3, said it was a very positive sign that many swimmers were achieving personal best times so early in the season.
Also impressive on Friday night were 13-year-old Tara Wallace (twice in one night splits of a second off Prestige 100m freestyle) and 12-year-old Tarryn Rennie, who looks an exciting sprint prospect for the future — she again convincingly beat the formidable Sam Welch last Friday in the 100m freestyle, with Joey Beare just a split second behind in third to register notable improvement.
Last Sunday’s junior league gala, also at the Les Brown pool, saw four talented swimmers each register double victories — Robyn Lee (8), Bree Caterrall (10), Federico Bescotti (10) and Samantha Welch (11).
Lee of Spartans recorded a personal best in the one length freestyle of 22,20s, with the improving Rumbidzai Wasterfall second in 24,09s. Caterrall won the two lengths backstroke in 54,51s and then edged out Nicole Wallace (47,89s) in the two lengths freestyle in a time of 47,64s.
Nick Welch and Stuart Price, in the boys nine-year-olds, featured in two of the closest duels of the day, each winning once, less than a second apart. This was the same scenario in the boys eight-year-olds — David Bowl of Pirates winning the breaststroke in 32.51sec from Martin Eeson (33,29) and then Eeson pipping Bowl in the freestyle 22,77s against 23,45s.
The girls nine-years group featured three very promising Spartans swimmers, Danai Makova (27,29s) edging Sydne Cockcroft (27,61) in the butterfly and Niamh van der Nest easily taking the breaststroke in 27,98s well ahead of the field.
Chicco Bescotti of Pirates looked smooth and powerful as he stroked to victory in the two lengths freestyle (44,92s) and two lengths backstroke (51,95) ahead of Eddie Byrom in both. Chad Idensohn of Highlands was also impressive in winning the boys 11-year-olds two lengths freestyle (42,29s) from his team-mate Lebo Ngwenya (43,54) before finishing less than a second behind Damon Lee (1m 54,45s) in the individual medley.
It was good to see Highlands swimmers to the fore here as the club now competes with just 14 registered swimmers.