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Swim Club lapping it up

The Masterton Swimming Club [MSC] is enjoying a new lease on life after several years of hard times.

A restructuring of how the MSC is managed has seen numbers more than double in the past two years, and now more than 90 children swim, many of them competitively. That’s a significant increase from the low of about 40 swimmers the club had after the covid-19 pandemic.

Belgravia Leisure, which runs the Trust House Recreation Centre, has taken over the coaching and the financial management of the club, and head coach Ness Dale said that has given the MSC “a bit of boost.”

“I am the coordinator of Swim Tangaroa and the MSC as well, so I basically just run swimming in Masterton, and it’s getting really good momentum flowing into the club,” Dale said.

“We’re just gaining momentum again now over the last two years. We’re building on that and getting them racing, and we had a summer camp, and we’re into it.”

The summer camp incorporated the Manawatū Age Group Championships, which produced some outstanding results despite some of the racing being held in atrocious conditions – with torrential rain and strong winds at Palmerston North’s Lido Pool on the weekend of February 3–4.

“It was the worst conditions we’ve ever dealt with. And the kids were champions. It was hailing, and we were the only club without a marquee, so we were in the rain. We were drenched, but the team spirit was just phenomenal, and they were just laughing and jumping in puddles, and we got through it. And the sun came out in the afternoon.”

The standout of the meet for Dale was 11-year-old Sophia Campbell, who swam seven personal bests [PBs] and won a bronze medal in the 200m breaststroke.

In all, MSC swimmers won 18 medals – five gold, six silver and seven bronze – and swam 29 PBs, which was the most pleasing aspect for Dale.

Chelsea Grant, Charli Grenfell, Charlie Gard’ner, Jack Gard’ner, Kade Wood and Ionatana Baker-Sefo were medal winners in Palmerston North.

The following weekend, MSC took 15 swimmers to the PCA-Tawa Dash for Cash hardcore swim meet in Kilbirnie, competing in 55 races and achieving 20 PBs.

One of the areas where MSC is light on numbers is the 16–17-year age group. Dale said the club is working hard on building towards that national level again, and there’s a “really good structure” of 12–13-year-olds coming through to work with.

One of the promising swimmers in the mid-teenage age group, who has the potential to make a splash on the national scene, is Wairarapa College student Baker-Sefo, who travels to Wellington twice a week to train because he only has one training companion in Masterton, Jack Younger.

Dale said Baker-Sefo, a talented breaststroker, is very driven, and his idea is to head to Auckland and train at Coast, the internationally recognised club, which promising Carterton swimmer Ava Wilson recently joined, and many of New Zealand’s international competitors, including recently crowned 400m freestyle world champion Erika Fairweather, train.

“If he wants to do it, I’m going to try and make it work for him. There are not many kids who want to carry on to that age, so I really want to get some support for him.”

Despite the recent revitalisation at MSC, Dale believes there is still a lot of work to do – but there is a hardworking committee and “the prospects for the future are looking good”.

Chris Cogdale
Chris Cogdale
Chris “Coggie” Cogdale has extensive knowledge of sport in Wairarapa having covered it for more than 30 years, including radio for 28 years. He has been the sports guru at the Wairarapa Times-Age since 2019.

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